BOZEMAN, Mont. -- With a purple-and-white target on their back every time they take the court, the Wildcats have earned the respect of the Big Sky Conference.
But an 8-0 league record doesn't even get you to the halfway point of the race for the conference championship anymore.
Weber State may have a nine-game winning streak, the sixth longest in the country, and be tied for first place in the Big Sky standings, but coach Randy Rahe says the Wildcats still have plenty to prove.
"That's what we've talked about with this team from Day 1," Rahe said. "We've got to go out there with something to prove to this league and to ourselves, that we can be a viable contender. There's not a guy in that locker room that's won anything yet.
"If you want to prove something, if you want to be hungry and determined, then you're going to give yourself an opportunity. We're trying to go out and prove that we're a good basketball team."
With that goal in mind, Weber State is standing at the start of a pivotal four-game road trip that will take the 'Cats from facing Montana State and defending conference champion Montana this week to North Dakota and Northern Colorado next week: Call it the Frozen Four.
First up is a team that Weber State was cheering on just last Saturday.
The Montana State Bobcats had their in-state rivals backed into a corner, but Montana's Michael Weisner buried a 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds remaining to get the game to overtime, where the Grizzlies won, 76-71, to preserve their 21-game Big Sky Conference winning streak and remain tied with Weber State for first place in the league title chase.
When the Wildcats and Bobcats square off at 7 p.m. at Worthington Arena, Montana State (7-9, 4-4 Big Sky) will be looking to prove the scare it put into Montana was no fluke.
Conversely, if Weber State (13-3, 8-0) is going to remain undefeated in the Big Sky by the time the Wildcats reach their highly anticipated showdown with the Grizzlies in Missoula on Saturday, they can't fall into the trap of looking past the team that nearly knocked off Montana.
Montana State defeated Southern Utah on Monday behind a season-high 24 points from senior guard Christian Moon on 9 of 13 shooting, providing a little momentum for the Bobcats.
After juggling lineups earlier in the season, Bobcats coach Brad Huse has used the same starting five in the last six games, a stretch in which Montana State is 4-2.
MSU scores at a rate second only to Weber State in the Big Sky, while the Bobcats force more steals and have a better turnover margin than anyone else in the league.
Moon has risen to become Montana State's top scorer (15.4 ppg), while senior forward Xavier Blount averages 11.5 ppg.
On the Wildcats' side, senior shooting guard Scott Bamforth is the leading scorer of a balanced Weber State attack at 13.4 points per game, just ahead of junior forward Davion Berry, who averages 13.3 ppg.
Bamforth has a streak of his own, having made his last 24 free throw attempts to rank first in the Big Sky and 10th in the nation in FT percentage (.912).
Bamforth is coming off an 18-point, seven-rebound performance against Sacramento State.
"Scott's just letting the game come to him," Rahe said. "He's not out-thinking himself, he's just playing. He's focusing on playing really good defense. He's turned into being one of our better on-ball defenders, one of our better perimeter defenders, and just like our whole team, when you focus on defense and rebounding and don't worry about the other end, it just comes to you naturally."