Given that the Big Sky Conference had never played a 20-game league basketball schedule before this year, Montana’s 19 conference wins is the new high water mark in conference history.
The Grizzlies’ only Big Sky loss came to Weber State on Feb. 14 in Ogden. The Wildcats won 18 league games, but somehow, it wasn’t enough.
“If you would have told me that back in October that we’d have been 18-2 and wouldn’t have won the league, I’d have been shocked,” seventh-year Weber State coach Randy Rahe said. “Our kids have had a phenomenal season. No matter what you say, they have. How many teams are 18-2 in their league across the country? It’s tough because you’ve got to give Montana some credit. They held serve, they did what they had to do. It doesn’t take away the fact of the kind of season our kids had.”
The Griz held off the Wildcats by won game for the title for the second straight season.
“Take your hat off to Montana,” Rahe said. “They did what they needed to do. We put some pressure on them and they held up. They’re a good basketball team, there’s a reason they were picked first.”
The additions of Southern Utah and North Dakota are the reason the Big Sky league schedule expanded from 16 games to 20 and both schools made the seven-team tourney.
Winning a longer league slate gives Montana not only the right to host the Big Sky Tournament, scheduled for Thursday to Saturday, but it gives the Griz the only bye in the tourney. In the past, second place also got a bye, but Weber State will have to win three games in hostile territory to earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The No. 2 seed Wildcats play No. 7 Northern Arizona on Thursday at 3 p.m. at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., while sixth-seeded SUU faces third-seeded North Dakota at 5:30 p.m.
No. 5 Northern Colorado and No. 3 Montana State meet in the late game at 8 p.m.
Meanwhile, Montana waits.
Weber State’s retro uniforms were good to the Wildcats, who won both their games wearing the old-school inspired jerseys last weekend. Two victories were also a nice way to honor Weber State’s all-time team with the 50 greatest players in school history and former coaches who were honored with a ceremony on Friday night and were introduced at halftime of Saturday’s win over Eastern Washington.
What’s shakin’, Harlem?
Weber State’s basketball team joined the wild wacky YouTube trend known as the Harlem Shake last week, but the players didn’t ask their coach’s permission before unleashing their bizarre alter egos on the online world, grooving and shaking in costumes in the locker room. As of Sunday afternoon, the video had over 5,700 views on YouTube.
“I didn’t know that they were doing it. They probably did that on purpose because they probably think I wouldn’t want them to do it,” he said. “I looked at it for the first time (Wednesday) and I laughed my absolute tail off. I thought it was funny, I thought it was well done, I thought it was great. That’s just another deal that tells you how much your team enjoys each other, how much they like each other and how much fun they’re having. You’ve gotta have some fun, you know?”
Weber State’s spring football practices begin Tuesday. It will be the first spring session directed by second-year head coach Jody Sears, who was promoted from defensive coordinator to interim coach last April after the conclusion of spring ball.
New offensive coordinator Robin Pflugrad and newly promoted defensive coordinator Eric Lewis will each get an opportunity to put their stamp on Weber State’s system in spring practices.
Sears has a three-year contract now, but the Wildcats have to replace two-year starter Mike Hoke at quarterback and fill holes that led to a 2-9 record a year ago.
Roy Burton covers Weber State sports for the Standard-Examiner. Follow @RoyBurton on Twitter, read more about the
Wildcats at blogs.standard.net/wsu-sports-blog or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.