To host or not to host — it all comes down to this.
Weber State will face the University of Montana in what shapes up as a winner-take-all Big Sky Conference men's basketball showdown tonight at Missoula, Mont.
The winner of tonight's titanic tussle between the Wildcats and Grizzlies will win the league's regular-season championship and the right to host the conference postseason tournament on March 6-7.
The loser, meanwhile, will face the difficult prospect of trying to go win the league tourney title, and the automatic NCAA Tournament berth that goes with it, on the other guys' floor next week.
Weber State (23-4, 14-1 Big Sky) would like nothing more than to host the conference tournament. After all, the Wildcats are undefeated at home (15-0) this season and have won 16 straight games in the Dee Events Center dating back to last season.
Montana (22-6, 14-1) is tough as nails to beat at home, too, with a 13-2 record at Dahlberg Arena this season.
Both teams are 14-1 in conference play and have each won 17 of their last 18 games, with Weber State's only loss coming on a last-second 3-pointer at Idaho State and Montana's only setback coming in an 80-64 loss to the Wildcats in Ogden.
"Obviously Montana is playing terrific basketball and at a very high level, so we know it will be a great challenge for us," WSU coach Randy Rahe said. "We know we are going to have to play one of our best games of the season, but we are excited about the opportunity."
Tonight's contest will mark the first time in conference history that two teams with one conference loss have met on the final night of the regular season to determine the conference champion. It is also the first time since 2000 that the regular-season title will be decided on the final night of the season.
Weber State is seeking its third Big Sky regular-season title in four years, and its fourth in six years under head coach Randy Rahe. A win would give the Wildcats 24 wins for just the fifth time in school history.
Montana, which is seeking its first conference regular-season title since 2000, has knocked Weber State out of the conference tournament the past two years. The Grizzlies have won the conference tournament four times in the last decade — 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2010, when they won it on WSU's court with a dramatic come-from-behind victory over the Wildcats.
Montana enters tonight's game with an 11-game winning streak, tied for the fifth-longest in the nation.
Tonight's matchup will offer a stark contrast in styles — Weber State is the league's highest-scoring team, averaging 79.1 points per game, ranking the Wildcats 11th-best in the nation — and Montana leads the league in scoring defense, allowing just 61.8 points per game.
The Grizzlies are led by junior guard Will Cherry, who is third in the Big Sky in scoring at 15.9 points per game. He also leads the Big Sky in steals with 2.6 per game.
Weber State will counter the Grizzlies' challenge with junior guard Damian Lillard, who ranks second in the nation in scoring at 24.7 points per game and is a national finalist for several top individual awards this season.
This the 113th all-time meeting between WSU and Montana, and the Wildcats have faced the Grizzlies more times than any other opponent in history. Weber State leads the all-time series 64-48, but Montana has won four of the last six games in the series and has won the last two meetings in Missoula and five of the last seven there.
Wildcats on the air
Weber State (23-4, 14-1 Big Sky) at Montana (22-6, 14-1)
Tonight, 7:07 p.m.
Dahlberg Arena, Missouala, Mont.
TV: Altitude Radio: 1280 AMWildcats on the air
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