OGDEN — The two men's basketball teams that'll square off here tonight, Weber State and Utah Valley University, certainly have a couple of things in common.
Both squads enjoyed outstanding seasons which featured lengthy winning streaks, and both of them suffered bitter disappointments in the semifinals of their respective conference tournaments. For Weber State, this postseason appearance may seem like a lousy consolation prize after setting its sights on the NCAA Tournament. But for Utah Valley, this is a precedent-setting game — its first-ever postseason game beyond its conference tournament since becoming a Division I program.
Thus, the stage is set for an instate matchup between the Wildcats and Wolverines, who'll tangle tonight in the opening round of the fourth annual Collegeinsider.com Tournament. Tipoff time is 7 p.m. in the Dee Events Center, where Weber State is a perfect 15-0 this season.
The Wildcats have the best winning percentage (.800) of any team in this year's CIT event, and their 24 wins is tied for the most in the 32-team tourney field.
And despite their loss in the Big Sky championship game, WSU coach Randy Rahe says his squad is glad to still be playing ball.
"We are excited for our season to continue," he said. "It's always an honor to be invited to play in any postseason tournament, so we're excited about playing and we're going to go try to play our best.
"We are especially excited to be able to play at home in front of our fans, who have been so great all season long. We have limited time to get ready for Utah Valley and they are a dangerous team, but we're excited for the opportunity to keep playing."
Utah Valley won the Great West Conference regular-season championship for the second straight year and had a 13-game winning streak during the season, only to fall in overtime in its conference tourney.
Still, the Wolverines are pleased with the opportunity to extend their season, especially with an instate game against Weber State, the program where UVU head coach Dick Hunsaker played his college ball and served as an assistant coach for several seasons.
"Weber had a lot of high expectations and had an exceptional season," Hunsaker said. "And (WSU junior guard Damian) Lillard's got the NBA drooling and awaiting his arrival, so he's got a lot on his mind relative to how things have transpired.
"But I know he's a great competitor, and I know they'll be excited and ready to play at 7 o'clock Tuesday.
"This is obviously a big accomplishment for us, and we're really excited," Hunsaker said. "We know who we are, and this is a great achievement for our team and a great achievement for our seniors, and I'm real pleased for them to have this kind of opportunity. They're the first group to go into a postseason game like this. It's something special for us. I mean, we didn't quite have a Selection Sunday party at our place.
"So we're very excited and looking forward to the game. It's really nice for everyone that's around to have an instate game like this where friends and family can come and see the game. And it's always nice to go back to Ogden."
Hunsaker has plenty of respect for the Wildcats' team, as well as the program.
"They can really score," he said. "They're one of the better scoring teams in the country. They can really shoot it from the arc, they shoot deep 3s, and I think their inside play is very underrated. They've really got a solid seven- or eight-man nucleus of players.
"We're going to have to play very well to compete. But with the rigors of our schedule we played throughout the course of the season, our guys know what they're in for. And we have a lot of respect for Weber State and know
the caliber of competition we're going to face."
Tickets are priced at $10 for adults, $5 for youths ages 17 and under and $5 for Weber State students. For tickets, contact the WSU ticket office at 801-626-8500 or visit WeberStateTickets.com.
WSU-UVU on the air
Utah Valley (20-12) at Weber State (24-6)
Tonight, 7 p.m.
Dee Events Center, Ogden
Radio: 1280 AM