OGDEN — A couple of months ago, Weber State was picked to win this year's Big Sky Conference men's basketball championship.
Beginning tonight, the Wildcats get to start proving that all those lofty preseason predictions were absolutely true.
Weber State opens Big Sky play this evening at home against traditional conference rival Idaho State, which has lost to the Wildcats six straight times and in eight of their last nine meetings.
Coming off a convincing 29-point victory over in-state rival Utah a week ago, the Wildcats feel like they're well-prepared and ready to commence the conference campaign.
"I feel like we're right where we want to be," said junior guard Damian Lillard, who is tied for the national lead in scoring with an average of 25.4 points per game. "I feel like we're rolling right now. We played a great preseason schedule, and we couldn't have prepared for conference any better."
The Wildcats' preseason performance hasn't been without disappointments and adversity, however. They suffered lopsided road losses to St. Mary's, California and BYU, and they also lost the services of two front-line starters, forwards Kyle Bullinger (elbow) and Frank Otis (knee) to injuries which will keep them sidelined for at least a couple more weeks.
But the 'Cats have been able to overcome those losses and have put together a perfect 6-0 record at the Dee Events Center, their best home start since the 2002-03 season whey they wound up 13-0. And at 8-3 overall, this marks Weber State's best start to a season since the 1999-2000 campaign.
"I like where we're at," said WSU head coach Randy Rahe. "I really like our attitude, I like how we practice.
"We've had to make adjustments with injuries, and our guys have done nothing but put their nose to the grindstone and try to figure out how to get better.
"Guys are willing to do whatever it takes to get the team better," Rahe said. "We've got to get a lot better in some areas. Our second-half defense must improve, our second-half rebounding must improve. But we're a lot closer than I imagined we would be with these injuries that happened a couple of weeks ago."
A win tonight would be the 900th all-time victory in Weber State history, as the Wildcats are currently 899-523 (.632) overall in the 50-year history of the program.
And what better team to knock off for No. 900 than Idaho State? After all, Weber State has faced ISU as many times as any other opponent — 110 — with the Wildcats holding a 70-40 advantage, including a 42-11 advantage in Ogden.
The Bengals, who have lost four straight games, are guided by interim head coach Deane Martin, who took over after Joe O'Brien abruptly resigned on Dec. 19.
And while the Wildcats were picked to win the league in preseason polls, the Bengals were picked ninth following a 4-12 Big Sky finish and 9-20 overall mark last season.
Wildcats on the air
Idaho State (2-9) at
Weber State (8-3)
Tonight, 7:05 p.m.
Dee Events Center, Ogden
TV: None, Radio: 1280 AM
email: [email protected]