OGDEN — It's time for a couple of the NCAA's "little guys" to step into the spotlight.
Two of the country's best-kept collegiate men's basketball secrets will finally get some well-deserved national exposure tonight when Weber State hosts UT Arlington in a promising NCAA BracketBuster battle between two teams with 20 or more wins apiece.
In Weber State's first-ever home game to be called by ESPN commentators (the game is available online at WatchESPN.com through certain internet subscribers), tonight's matchup brings the Mavericks from Arlington, Texas, and their 16-game winning streak to town to face a Weber State squad which has won 15 of its last 16 games. The Wildcats are 14-0 at home this season, matching the school's best home-court mark, accomplished three times before, so win No. 15 this evening would establish a record for WSU's best unbeaten season at home. Both teams have their sights set on reaching the NCAA Tournament and could enhance their respective postseason resumes with a win tonight. And Weber State head coach Randy Rahe knows his team will have its hands full against a Mavericks teams which hasn't lost since December — a game which was also played in the Beehive State.
"They're very talented, a very, very good team," Rahe said in a radio interview on 1280 AM "The Zone" on Friday. "They're extremely athletic and they've won 16 in a row. The last loss they had was up at Utah State in a very close game. It's the second-longest winning streak in the country right now. So obviously they're very, very good. "They've got the whole package. They've got athleticism, they've got shooters, they've got drivers, they've got a good post-up game. So normally when teams win 16 in a row, you've got every base pretty much covered. "They're extremely good defensively," Rahe said. "They play a high-octane defensive game where they like to press and change defenses.
"They'll play a half-court trap, they'll pressure you man-to-man, so we're going to see some things that we haven't seen for a long time this season. It's going to be interesting to see if we can handle it or not."
The Mavs, whose winning streak is only surpassed by top-ranked Kentucky's 17 straight wins, are led by sophomore LaMarcus Reed, who averages 16.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game and shoots 46 percent from the field. Bo Ingram adds 12.1 ppg and Kevin Butler contributes 10.6 points and 6.4 rebounds for UT Arlington, which is the alma mater of former WSU coach Joe Cravens and will join the Western Athletic Conference in all sports — they do not field a football program — in July.
"I'm real impressed with their team," Rahe said. "They've got some veterans; they've got every base covered that you can want as a basketball team. So it's a huge challenge for us. And right now, they feel like they're bullet-proof. They haven't lost in 16 games, and when you have that kind of streak going, you feel like you can't lose. So they've got that confidence."
Weber State will counter the Mavs with junior guards Damian Lillard — now tied for the national Division I scoring lead at 24.8 points per game — and Scott Bamforth, sophomore center Kyle Tresnak and senior forwards Kyle Bullinger and Darin Mahoney, who could be playing the final home game of their collegiate careers if the Wildcats don't wind up winning the right to host the league's postseason championship tournament
Wildcats on the air
UT Arlington (20-5) at Weber State (21-4)
Today, 6 p.m. MT
Dee Events Center, Ogden
TV: WatchESPN.com Radio: 1280 AM