Big Sky Men's Basketball Tournament: What to Expect Against Montana
(Photo courtesy of Weber State Athletics)
With a 69-64 victory over the Idaho Vandals on Wednesday afternoon, we now know that the Montana Grizzlies will be Weber State’s quarterfinal opponent in this year’s Big Sky Tournament. In what seems like an annual
inevitability, the two teams, who have combined to win more Big Sky Tournament Titles (21) than all of the other current members of the conference altogether (14 - 15, if you count Northern Colorado’s vacated 2011
title), will meet again Thursday night. The Grizzlies have been Weber State’s tournament kryptonite, ending the Wildcat’s title hopes six times in the Randy Rahe era, thrice in the championship game.
The Wildcats and Grizzlies split this season’s series over Valentine's Day weekend in Missoula. The Grizz took the first game 80-67, and the Wildcats returned the favor in the rematch, 91-82. In the first game, the Grizzlies ratcheted up their defensive intensity, holding the Wildcats to their second lowest scoring output of the season while also hitting a season high nine three pointers. In the rematch, Grizz sophomore Josh Vasquez scored his then-career high 17 points (only eclipsed by his performance against the Vandals on Wednesday), in a back-and-forth battle that saw the Wildcats pull away using a 10-3 run late in the second half.
So what should we expect for the rubber match? In his postgame comments on Wednesday, Grizzly head coach Travis DeCuire told the media that he would look to more recent results from the Wildcats to prepare his squad. Since that first meeting in February, the Wildcats have not lost, while the Grizzlies dropped a pair to Eastern Washington before sweeping Idaho State and Warner Pacific (is that a college or a movie studio?) on back-to-back weekends to close the season.
Watching the Grizzlies in person today, the Weber State Weekly crew was not impressed by their size, especially in the post. Weber State's bigs should be able to dominate. In the previous matchup, Dontay Bassett scored 13 in each game, while Michal Kozak and Cody Carlson were held to just two points combined in the loss; the duo went for 19 in the win. It is clear that if the 'Cats gets consistent production from the 4 and 5 positions, they should be able to win. Similarly, in their win, Montana made nine threes. They average just over five made threes per game this season. If Weber State can hold the Grizzlies to their average number of makes, we like their chances to win.
Of course, Wildcat Nation is well aware that weird things happen when the 'Cats and Grizz tangle. This game will likely be closer than the -7.0-point spread by which the Vegas oddsmakers have Weber State winning.