Opinion: Looking to Montana Matchups

Wildcat guard Steven Verplancken Jr. shoots a contested jumper.

As the women’s team travels up north, Weber State University’s men’s basketball team gets ready to take on Montana State University and the University of Montana at the Dee Events Center on Feb. 9 and 11.

A big week of basketball in Ogden, here’s the top three things to look out for during the two matchups.

Will the streak end?

The Wildcats’ lifetime 88–43 win/loss record against the Bobcats doesn’t quite capture how heated this rivalry is. Losing three matchups in a row to Montana State, Weber State’s last win against the Bobcats came on Dec. 30, 2021.

The 2022 Big Sky Conference MVP forward Jubrile Belo had 17 points and 12 rebounds for Montana State during the last game between the two teams. What led the Bobcats to victory, though, was 25 points off turnovers, 16 points from the free-throw line and 10 second-chance points.

The Wildcats and the Bobcats are the two teams with the highest attendance numbers in the conference and this next matchup between the two will be a blackout game.


Grizzlies looking for revenge?

On a three-matchup losing streak, Montana hasn’t won a game against Weber State since Jan. 1, 2022. Their last two losses to the Wildcats have been hard to swallow as one eliminated them from the conference tournament and the other ended on a buzzer-beater from guard Steven Verplancken Jr.

After suffering a three-game losing streak, the Grizzlies recovered and have been on a three-game winning streak. Though strength of schedule should be factored in when analyzing their turnaround, Montana has some momentum going against two top-four Big Sky teams in Idaho State University and Weber State.

The Grizzlies and Wildcats defenses currently hold opponents to 68 points per game. On offense, Montana averages 68.3 points a game compared to Weber State’s 66.4. It’d be bold to bet against a close game on Feb. 11.

End of season implications?

As it currently sits by record, Montana State is No. 2 in the conference, Weber State No. 3 and Montana No. 5.

If the Wildcats win both games, they move to a 9–4 in-conference record. Although that wouldn’t guarantee them advancement to the No. 2 spot, it would put them only one game behind Montana State — who’s currently 10–2.

Playing the other four teams in the top five before the end of February, the Bobcats’ end-of-season schedule is tough. The Wildcats on the other hand will be facing three of the bottom five teams in the Big Sky before the season ends.

If Montana wins their next two games, there’s a possibility they could take the third seed from Weber State.

Before heading to Ogden, the Grizzlies will face Idaho State on Feb. 9, a team they’re only one game behind. If Montana wins, they will go against Weber State with a 7–6 record. If Weber State loses both games, they’ll tie with the Grizzlies for the No. 3 spot.

There’s plenty of basketball ahead, and this week could prove to be a pivotal one when the bracket is laid out before the conference tournament in March.