Breakdown before Boise

Going into spring break, Weber State University’s men’s and women’s basketball teams are headed to the Big Sky Tournament in Boise, Idaho, on March 4-8.

Last season, Montana State University won both the men’s and women’s tournaments, representing the Big Sky during NCAA’s March Madness.

As the tournament days approach, it’s time to look at where both Wildcat teams stand heading into Boise.

Men’s basketball

Weber State sits at 16–14 overall with an 11–6 in-conference record, making them No. 3 in the Big Sky.

Forward Dillon Jones is the leading scorer for the Wildcats with 16.3 points per game and the leading rebounder with 11 per game. He has been a highly productive player on the floor, leading the team in multiple categories.

“We think we have a terrific player in Dillon Jones at the end of games, and it gives us a chance at the end of close games to have a guy that can make things happen,” Weber State head coach Eric Duft said.

Jones will play a critical role for the Wildcats in the tournament. Following Jones, the Wildcats’ next leading scorer is Steven Verplancken Jr. A sniper from beyond the arc, Verplancken has shot 41% from 3-point range this season.

“We have to defend,” Duft said. “We have to be good on the defensive end. We’ve got to limit teams to one shot. When we get them to miss, we’ve got to get the rebound.

We’ve got to take care of the ball. That’s been our Achilles heel all season on offense is ball security. We’ve got to take care of the ball and get good shots. If we do those three things, we’ll be in the game.”

As a team, the Wildcats have scored a total of 2,001 points this season, averaging 66.7 points per game. They have a scoring margin of -0.5 with their opponents averaging 67.2 points against them.

Weber State has been in a lot of close games this year with clutch moments to learn from going into the tournament.

Duft said he thinks the team has learned that when they’re playing well, they can beat anybody, and if they’re not playing well, they can lose to anybody.

Discussing what the tournament means to players, Duft said teams who go to March Madness are hungry to get back.

“It’s why you do it at this level, and it’s a special experience,” Duft said. “I’m hoping that our guys get a chance while they’re at Weber State to realize that. I think when they’re growing up, this is what they’re thinking about and now they’ve got a chance to achieve it.”

Weber State will face off against Northern Arizona University on Feb. 27, and as the bracket currently stands, against Portland State University on March 6.

Women’s basketball

Coming in with a bottom-of-the-conference 2–15 record, the Wildcats may not look like they pose much of a threat. That said, many didn’t think they would make it out of the first round last year against Sacramento State University, a game they won 74–64.

While the team’s only won six games overall this season, Weber State has shown they’re capable of upsets.

Led by forwards Daryn Hickok and Jadyn Matthews, the Wildcats have averaged 57.2 points per game this season, allowing 67.5 points on defense for an average margin of -10.3. As a team, Weber State has scored 1,658 points this season, with 47.5% of that total coming from Hickok and Matthews.

The Wildcats make 73.5% of their free throws as a team. Hickok averages 5.4 free throws per game with 77% of her attempts from the line.

Matthews leads Weber State in both assists and rebounds, averaging 1.9 assists while grabbing 7.7 rebounds per game.

Coming off a 77–52 loss against the University of Idaho, the last game for women’s basketball will be a senior night matchup against Northern Arizona on Feb. 27 at the Dee Events Center.

As the bracket currently stands, Weber State will face Sac State in the tournament on March 6 at 8 p.m.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with the change in Weber’s bracket.