So the back end of the road trip didn't work out quite as well as we had hoped. Okay, time to move on to one of the most fun weeks of the basketball season -- the Weber State doubleheader. The Bengals play their arch rivals at home on Thursday, then turn around and play in the Dee Events Center in Ogden Saturday night. Last year was a pretty good example of how much fun this rivalry can be -- the Bengals won at home by four, lost on the road by two.
In addition to just the usual good-natured animosity between these two rivals, both ballclubs have a LOT on the line as far as the Big Sky Conference race is concerned. The Wildcats are tied for first with Portland State at 6-1, and hold a tiebreaker over the Vikings by virtue of having shocked PSU in the Rose City earlier this season.
The Bengals, meanwhile, are playing for a playoff spot and a potential first-round hosting role at this point. At 4-3 in the league, ISU is fourth, a half-game behind Montana for third and a half-game ahead of fifth place Northern Colorado. If you're not going to finish in the top two in the league and earn a first-round playoff bye, you certainly want to get one of the next slots that allow you to host in the opening round.
As we head into the middle of Big Sky play this week, let's take a quick look at how things are shaking out so far:
1. Portland State--The Vikings are 3-1 at home, 3-0 on the road, and despite that hiccup against Weber State, they are still the most talented team in the league. They finish with five of nine on the road, including the rematch in Ogden.
2. Weber State--Well, as a Bengal fan you have to believe ISU will at least get a split against the Wildcats this week, and if they do, that will make it very tough on Weber to keep pace with Portland State. WSU did hold off Sac and NAU for a road sweep last week, and they finish with five of nine at home. Of course, one of those is Portland State, not exactly a gimme. WSU is 2-1 at home, 4-0 on the road.
3. Montana--The Griz are one of only two teams in the league (ISU being the other) who are perfect at home so far -- 4-0. They also got their first road win in league (1-3) last week at EWU. Montana finishes with four road games and one of their homes games is a critical one this week -- with Portland State. That game will tell us a lot about whether Montana has righted itself and is a real contender, or if they're just treading water.
4. ISU--The Bengals, 1-3 on the road, are 3-0 at home and Thursday's game with Weber is critical to positioning themselves for a first-round host opportunity. The Bengals then finish with four on the road and four at home, including Portland State, a team ISU has not been really competitive against the last season and a half. ISU needs to defend homecourt or get a road win on the Montana trip in order to have a shot at a first-round bye.
5. Northern Colorado--The Bears got a big road win at Montana State on Thursday, before getting dispatched in Missoula yesterday. They are 3-1 at home, 1-3 on the road, with four on the road and four at home remaining. Northern Colorado is in pretty good position to contend for a host role.
6. Montana State--The Bobcats lost a big one at home to Northern Colorado last week negating their earlier road win at Weber State. They finish with five at home and four on the road. They also have to play in the Bracketbuster, and one of their home games is against PSU. MSU, 2-1 at home and 1-3 on the road, clearly has the toughest row to hoe of any of the league teams at this point.
7. Eastern Washington--The Eagles, 2-2 at home and 1-3 on the road, finish up four-and-four, with the Montana road trip coming up this week. They have three fairly winnable games at home, against NAU, Sac State and Northern Colorado, although they finish with PSU. They will be in a dogfight for one of the last playoff spots.
8. Northern Arizona--The Axers, 1-3 at home and 1-3 on the road, have really dug themselves a hole. They finish four-and-four, and the good news is they really haven't been blown out in league play this year. If they get their confidence back after fumbling four, double-digit second-half leads, they can still contend for that last playoff position.
9. Sacramento State--The Hornets are 1-4 at home and 0-3 on the road and, despite the big win against the Bengals on Saturday, they face a very difficult climb to make the post season. They finish with five on the road, where they are 0-11 in all games this year.
And thanks for being a Bengal fan -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.