Conference: Big Sky
Record: 26-8 (15-3)
Conference Tournament Seed: 1
NCAA Tournament Seed: 15 (East)
How they got to the Big Dance
Weber State started the year off slow, going 0-2 in non-conference play with losses to Utah State and tournament team South Dakota State. Then things picked up for the Wildcats as they rattled off six straight wins before dropping three consecutive games to subpar teams. Two of those losses came to teams ranked below 175th in RPI. Weber State finished the season on an 18-3 tear, which included a win over South Dakota State in their second meeting of the year. Part of the reason for their 26-8 record is the weak Big Sky conference. Ranked 118th, Weber State has the highest RPI in the conference. Montana and Idaho are the only other teams in the conference ranked in the top 200. The Wildcats locked up the No. 1 seed in the Big Sky conference tournament and eked out a four-point victory against No. 8 seed Portland State in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, WSU survived a game against No. 5 seed North Dakota in overtime, winning 83-78. They punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament with a three-point win over No. 2 Montana in the Big Sky title game.
Why they will be a Cinderella team
This is a team that shoots the ball well. Weber State converts 47.3 percent of their shots, which ranks 28th in the country. That percentage is even better from inside the arc, where they shoot 55.5 percent, good for ninth in the country. The Wildcats also pull in defensive rebounds at a high rate. They are fourth in the NCAA in defensive rebounds with 27.5 per game. They don’t get blocked often, either, allowing only 1.5 blocks per game. WSU’s defense makes it harder for opposing teams to find open shots, ranking 17th with 10.5 assists allowed per game.
Why they won’t be a Cinderella team
For one, the Wildcats don’t have Damian Lillard on their team anymore. Weber State also just hasn’t been tested that much this season. They’ve played two teams with an RPI in the top 100. Considering there are only 68 teams in the NCAA tournament field, that number does not bode well for the Wildcats. Most Cinderella teams in the NCAA tournament do two things very well: shoot 3s and force turnovers. Weber State is mediocre at best from 3-point range, shooting only 36 percent, which ranks 117th in the NCAA. They do not force many turnovers, either. They are 314th in the country, recording only 4.7 steals per game. The Wildcats make a lot of mistakes, as well, committing 13.7 turnovers per game, which is good for 280th in the NCAA. If they want to make a run in the tournament, they will need to get a lot better in all of these aspects of their game.
Player to watch – G Jeremy Senglin
The 6-foot-2 junior knows how to score. He averages 18.2 points per game and has been huge for the Wildcats in their last few contests. He scored 31 points on 10-for-19 shooting from the field and on 7-for-12 shooting from 3 against North Dakota in the Big Sky semifinals. He also scored 20 against Montana in the title game. He shoots at 44.2 percent clip from downtown and shoots 49.3 percent from the field. If the Wildcats want to go far, they will need Senglin to continue his stellar play.
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