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Big Sky Conference race far from settled

Like just about everywhere else around the country, they saved the mess for last in the Big Sky Conference.

To say the least, there's still a lot up in the air for Weber State and most of the rest of the Big Sky, heading into the final weekend of the league's regular season.

Namely:

The Wildcats (14-11, 8-6) know they will be participating in the Big Sky postseason tournament for the 20th straight year. However, they can still finish anywhere between third and sixth place.

A win tonight at Idaho State (12-13, 8-6) would assure WSU no worse than fourth place. Two wins this week, at ISU and at Montana State (15-13, 7-8) Saturday, and the 'Cats will be the No. 3 seed. On the other hand, Weber will end up sixth with two losses.

Various other scenarios exist, but Weber's position isn't great with a loss — Eastern Washington, Northern Arizona and ISU all hold tiebreakers over the Wildcats.

The location of the Big Sky tourney is still unknown. The competition will be held March 8-10, either at Cal State Northridge or at Eastern Washington. That could be decided tonight — Northridge will host should the Matadors beat EWU in Cheney.

However, if the Eagles down Northridge, they could clinch the No. 1 seed and hosting privileges with a season-ending victory against Northern Arizona Friday. Then again, if Eastern wins tonight and loses to NAU Friday, Northridge would host the tourney if it beats Portland State on Saturday.

Above all that, Weber State isn't even sure what kind of team it will put on the floor against the Bengals. Jermaine Boyette has an injured thumb on his shooting hand (left) and was held scoreless in only 12 minutes of play during the Wildcats' narrow win at Morris Brown last week. Also, backup big man Jake Shoff, who played a key role in WSU's earlier win over ISU, has been suffering strep infection and didn't go to Atlanta.

"Right now we are just trying to stay afloat," said Weber State coach Joe Cravens. "Jermaine can hardly catch or shoot the ball, and Jake has been down and in bed since last Friday."

The 'Cats made due without their services in the nonconference win. That, however, will be much more difficult against the improved Bengals — despite the fact that Weber has beaten ISU 10 straight times, including the last four in Pocatello. They are tied with Weber in third thanks in part to the play of former Ute Jordie McTavish (15.7 ppg, 5.3 apg) and ex-Granger standout Tim Erickson (14.6 ppg).

"Pocatello is a tough place for visiting teams to play," Cravens said. "We both have a chance to get a third seed in the tournament, so there is something riding on the outcome."

The Wildcats bring a two-game winning streak into the final weekend of action. Junior Chris Woods has played a big part in that, coming off the bench to score career-highs in consecutive games — 16 points vs. Sacramento State and 17 at Morris Brown.


E-mail: jody@desnews.com