OGDEN — Prior to last season, the Weber State women's basketball team had never won a Big Sky championship.
So how would it be to win two in a row?
The Wildcats get the opportunity to do that on their home floor, as they host the Big Sky women's tournament tonight and Saturday. The Wildcats are the No. 1 seed and will face Eastern Washington at 7:35 p.m. Rivals Montana and Montana State play in the conference's first semifinal at 5:05 p.m.
Although the Wildcats are seeded No. 1 and had a nine-game winning streak earlier this season, there's no clear-cut favorite for the conference title.
"Anything can happen," Weber State coach Carla Taylor said.
And anything has happened this season in the Big Sky. Weber State lost two out of its last four games but still won the conference crown. The Wildcats got a big assist from
Sacramento State, which defeated Montana State 62-60 on March 1. Before the Hornets upset the Bobcats, Sacramento State had lost 36 straight Big Sky games, 60 consecutive games against Division 1-A opponents and 30 straight road conference games. The loss for Montana State snapped a 23-game home winning streak. If the Bobcats had won that game, they would have hosted the conference tournament.
"I should probably send (Sacramento State) something," Taylor said. "That just shows that anyone can beat anyone."
Weber State looked like the team to beat in the Big Sky during its winning streak in the conference. But Taylor said her team started to struggle when it got lackadaisical on defense and players started worrying about who was scoring points on offense.
"In the second half of the conference season I sensed we were a little tight," Taylor said. "Instead of playing to win, we were playing to preserve first place."
As the conference champs, the Wildcats were also taking everyone's best shot.
"We were picked to win the conference for the second straight year and that's not easy to do," Taylor said. "Everyone was gunning for us."
But Taylor thinks her team is back on the right track. The Wildcats earned a share of the Big Sky regular season championship and wrapped up homecourt advantage for the conference tournament with a win at Idaho State in the final game of the season. Weber State followed that up with a good week of practice, where Taylor said the team got back to playing great defense and worked on its execution on offense. With four returning starters from last year's Big Sky champs, Taylor likes her team's chances.
"I like that we're playing on our home court and I feel comfortable where we are," Taylor said.
To win the Big Sky and earn the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, the Wildcats will look to players with postseason experience like sophomore Julie Gjertsen, who was the Big Sky's co-MVP, and post player Crystal Howe, who was named to the Big Sky's first team. The Wildcats will also look to newcomer Sheila Robertson, who earned the Big Sky's outstanding freshman award.