Sacramento State at Weber State Men’s Basketball Tournament Preview

Sacramento State at Weber State Men’s Basketball Tournament Preview

by Zachary Knecht

Featured Image: Photo by Weber State Athletics

Sacramento State Weber State Tournament Preview

The #3 Weber State Wildcats will debut in the 2023 Big Sky Tournament against the #6 Sacramento State Hornets. Removing seeding and record, these teams are about as even as they can be, and their previous matchups have showcased this balance.

The Wildcats come in streaking, winning four of their last five, including a thrilling overtime victory over Northern Arizona; the Hornets stumbled into play, winning their season finale but dropping three of their final five contests.

Game Lines

WEB -2.5

Over/Under 124


WSU got the better of Sacramento State in their two regular-season battles. The battle is the right word for the previous contests between the Big Sky foes because each game was low-scoring and physical, with five total points separating the rosters on the year.

The first duel came on January 21, ending in a 50-48 Wildcat victory at the Dee Events Center. Not much separated these teams throughout the contest, with Weber State’s largest leading being nine with 6:18 left in the second half. From that point, it was all Hornets, storming back on a 10-1 run to tie it with 23 seconds left. With all momentum going to Sacramento State, it seemed like this game would head into overtime or the Hornets would pull through, but Dillon Jones called the game with a layup in the final seconds of regulation. The early victory helped set the tone for WSU for a successful conference season.

The second matchup followed on February 16, and Weber State walked away with the 52-49 win on the road. The Wildcats jumped out to a 26-20 lead at halftime, but the Hornets put together another impressive second half to keep things interesting. A late run gave WSU just enough of a buffer to fend off any late-game miracles, and they left The Nest with a well-earned victory.

Who to Watch

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Dillon Jones and Steven Verplancken Jr. are the dynamic duos for the Wildcats, who have lifted their team to the third seed and a favorable Quarterfinals matchup. Jones, notably, has been a man on a mission on both ends of the court. The star forward ranks fifth in points (18.0) and first in rebounds (12.2) per game in the Big Sky, leading the conference by a large margin in rebounding (3.4). Verplancken Jr. is a star in his own right, ranking 14th in points per game (13.9). He has been a reliable option behind Jones, and WSU relies on him a lot to make shots and make them often.

The Hornets have a prominent duo in their corner too, in Callum McRae and Zach Chappell. McRae – similarly to Jones – is the team’s leader in points (13.3) and rebounds (8.8) per game. He ranks 16th and second in the categories, respectively. Chappell is a bonafide scorer to support the star center, ranking 19th in points per game (12.4). The two rosters look similar on paper and have racked up nearly identical stats this season.

All Hands on Deck

Given the history between these teams, the Quarterfinals duel is likely to hit the under of 124 and be a tight battle. Each team ranks in the bottom three in scoring offense and top four in defense. They also turn the ball over at similar rates, but Weber State has the edge in creating turnovers per game (12.4).

The greatest discrepancy between the teams is their rebounding abilities. Sacramento State leads the conference in rebounding per game (35.8), having a knack for finding offense rebounds (11.4), which leads the Big Sky, and it isn’t close. Weber State ranks fifth in the Big Sky in rebounding per game (32.6) but doesn’t come near the dominance of the Hornets in grabbing them on the offensive end of the court (7.1).

This difference is the toughest challenge for the Wildcats. With each contest against Sacramento State coming down to one possession, WSU needs to create as many opportunities as possible while limiting that of their opponent. Jones will be a vital part of this operation, but the entire roster needs to get involved to make the most of their possessions.

Game Time

The Wildcats take on Sacramento State at 8 pm MST in Boise for the Big Sky Men’s Quarterfinals matchup.


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