How to Watch (and bet)
Date: Monday, 11/7/22
Tip-Off Time: 8:00 pm PT
TV: Pac-12 Washington
Location: Seattle, Washington
DraftKings Betting Line: Washington Huskies -11
I’ll be honest, preparing the game preview for the first game of the season, especially when it’s a mid-major, can be difficult. You can look at who’s on the roster but there’s not a lot of information about rotations, playing style, etc. Especially when there was just a coaching change as is the case for Weber State.
Luckily, we’ve got a ringer. Former UW Dawg Pound writer Raymond Lucas Jr. has moved on to bigger and better things and is now a staff writer at 247 Sports. However, he is also a recent alumni of Weber State and was kind enough to answer some questions for us about the Wildcats and this game. Below are Raymond’s responses to 6 questions from us to help preview the game.
1. Weber State’s head coach Randy Rahe announced his retirement in May after 16 years as head coach. How did the fanbase feel about the job Rahe was doing and what can you tell us about new head man Eric Duft?
Raymond Lucas- When Randy Rahe retired, it was as if the king of Ogden had stepped down from his throne, but words in his direction hadn’t been that kind during the final years of his tenure. As Washington fans know, frustrations grow loud when unable to reach the NCAA Tournament and although Weber State’s only path is practically winning the Big Sky Tournament, it hasn’t happened since 2016. There have been struggles against arch-rival Montana and in the conference tournament but overall, Rahe’s impact on WSU hoops is massive, considering he’s the all-time winningest coach and helped build the university into a commonly known institution due to his recruitment and development of Damian Lillard along with the eventual success that the Portland star was able to reach.
From what I’ve been able to gather through offseason reading, namely Brett Hein of the Standard-Examiner, Duft is bringing a similar to approach to Rahe but with a breath of fresh air due to bringing in a younger staff. Duft isn’t a stranger to leading and was very vocal last season during practice. He’s been on the staff for 16 years, assisting in the success Rahe saw during his reign.
2. Last year Utah State grad transfer Koby McEwen led Weber State in scoring at 18.2 points per game and was 1st team all-Big Sky. He’s gone now so who is expected to pick up the mantle as the primary option this year? Will #2 scorer from last year Dillon Jones (12.6 ppg) be the guy?
RL- If one thing has been made clear over the years, Weber State loves guards that can score the ball. The program’s all-time leading scorer Jerrick Harding did it for three seasons, then it was Seattle product Isiah Brown and then it was McEwen, as you mentioned. So while Jones is the best player on the team and is primed for another leap, a prime candidate to lead the way in scoring is guard Keith Dinwiddie who hails from Los Angeles and transferred from San Diego State. Many teams in the modern day hand the ball to their best scoring guard and say, “go get a bucket.” Weber State is one of them.
3. There’s movement at every school now in the transfer portal era. Did Weber State lose any major pieces and do they have any incoming transfers that are expected to play major roles?
RL- The transfer portal has some that despite and some that love it, the Wildcats are big advocates. Above I mentioned Brown, McEwen and Dinwiddie and each of those guys made their way to Ogden via the portal. Along with Dinwiddie this season, there are eight new scholarship players on the roster and four are transfers. Junior Ballard (Fresno State), Handje Tamba (Tennessee) and Steven Verplanken Jr. (Southern Illinois) are all newcomers. Dinwiddie and Tamaba could have immediate impacts and are players to watch for in that group. As for major pieces lost, only Seikou Sisoho Jawara stands up– he departed for San Diego.
4. Taking a quick perusal at last year’s advanced stats it looks like Weber State played up-tempo on offense (21st in shortest possessions) but didn’t have great ball movement (350th in A/FGM) and didn’t offensive rebound (352nd). Do you think this year’s team will play similarly or between personnel and the head coaching change do you think it will look different?
RL- I think under Duft, the Wildcats will continue to rely on having a dynamic scoring guard but added more players that can step up and alleviate that pressure once the conference tourney rolls around. An attacking approach sparks the up-tempo offense but it sometimes can lead to low assist rates because there aren’t long, drawn-out sets being run. You won’t find a lot of zone defense in the Big Sky, so Weber State often has its foot on the gas pedal. Offensive rebounding certainly must be better this season and to get there, the Wildcats will have to balance forcing their opponent to play up-tempo while also controlling the half-court. Much easier said than done.
5. What are your expectations for where Weber State finishes the year? Is this a team you think will be competitive in the Big Sky?
RL- Each season, Weber State has the pieces to be the winner of the Big Sky, but the top half of the conference tends to be cluttered with Montana, Montana State and Eastern Washington each claiming the throne. There’s one less contender in the conference this season after Southern Utah left for the WAC, meaning more opportunity for the ‘Cats. With that being said, winning a conference championship in your first season as a head coach is incredibly difficult so I expect WSU to be competitive but not champions. That changes if Dillon Jones can be the best player in the Big Sky.
6. Finally, what’s your prediction for the final score tonight against Washington?
RL- Washington is oozing in length and newfound star power through the transfer portal, which makes the Huskies a much tougher team this season. That’s an issue for the Wildcats because this year’s team probably wouldn’t have beaten 2021’s version of the Dawgs. Weber State fell to Wazzu 94-60 in a battle of WSU’s last season and do you know who gave the Wildcats fits? Noah Williams. This time Williams has added motivation with it being his first official game as a Husky in front of the fine folks of Seattle.
The most significant factor in this game is the daunting zone of Washington that will stifle Weber State, which doesn’t have the size, shooting, chemistry or familiarity to crack it. Things will get rough on Monday night. Washington wins this one 95-59.
Thank you so much Raymond! Be sure to check out all of Raymond’s coverage over at 247 Sports covering the college sports world at large.
Just so that I have a prediction logged in the system, Hop’s recent teams have tended to start slow especially on offense and so I’m predicting a much closer game than Raymond. Huskies still win but 72-63.