The Vikings recent success might lead fans to forget the disappointments of the early season. If they had hit the majority of their late free throws the team would be 12-4, and there would be no doubt they were the best team in the conference. Needless to say, that is not the case. A week ago most Viking fans would have been pessimistic about a tough conference game on the road. However, with the recent development of Kyle Coston, this game is once again intriguing.
Weber State is led offensively by the senior duo of Arturas Valeika, a versatile forward from Lithuania, and Dezmon Harris. The Wildcats have to be upset with the production from their veteran players. Both Harris and Juan Pablo Silveira have been less productive this year without David Patten. Unfortunately, their inability to fill that void has really hurt the team so far. The defending Big Sky champions are 5-8 thus far this year and lost their first conference game to last year’s cellar dweller, UNC. To turn things around this year Weber will have to get increased production from their veteran guys.
WSU: Arturas Valeika PSU: Scott Morrison
This is a game where Bone often looks to play Thomas inside. Offensively, Morrison should have no trouble scoring 10 points on Valeika. However, he isn’t mobile enough to cover Valeika if he is playing out on the wings putting up three balls. I don’t see Morrison getting more than 20 minutes in this one, but I’d be happy if he did. I think the Vikings need him in there to provide a post presence and a stronger rebounder. Because the Vikings made a big change in their offense after the first few games of the season, Morrison has less impact on the game. However, given the right system, he could be just as good as Valeika. I’ll give the edge to Valeika because the Wildcats are committed to giving him the ball and letting him go to work.
WSU: Steve Panos PSU: Kyle Coston
To mention the word power in relation to Kyle Coston seems comical. The rail-thin shooter has the ability to rebound at times, but tends to foul quickly when matched up against more physical players, and he has no real power game offensively. It looks like he’ll continue to be the guy until he gives up the spot. Alex Tiefenthaler has done very little since becoming eligible, and Tyrell Mara has had a tough go of it since the Top of the World Classic. As long as Coston stays out of foul trouble, he should win this match-up because Panos isn’t much of an offensive guy at all. He’s averaged only 6 points per game. Other options for Weber at forward include Tyler Billings and Daviin Davis.
WSU: Juan Pablo Silveira PSU: Deonte Huff
Silveira had a strong 3 games against the Vikings last year. If he struggles, look for them to go to Davis who dominated the Vikings in limited time last year. Huff will look to rebound after a tough shooting game against NAU. Aside from the Akron game, it was his worst game of the year. Not bad to get 8 points and 9 rebounds from a guy in one of his worst games. There is no reason to believe the star will have any trouble getting back into form. It is possible that Silveira will get to Huff’s level by the time he is done, but this isn’t that time. I think Huff will have a big game, and he will need to if the Viks have a chance to pull this one out on the road.
WSU: Dezmon Harris PSU: Andre Murray
Murray has been a spark for the Vikings. When he starts the team is 5-1. As the number two scorer, the Wildcats will need more than the 9 points Harris scored against UNC if they are going to play with the Vikings. Harris has shown that ability, scoring 16 points against a tough Utah State team. If he scores 15+ points the game should stay close. If not, they will be pressed to score with Huff, Murray and Dominguez.
WSU: Brody Van Brocklin/Kellen McCoy PSU: Jeremiah Dominguez
McCoy was the only player who was able to get into double figures for the Wildcats against UNC. He should be a good match-up for Dominguez and Mickey Polis as he is one of the few players in the country who isn’t taller than them. Van Brocklin is one of the three combo guards who starts for the Wildcats. Harris and Silveira are just as capable of running the team if they are asked to. PSU should again have the advantage here. If Dominguez can play the consistent basketball we have become accustomed to this year and Polis can knock down a couple shots, it would push the Vikings in the right direction.
The Viking bench has really come on since the beginning of the season. It remains to be seen whether or not they can sustain this energy, but it has led to some positive results recently. Two players who should factor in down the stretch are Tyrell Mara and Dupree Lucas. If either gets his starting spot back after his absence it would surprise me. Neither has had the kind of season expected from a starter, and that would lead me to believe that the guys in there now will finish out the season. The Wildcat bench is led by McCoy, Davis and Tyler Billings. They should all see significant time as Randy Rahe looks for an effective combination against the Vikings. Both teams have talented guys on the bench who should have an impact on the game and their production should be similar.
I am going to give the Vikings the advantage in this one, but not as big as their talent advantage would suggest. Randy Rahe is a much better coach than Ken Bone, even though he’s had a tough go of it this year. After seeing their early results, I feel that they just don’t have enough scoring to compete for the Big Sky crown this year.
Prediction: PSU 68-64