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Mid-Major Game of the Week: Weber State vs. BYU

This year we'll be featuring one game each week as our Mid-Major game of the week. We start the season off with a big match up in Beehive State with a match up between BYU and Weber State.

Cooper Neill

Weber State Wildcats at BYU Cougars

When: November 8, 9 PM EST
Where: Marriott Center, Provo, Utah
All-Time Series Record: 28-10, BYU

Last Meeting: December 15, 2012- BYU 78 at Weber State 68

Our first Game of the Week this season is a big time match up in the "Beehive State" between the BYU Cougars and the Weber State Wildcats. This is a rivalry that has been an annual showdown for over 25 years. Unfortunately, for Wildcats' fans, BYU has dominated the series with ten straight wins.

Both teams come into this game ranked in our Mid-Major Madness Power 15. BYU currently stands tied for eleventh in the rankings, while Weber State was the last team in at number fifteen.

Weber State is coming off a 30 win season in which they barely lost to Montana in the Big Sky Championship game and then took out Cal Poly, Air Force, Oral Roberts, and Oral Roberts in-route to the CIT Championship game. East Carolina would upset the Wildcats by hitting a three-pointer at the buzzer in that championship game.

Hope is still very high in Ogden this year and many pundits have picked Weber State to take the Big Sky this year. The biggest reason for optimism is the return of Davion Berry (15.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg 3.8 apg, 1.2 spg) and Kyle Tresnak (11.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.2 bpg). Berry gets compared to Damion Lillard a lot because of their school and both being Oakland natives, but also his tremendous talent plays into it. Tresnak may be the premier inside presence in the Big Sky.

BYU, a 24 win team a year ago, also had their fair share of postseason success taking out Washington, Mercer, and Southern Miss in the NIT in-route to a trip to Madison Square Garden where Baylor eventually ousted the Cougars. The biggest question is who steps up with Brandon Davies moving on and can the Cougars finally dethrone Gonzaga in the WCC.

Tyler Haws (21.7 ppg) is considered by many to be the preseason Player of the Year in the WCC, and despite his new music video career he's ready to get the Cougars back to the NCAA Tournament. He will likely be a focal point of Randy Rahe's defense.

Ben Miraski's HOOPWAR's Take:

The following needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as this is all based on last year's production. Even if the two teams here had played this season, we would be dealing with a severely hampered sample size should I use this year's stats.

Either way, what comes is what a computer has to say about this game; and boy, is it chatty.

We are in for one great guard matchup between Davion Berry and Tyler Haws. What you will witness are two of the best guards West of the Mississippi River. Yes, that is a huge statement, but the numbers back it up.

Being a guard in HOOPWAR isn't easy. You have to overcome the fact that you take a lot of low percentage shots, not the little bunnies near the basket. That means getting production out of your minutes takes real skill. So when you have two guards (OK, so Haws is really a wing man, but for classification purposes, he falls in the guard slot), that each score almost 6.0 wins on the HW30 scale, that is real talent.

There are a lot of factors to consider in this game, not the least of which that BYU went from being one of the most talented front court teams in the country, to being really shorthanded at that position. It is a weakness that the combination of Joel Bolomboy (3.2 HW30) and Kyle Tresnak (3.1 HW30) could really exploit.

But for my money, the game is going to come down to which one of these talented backcourts can product the most for their teams. If you consider that Berry and Haws essentially cancel each other out, the equation is essentially the difference between the Cougars' Matt Carlino and Weber State's Jordan Richardson. And that is where BYU is going to find its edge. Carlino (3.5 HW30) is light years ahead of Richardson (-1.63 HW30) in terms of value.

The depth and interior favor Weber State, but so much value from the guards at BYU is hard to overlook, especially in terms of what that means about how really good those guys are, even beyond the numbers (an average guard is actually below replacement level; see Richardson, Jordan).

The Expert's Take with Will Maupin

Weber State

The Wildcats look for their first win of the season against the in-state rival Cougars. A win is always good but, when it comes against a better team in their building, it’s great. For the Wildcats to escape the 20,000+ seat Marriott Center with a win they will need to do two things.

First, control the tempo. Under Randy Rahe the Wildcats like to hover between 66 and 68 possessions per 40 minutes. That makes them a pretty average team in that regard, though slightly on the slow side of average. On the other hand, Dave Rose isn’t happy unless his Cougars are playing upwards of 70 possessions. They’ve been one of the 25 fastest teams in the nation for the past three seasons. The Cougars are good at playing fast, so it would make sense to try to slow them down. It would also make sense because the Wildcats are significantly overmatched.

Second, limit second chances. As Ben pointed out in his HOOPWAR analysis, the Wildcats have the advantage in the frontcourt. Though it’s worth noting that there are no stats yet for freshman center Eric Mika and it’s been two years since 6’ 7" Kyle Collinsworth was crashing the glass from the perimeter. That said, I don’t expect a new look BYU frontcourt to be firing on all cylinders in game one.

Haws, Carlino and Collinsworth are all great to very good shooters. Nate Austin and Josh Sharp are able shooters as well. With all those guys capable of getting buckets, Wildcats can’t expect to hold the Cougars to a poor shooting night. So, they need to make sure those guys don’t get any second chances. If the Wildcats win this game, Joel Bolomboy, Kyndall Hill and probably a third guy as well, will tally an impressive number of rebounds.

BYU Cougars

Eric Mika needs to establish himself as a force in the paint. He’ll be going against Joel Bolomboy who had an amazing freshman season. Top 100 nationally in block rate and both offensive and defensive rebound rate. He also shot 57.8% from the field. The highly touted Mika will need to make an immediate impact for the Cougars to help counter Bolomboy’s presence. Junior forwards Nate Austin and Josh Sharp simply don’t have the athleticism necessary to hold the Wildcats’ frontcourt in check. If the BYU frontcourt can hang with the Wildcats, their perimeter guys should be able to boost the Cougars well past Weber State.

The second key for the Cougars is simply the inverse of the second key for the Wildcats; BYU needs to make the first shot attempt of each possession. With the Wildcats looking to limit possessions and win the rebounding battle, it will be difficult for the Cougars to get the number of attempts they would like to have. Tyler Haws is more than able to knock down his shots, and knock down a lot of shots. This year though, everybody knows that. If he’s not getting good, open looks, someone else will have to step up. Matt Carlino can go off, or he can miss a lot of shots. So, maybe it will come down to Kyle Collinsworth stepping up, or freshman Frank Bartley. Whoever it is though, when they’re left open, they need to hit the bottom of the net.

Parks' Pick

Something has to give...right? Ten years? This is certainly going to a great game to set the table for a great season from both teams. I taking the Wildcats with the upset on Opening Night. Weber State-75, BYU-70