OGDEN — As Weber State prepares for Big Sky play, WSU head coach Randy Rahe acknowledges what a tough preseason the Wildcats have had.

With a nonconference schedule consisting of only eight games, it’s obvious the ‘Cats didn’t see nearly enough action, but they still managed to face their fair share of tough competition.

“Overall, it’s the hardest schedule I’ve probably been involved with as a coach,” Rahe said as the Wildcats prepare to tip conference play off against Eastern Washington Thursday night in the Dee Events Center. “It’s very difficult. (We’ve) played difficult teams, and not only that, we haven’t played enough games. We’ve only played eight games. At this point last year, we played 11 games, so it’s been frustrating.”

Weber State had battles against in-state rivals Utah State, BYU and UVU, and also took on the UCLA Bruins, who were ranked No. 22 at the time. The Wildcats went 0-4 in those contests and were only able to come up with three wins — against San Jose State, St. Katherine College and Northern New Mexico.

One area Weber State needs to improve is rebounding. Despite ranking second in the Big Sky in rebounds per game (36.9), WSU has been outrebounded in all six of its games against Division I opponents this season.

“Our No. 1 concern is defensive rebounding. We have got to improve that.We just do,” said Rahe. “A lot of it is the competition we’ve faced, obviously, but at the same time, it’s an area we’ve got to focus on and we’re making it a strong focus here all the way until we start league play.”

The Wildcats have managed to make it through their difficult and frustrating preseason, but will now be tested to compete in a conference in which they were heavily favored to win entering the season.

Weber State (3-5) will kick its 20-game Big Sky Conference schedule off against Eastern Washington (5-6) Thursday night at 7 p.m. The Wildcats have won eight of their last nine meetings against the Eagles.

A quick look at how teams in the league (in projected order of finish) have fared thus far:

Ryan Love is a full-time student at the University of Utah studying communications, and has been a part-time sports reporter and scoreboarder for the Deseret News since Oct. 2012. Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724 EMAIL: rlove@deseretnews.com

Weber State Wildcats (3-5)

The Wildcats have gotten off to a bumpy start in the preseason, but will look to get things going as conference play tips off. Best win: St. Katherine College 107-36; Worst loss: No. 22 UCLA 83-60; Scoring leader: Senior forward Davion Berry, 16.9 ppg; Rebounding leader: Sophomore forward Joel Bolomboy, 8.9 rpg; Assists leader: Senior forward Davion Berry, 3.5 apg.

Montana Grizzlies (5-4)

After dropping four of its first five games, Montana has now won four games in a row to pick up steam heading into conference play. Best win: UM-Western 91-74; Worst loss: Minnesota 84-58; Scoring leader: Senior guard Kareem Jamar, 19.7 ppg; Rebounding leader: Senior guard Kareem Jamar, 6.6 rpg; Assists leader: Senior guard Kareem Jamar, 4.8 apg.

North Dakota (3-8)

North Dakota won two of its first three games of the season, but then went on to drop seven of the next eight to close out the preseason. Best win: North Dakota State 95-77; Worst loss: Wisconsin 103-85; Scoring leader: Senior forward Troy Huff, 22.7 ppg; Rebounding leader: Senior forward Troy Huff, 6.8 rpg; Assists leader: Freshman guard Quinton Hooker, 2.4 apg.

Northern Colorado Bears (7-3)

The Bears were able to win five of their last six games to close out the preseason on a high note as they went on to pick up their first conference win of the season by defeating North Dakota. Best win: Colorado College 96-57; Worst loss: Wyoming 72-59; Scoring leader: Senior forward Derrick Barden, 14.1 ppg; Rebounding leader: Senior forward Derrick Barden, 9.2 rpg; Assists leader: Junior guard Tevin Svihovec, 2.7 apg.

Montana State Bobcats (5-5)

The Bobcats dropped four of their first five games, but have now won four of their last five as conference play is set to kick off. Best win: Southwestern Christian 109-79; Worst loss: Cal State Fullerton 84-55; Scoring leader: Senior forward Flavien Davis, 10.2 ppg; Rebounding leader: Senior center Paul Egwuonwu, 7.8 rpg; Assists leader: Sophomore guard Marcus Colbert, 3.9 apg.

Eastern Washington Eagles (5-6)

The Eagles kicked off the preseason by winning four of their first five games, but have since gone on a four-game skid heading into conference play. Best win: LIU Brooklyn 102-70; Worst loss: St. Mary’s 93-65; Scoring leader: Sophomore guard Tyler Harvey, 19.3 ppg; Rebounding leader: Junior guard Drew Brandon, 6.8 rpg; Assists leader: Junior guard Drew Brandon, 5.6 apg.

Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (3-8)

The Lumberjacks have gotten off to a rough start to the 2013-14 season. They opened the season by dropping four of their first five games and have dropped five of their last six games. Best win: San Diego Christian 83-59; Worst loss: Arizona 77-44; Scoring leader: Junior guard Quinton Upshur, 14.0 ppg; Rebounding leader: Junior forward Gaellan Bewernick, 7.2 rpg; Assists leader: Junior guard Aaseem Dixon, 2.5 apg.

Sacramento State Hornets (4-5)

The Hornets have gotten off to a quality start to the season. They have recorded solid wins against CSU Bakersfield, UC Davis and UC Riverside. Best win: William Jessup 85-54; Worst loss: No. 22 UCLA 86-50; Scoring leader: Junior guard Mikh McKinney, 14.9 ppg; Rebounding leader: Sophomore guard Cody Demps, 4.2 rpg; Assists leader: Junior guard Mikh McKinney, 3.2 apg.

Portland State Vikings (5-4)

The Vikings got off to a hot start and own an impressive 5-2 record at home. Despite failing to record a road win yet, Portland State sits in a good spot entering conference play. Best win: Pacific Lutheran 79-43; Worst loss: UNLV 67-48; Scoring leader: Senior guard Tim Douglas, 16.1 ppg; Rebounding leader: Senior forward Aaron Moore, 6.1 rpg; Assists leader: Senior guard Tim Douglas, 4.1 apg.

Southern Utah Thunderbirds (1-8)

The Thunderbirds kicked off the new season with two victories, but have since gone on an eight-game skid. Best win: Arizona Christian 85-78; Worst loss: Utah State 90-57; Scoring leader: Freshman guard Trey Kennedy, 10.7 ppg; Rebounding leader: Sophomore forward Casey Oliverson, 5.3 rpg; Assists leader: Freshman guard John Marshall, 2.4 apg.

Idaho State Bengals (3-6)

The Bengals are currently riding a four-game losing streak, but they were able to pick up a few wins before conference play begins. Best win: Evergreen 99-62; Worst loss: Arizona State 88-60; Scoring leader: Senior forward Tomas Sanchez, 15.9 ppg; Rebounding leader: Junior forward Jeffrey Solarin, 7.9 rpg; Assists leader: Senior forward Tomas Sanchez, 4.7 apg.