At 12:10 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time on Friday, the Weber State University men’s basketball team will face off against the No. 1-seeded University of Arizona Wildcats in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. WSU was an automatic bid to the tournament after defeating the University of North Dakota in the Big Sky Conference Tournament.
“I guarantee you one thing: The Wildcats are going to win,” said WSU head coach Randy Rahe with a smile. “That much I know. We are excited. Arizona is obviously a prestigious program. They were No. 1 for most of the year. That’s what we want to do. We want to go play the best. Let’s go take a swing at them and see what happens.”
UA has a record of 30-4 after losing in its conference tournament final to the University of California, Los Angeles. However, with a strong showing during the season, along with being ranked the No. 1 team in the country for more than half the season, UA poses a possibly insurmountable challenge for WSU.
UA is the fifth-ranked defensive team in the country, holding its opponents to just 58.1 points per game and a shooting percentage of 38 percent. It has four players who could be drafted into the NBA this coming season. It also scores at an impressive rate, averaging 73.1 points per game on 47 percent shooting.
“I’ve watched them on ESPN, of course,” said WSU senior Davion Berry of the UA Wildcats. “They get a lot of big-time games. They are athletic, long, but we are going to be ready.”
WSU has similar numbers statistically, although its competition wasn’t up to the caliber of UA’s. The WSU Wildcats average 73.2 points per game, surrendering 66.4. They shoot 48 percent from the field while holding opponents to just 42 percent. WSU’s Wildcats won’t come into the game with their tails between their legs.
“Arizona is a great team,” said WSU senior Jordan Richardson. “They are a No. 1 seed. But we aren’t going to come out scared. We don’t care who we play. I feel like we are playing our best basketball of the season. We are a young team, but we have seniors with great senior leadership. We have great confidence in our team. We will be ready to play Friday.”
A 16th seed has never defeated a No. 1 seed in the 29-year history of the 64-team tournament. The No. 1 teams are 116-0. WSU has been given a 4 percent chance to win its match-up. For that to happen, the Wildcats would have to play a perfect game. Several factors would have to play in.
First, WSU will need to stay out of foul trouble, especially its big men. UA has one of the best front courts in college basketball. WSU will have to be strong on the glass and limit UA to just one shot. The WSU Wildcats will also need to keep their shooting percentage up to their average, especially from the 3-point line, to have a chance.
The key match-up of the game could be between Berry and UA junior Nick Johnson. Both are the leaders of their respective teams, and both were named MVP of their respective leagues. Berry has been on a tear for WSU, and for his team to have a chance, he will likely need to have a big game.
No matter the result of the game, the WSU seniors said they are happy for the opportunity to play one of the best teams in college basketball and to end their careers playing in the NCAA Tournament.
“I’ve been waiting four years for this,” said WSU senior Kyle Tresnak. “There’s no words to explain it. We are going to the tournament. I have never been able to say that, and now I can. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m from Arizona, so I’m kind of excited.”
The game will be televised nationally on TNT.