Heading into the NCAA Tournament earlier this month, Weber State University men’s basketball coach Randy Rahe had a difficult task in front of him. He had to sit down and devise a game plan to defeat one of the best teams in college basketball.
Although the Wildcats fell short to the University of Arizona, they earned the respect of UA’s coach and best player.
“Weber State is a very good team,” said UA head coach Sean Miller. “They are one of the best teams we have played all year. We’ve played some of the great teams in college basketball, and I don’t care what the name of their conference is or what they say on their shirt.”
UA junior Nick Johnson, the MVP of the Pac-12 Conference, also spoke highly of WSU.
“(WSU has) tremendous scorers,” Johnson told CBS following his team’s win. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. We just had to punch back when they gave us punches. They are a good team and gave us a hard fight, but we pulled it out.”
Rahe said he was flattered with Miller’s words, given the teams UA played over its season, including Stanford University, the University of Oregon and the University of California, Los Angeles.
“It means a lot to us,” Rahe said. “For him to say that, if he believed it, then it just tells us how far our team came from the start of the season to the end of the season, how much better we got. That’s what I take from it. If that is indeed what he meant, our team came a long ways. It’s a nice compliment to our program.”
Rahe said he was also impressed after he watched five game films in preparation for UA.
“The more I watched, the more enamored I was in how they did things defensively,” he said. “I love how they play defensively. I told my staff that that is what I want to become. We are a pretty good defensive team, but they are on a whole new level.”
Rahe even had a short conversation with Miller upon arriving in San Diego for their second-round match-up.
“I told Sean when I got down there and saw him that I want to meet with him in the offseason and talk to him about how they do things defensively,” Rahe said. “Maybe that can help us get better, and we are going to try to do that. We are going to try and study them and try to meet with them and get some ideas from him.”
UA is one of the best-recruiting schools in the country. It has multiple NBA-ready players in its starting lineup. Rahe said he thinks UA is the best defensive team in the country and has certain important techniques on the defensive end.
“That’s what I want to get from Sean,” Rahe said. “‘What are your drills? What is your philosophy? Is there a different way to emphasize something?’ I think we are similar in our philosophy in how we want to play, but I just want to get some new ideas, such as how long they work on their defense.”
Even though WSU might not have the same caliber of players as a powerhouse school like UA, Rahe said he is confident the same philosophies can be implemented in his program.
“We have good players, but it’s not just the players that make good defenders,” Rahe said. “Even though we don’t have the same level of players, the system that they have could be incorporated here. Stuff like (scheme) we can definitely incorporate here, no question.”