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Weber State basketball: Wildcats draw daunting Arizona

Published March 16, 2014 8:46 pm

Weber State lands West Region's 16th seed, matchup with top seed Arizona.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Ogden • Not even the prospect of playing powerful Arizona could dampen Weber State's enthusiasm on Selection Sunday.

As the regular-season and postseason tournament champion in the Big Sky Conference, the Wildcats are headed to their first NCAA tournament since 2007.

"It's about time," Weber coach Randy Rahe said. "We've been fighting like crazy. We've been right there a number of times but ..."

The Wildcats are a No. 16 seed and will play No. 1 Arizona in the first round of the West Regional on Friday.

"In our situation, we knew it was going to be a top team in the country," said Rahe. "But I guarantee you one thing. A Wildcat is going to win. That much I know."

A 16-seeded team has never beaten a No. 1 seed, and Arizona will be a top-heavy favorite to continue the mastery.

Weber State seems unconcerned.

"We're excited," Rahe said. "Arizona is obviously a prestigious program. They were No. 1 in the country most of the year. They've got an outstanding team. But that's what we want. We want to go play the best. So let's go take a swing and see what happens."

Senior Davion Berry agreed.

"I'm just happy we made the tournament and we get the chance," he said. "Most teams don't get the opportunity to play in March — in the tournament. I'm just excited for my team and Weber State."

What does Berry know about the Wildcats, who are 30-4 this season despite a loss to UCLA in the finals of the Pac 12 tournament?

"I've watched them on ESPN," Berry said. "Of course, they get all big-time [TV] games. So I know they are athletic and long. But we're going to be ready."

Berry admitted "feeling a little queasy" when Weber State was announced as Arizona's opponent, but it was not nervousness over playing a team led by projected NBA lottery pick Aaron Gordon.

"It just doesn't even seem real right now," Berry said. "But tomorrow it will settle down, once we get in the gym."

Weber State takes a 19-11 record into the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats started 2-5, including an 83-60 loss at UCLA on Dec. 22.

Weber finished strongly, however, and finally reached the Big Dance after playing in the Big Sky championship game four times in the last five seasons.

According to Rahe, the NCAA berth is a reward for his seniors.

"The last couple of years, when I got mad at them, I've thrown it in their face that they haven won anything," Rahe said. "... It probably wasn't the nicest thing to say. I was trying to motivate them a little bit. But now they can say they've won something. I'm really happy for them."