The Wildcats of Weber State, the 16th seed in the region, hail from the Big Sky Conference where they won the regular-season title with a 14-6 mark and earned the automatic big to the NCAA Tournament with an 88-67 romp over North Dakota in the conference tournament title game last weekend. The victory was the third in a row for a WSU squad that has an all-time record of 6-15 in this event over the years.
As for the Wildcats of Arizona, the top seed in the region, they were ranked as the top squad in the country for a stretch earlier this season, opening the campaign with a 21-game win streak. The squad did stumble a few times against the rest of the Pac-12 Conference, losing to California, Arizona State and Oregon all on the road. Arizona then fell to UCLA in the conference tournament, 75-71, but still played strong enough to earn one of the top spots in this tourney.
Winning it all against Kentucky, 84-79, in overtime back in 1997, Arizona has a record of 48-29 in this tourney, making it to the Final Four a total of four times. Weber State has a mark of 6-15 in the tournament over the years.
Arizona has a perfect 4-0 mark in the all-time series between the programs, with all four contests being played in Tucson. The most recent encounter was in 2008, with the hosts claiming a 71-65 victory. The close call was nothing new as all four games have been decided by six points or less.
Arizona played in this building early in the season, having defeated San Diego State by a score of 69-60.
The winner of this meeting will go up against the survivor of the Gonzaga/Oklahoma State contest in the third round on Sunday.
Weber State won the Big Sky regular season title for the 21st time thanks to the efforts of Davion Berry, the conference player of the year who was also named to the All-Big Sky First Team as well as the Big Sky Tournament MVP. Leading the team in scoring 20 times during the campaign, Berry is generating 19.1 ppg thanks in large part to his 199-of-244 (.816) effort at the free- throw line. Berry, who placed second on the unit with 57 3-pointers, is also first with 120 assists and is a valuable performer in the paint who has been clearing better than four rebounds per contest.
Kyle Tresnak (11.8 ppg) and Jeremy Senglin (11.2 ppg) have also been instrumental on offense for the Wildcats, the former shooting 60.5 percent from the floor, the latter hitting on 61 3-pointers at a 40.4 percent clip on his way to being named the Big Sky Freshman of the Year. Recognized as the top defender in the Big Sky this season, Joel Bolomboy (8.6 ppg) leads the way on the glass with 10.8 rpg.
Many thought that losing Brandon Ashley (11.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg) for the season with a foot injury would be a turning point for Arizona, a reason for the Wildcats to begin to fade, but still the program is a favorite to be one of the last teams standing. Helping to fuel the squad's pursuits is Nick Johnson, the Pac-12 Player of the Year who is averaging 16.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg and 2.8 apg. A 44.2 percent shooter from the floor, Johnson showed that he can knock down open jumpers from 3-point range (54) when given the chance, but he is far more electrifying when he is cutting to the hoop.
Aaron Gordon, an All-Pac-12 First-Team selection and the league's freshman of the year, is second on the unit in scoring with 12.1 ppg and always seems to be around the basket to clean up missed shots, coming up with 7.8 rpg to help fill the void left by Ashley. Kaleb Tarczewski (10.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg), who has converted 50 of his 113 field goals by way of dunk, is an intimidating presence in the paint who has had a major influence on opponents shooting only 38.1 percent from the field and being limited to just 58.1 ppg.