Weber State’s men’s basketball team punched its ticket to the NCAA tournament on the heels of taking down both the Big Sky regular season and postseason titles. The reward? A first-round matchup against No. 1-seed Arizona — a team some consider to be the best in the country.
The Arizona Wildcats (30-4) took down the Pac-12 regular season title before losing in the Pac-12 tournament championship game against UCLA 75-71. The team is led by 6-foot-3 guard Nick Johnson, who leads the team in scoring, and 6-foot-9 freshman forward Aaron Gordon, whom most consider a first-round draft pick in next year’s NBA draft.
Arizona stormed out of the gates this season — winning its first 21 games before losing to Cal on the road on Feb. 1 (60-58.) The team employs a balanced scoring approach and what proved to be a shut-down defense during the Pac-12 tournament, where it held Utah to just 39 points scored in the quarterfinals and Colorado to 43 in the semifinals.
"The effectiveness of the pack-line defense this season makes it difficult for teams to get open on the court, and making a field goal is even harder," said Matt Giles of NBC Sports. "The common adage is defense wins championships, and Arizona’s defense could run a gamut of postseason tournaments, if needed."
"Defense and athleticism, this team is a joy to watch — but I don't even want to think about what they must be like to score against," adds Matt Norlander of CBS Sports. "Nick Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon are athletic wunderkinds. Adjusted for strength of opponent, Arizona gives up 86.9 points per 100 possessions."
Arizona is no stranger to being one of the favorites in the NCAA tournament. It will be the program’s 31st appearance in the tournament and sixth time as a No. 1 seed. Its record as a No. 1 seed is 13-5 overall, and its best finish was in 1997 when the program won the national championship
Arizona’s tournament resume also includes 15 Sweet 16 appearances, nine Elite Eight berths and four Final Four appearances on top of its national championship.