Weber State has had individual stars in the past. Most notably, NBA second-year star Damian Lillard, the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year.
This Wildcats team features Davion Berry, the Big Sky Conference Player of the Year and a member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches all-district team.
But what has set them apart over the last few years has been potent second and third options.
Option No. 2 was No. 1 on Saturday in the Wildcats’ 88-67 Big Sky Conference tournament championship win over North Dakota, as senior center Kyle Tresnak of Scottsdale scored a career-high 27 points.
“We kinda knew that we had an advantage there,” coach Randy Rahe told reporters after the game. “They’re either going to guard us inside or they’re going to guard us outside. They played them one-on-one, and ‘Trez’ made them pay for us.”
Said Tresnak, “I’ve been waiting four years for this. No words can explain the feeling I have right now, the love I have for my teammates, coaching staff, everyone who helped us.”
However, Berry, a 6-foot-4-inch, 185-pound guard-forward out of Oakland’s Hayward High, remains the Wildcats’ primary option.
He earned all-conference and NABC all-district honors last season, his first with Weber State after transferring from Division II Cal State-Monterey Bay. He was even better this year, improving his scoring from 15.2 points per game to 19.1 as a senior. The biggest change from a year ago? Consistency. Berry scored in double figures in all but two games this year, the last of those coming on Jan. 2.
But Berry isn’t just a regular scorer, he’s high-volume, as well.
The inside-outside threat had 18 games with 20-plus points, including seven in a row during a 6-1 stretch in January and February, when he averaged just over 25 points per game.
While UA’s Kaleb Tarczewski will contend with Tresnak, Nick Johnson should be the primary draw for Berry. It’s a matchup made in March Madness heaven.
Johnson is eager to continue his renewed defensive vigor, which he reclaimed during the Pac-12 tournament.
“I’ve gotten away from that a little this year,” Johnson said. “The new role, when Brandon went down, I was trying to score more. That is something Coach (Joe) Pasternak has challenged me about, coming into the tournament. Being my old self, really dominating the ball on defense.”
The head-to-head battle should be appointment viewing, even if the Wildcats — the Weber State version — are just excited to be on the marquee in the first place.
“I’m just happy we made the tournament and we get the chance,” Berry told the Salt Lake Tribune. “Most teams don’t get the opportunity to play in March — in the tournament. I’m just excited for my team and Weber State.”
The Wildcats — again, the Weber State variety — understand what’s coming up. They’re not naïve to the fact that no 16 seed has ever toppled a top seed.
They know what’s coming, as emerging from the Big Sky Conference is not akin to thriving in the Pac-12 or ACC. They expected a lofty opponent.
They got it, and they’re pumped.
“We’re excited,” Rahe told the Salt Lake Tribune. “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.”
They’ve got a pretty good 1-2 punch to start off with.