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For years, the Weber State University men’s basketball team has been one of the top teams in the Big Sky Conference.
Despite not making it to the NCAA Tournament this year, the Wildcats have had a successful season and made it to the CollegeInsider.com championship. In my column today, I’d like to look ahead at some things I hope the future holds for WSU.
The first thing I hope to see in the future is Randy Rahe remaining at WSU for a long time. He’s been at WSU for seven years, and has brought great stability to the school and the program. Year after year, he puts together a competitive team. This year especially, I was impressed with how good the Wildcats were. They lost a lot of leaders last year, including Damian Lillard.
This year’s team was young, and Rahe said in a press conference earlier this year he was worried about the youth of the team and wondered who would replace those leaders. He said many players have stepped up and impressed him this year.
WSU’s run in the CIT has really helped the school. As they progressed in the tournament, attendance rose, and more people in the community took notice of the team and turned out to support them. I hope in the future for WSU, there will be more wins in more prestigious tournaments. Imagine the attention they’d get if they could do this in the NIT, or even string a few NCAA Tournament wins together eventually.
If the Wildcats could do that, it would be huge for the program and for the conference in general. Look at Gonzaga University. In my childhood, they were fairly unknown and didn’t get much attention outside of Spokane. But the Bulldogs jumped onto the stage with a few upsets in March Madness and their program grew. As they got more national attention year after year with wins in the NCAA Tournament, it became easier to recruit and to get better players to go there. It hasn’t been that long that Gonzaga has been considered one of the top teams in the nation, and it all started because of their performances in postseason tournaments.
Their tournament performances helped the university as well. According to Ron Lieber in an article for The Wall Street Journal, the university saw a 65 percent increase in the size of the freshman class between 1997 and 2003. Lieber attributes much of this to the fact that the Bulldogs basketball team was seeing success in the NCAA Tournament.
The final thing I hope we will see more of in the future is the Wildcats being able to break the voodoo and beat the University of Montana in Montana. For whatever reason, the Grizzlies own WSU when playing in the Big Sky state. This year was a prime example.
Following the loss to the Grizzlies in the conference tournament, Scott Bamforth said that, in a neutral site, the Wildcats would likely win. I agree. WSU had the better team this year. They had the better team last year as well, but fans are going to be tortured until WSU learns how to win in the Adams Center.
I hope the coming years for WSU basketball will be great and that the Wildcats will finally be able to turn the corner and take their place on the stage as one of the better mid-major teams in the country.