ST. LOUIS — Before their shoot-around on Thursday night the Weber State locker room had a light, easy atmosphere. In 24 hours from that moment, they would face a team that is bigger, faster and stronger — but none of the Wildcats seemed to worry.
Just before arriving at the arena for interviews and their scheduled time on the floor, the team took in the scenery with a visit to Gateway Arch located a little more than a mile from the arena in which they’ll face Xavier on Friday night.
Relaxed, the team is ready for the big dance.
“Everybody’s feeling pretty good,” junior guard Richaud Gittens said. “I don’t think any of the young guys are feeling nervous. We’ve been telling them to do what we’ve been doing all season. We don’t need to change anything or do anything different. If we go out there and execute and do what we’ve been doing all season, we should be fine.”
Confidence was evident in every single one of the players in the locker room, especially Dusty Baker.
“I’m not really feeling any pressure,” he said. “They have more of the pressure on them trying to beat the 15-seed. I think we’re going to go in there and just attack it. It’s going to be fun.”
The Musketeers gave the Wildcats credit for being a good team that shouldn’t be overlooked, but Baker didn’t buy it.
“They’re going to tell you what you want to hear. They’re going to tell you what needs to be said,” he said. “It’s easy to say it, but in your mindset, it’s a little different. If it wasn’t for Damian Lillard, they wouldn’t have even heard of Weber State. It’ll be different once the game is on the court. We’ll see what happens when we get out there.”
The most succinct of the group was Zach Braxton, whose perspective allows him and his teammates to play with the confidence they’ll need if they’re going to stun the world.
“The worst that can happen is we lose, which is bad, but it’s not like you’re going to die,” he said. “I’m out here with my guys and I think we’re going to win. I’m not nervous at all, just ready to play.”
The state of mind is just what head coach Randy Rahe is looking for from his team.
“I want them to be relaxed. I want them to be loose. They're going to be ready to play,” Rahe said. “I would rather have a team like that than too uptight. Uptight doesn't work very well. You've got to have the balance. You've got to have the focus. You've got to have the right mindset, but then you've also got to be relaxed. I think these kids have been confident all year long.”
Regardless of the result, the consensus for many is that reaching this point is a dream come true. The Wildcats will play on the biggest stage at their level against one of the most talented teams in the country.
An upset may be farfetched, but don’t tell that to these confident ’Cats.