SAN DIEGO — The first NCAA men’s basketball tournament games at San Diego State’s Viejas Arena since 2006 will be played today, beginning with Weber State making the 118th attempt by a No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed Arizona at 11:10 a.m.
“I told our kids from day one when when we found out we were playing Arizona…a 16 has never beat a 1 and it’s going to happen someday,” Weber State coach Randy Rahe said.
“There have been some close calls. From our standpoint, all you want is an opportunity to have a chance to do that. When you have opportunity, there is hope and that’s (what) we’re going to take into the game.”
The closest calls both came in 1989 when 16th-seeded Princeton and East Tennessee State both lost by one point. In 1990, Murray State went into overtime before losing to Michigan State.
In Thursday’s lone No. 1 vs. No. 16 matchup, Florida defeated Albany, 67- 55, after the score was tied, 39-39, with 14 minutes, 32 seconds to play.
To Weber State guard Jordan Richardson “it’s important to have a fast start.”
“(If) we don’t let them get in transition and get a fast start and keep it close in the first half, I think we will stick with them the second half as well,” Richardson said.
Weber State (19-11) qualified for the tournament by winning the Big Sky Conference tournament after also winning the regular-season title.
Arizona (30-4) won the Pacific-12 Conference’s regular-season championship, then lost in the final of the conference tournament to UCLA, but still received the No. 1 seed in the West Region.
The second game will match Gonzaga (28-6), seeded eighth in the West, against ninth-seeded Oklahoma State (21-12).
The third game will be between Virginia Commonwealth (26-8), seeded fifth in the South Region, against 12th seeded Stephen F. Austin (31-2).
UCLA (26-8), seeded fourth in the South Region, will face 13th-seeded Tulsa (21-12) in the final game.
There are two players among the eight teams playing today from San Diego — Tanner Clayton, a Stephen F. Austin reserve forward who graduated from Rancho Bernardo High School, and UCLA starting guard Norman Powell, an alumnus of Lincoln High School.
“As soon as we saw that we were the fourth seed playing in San Diego my phone was blowing up with text messages,” from people excited about his playing in San Diego for the first time in his college career, Powell said.
A limited number of tickets for today’s games went on sale at Thursday morning via Ticketmaster.com and NCAA.com.
The Arizona-Weber State and Gonzaga-Oklahoma State and Virginia Commonwealth-Stephen F. Austin and UCLA-Tulsa winners will meet Sunday. Ticket available for Sunday’s games will be announced Saturday.
Tournament rules forbid teams from playing on their home turf, so the fourth-seeded Aztecs men’s basketball team played 13th-seeded New Mexico State in the tournament’s West Region in Spokane, Wash., Thursday night. The Aztecs defeated the Aggies 73-69 in overtime and are scheduled to play the 12th-seeded North Dakota State Bisons on Saturday in Spokane.
NCAA tournament games were also played at Viejas Arena in 2001 and 2006.
In 2006, the start of play was delayed for about an hour when bomb- sniffing dogs alerted security personnel to a possible hazard. In a last-minute sweep before fans were allowed to enter the arena, the dogs reacted to the metal service cabinet at a condiment stand as if it contained an explosive substance, authorities said.
Authorities cleared workers out of the arena and explosives experts were called in to investigate. A seven-member fire department bomb squad deployed a robotic device to check out the contents of the self-service table, finding plastic forks, knives, spoons and napkins.