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25th anniversary of 1999’s NCAA basketball tournament

1999 Weber State University Men’s Basketball Forward, Harold Arceneaux (21) dribbling the ball down the court.

25th anniversary of 1999’s NCAA basketball tournament

Collyn Cowles

The 1999 Weber State men’s basketball team etched its name in history with a remarkable journey marked by triumphs, legendary players and an unforgettable upset in the NCAA Tournament. Under the guidance of Coach Ron Abegglen, the Wildcats experienced a season like no other, culminating in a historic victory against the University of North Carolina.

Coach Abegglen, in his eighth and final season at Weber State, was known for his unwavering commitment to winning. Having led the Wildcats to two previous Big Sky titles and notable victories in past NCAA Tournaments, Abegglen entered the 1998-99 season with a determination to build on the program’s success.

The team’s roster was bolstered by the addition of two junior college All-Americans, Harold “The Show” Arceneaux and Eddie “The Thrill” Gill. Recruited by former Weber State player Guy Beach, who was now an assistant coach, Arceneaux and Gill quickly became the dynamic duo that would define the season. Their nicknames, coined by WSU radio broadcaster Carl Arky, perfectly captured their electrifying playing styles.

While Arceneaux and Gill garnered attention, the team had key returning players, including senior Damien Baskerville, senior center Andy Jensen, and guard Noel Jackson, amongst others. The Wildcats’ goal was clear – to infuse speed and quickness into their game, addressing previous limitations in the backcourt.

The season kicked off with a win at Southern Utah University and a statement 83–80 home victory over Brigham Young University, extending the Wildcats’ four-year home winning streak against the Cougars. Wins over Boise State University and Rice University followed, with Arceneaux emerging as a dominant force, leading the team in scoring consistently.

The Wildcats faced challenges with losses to San Francisco State University and the University of Utah but rebounded with wins over Mesa State College and Seattle University. A pivotal moment came when they triumphed 82–72 against Utah State University in front of a crowd exceeding 12,000 at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City.

A memorable trip to Hawaii for the Pearl Harbor Classic saw the Wildcats lose in overtime to the University of Alabama but bounced back with wins over Texas Tech University and BYU-Hawaii, concluding 1998 with a 9–4 record heading into Big Sky play in 1999.

Big Sky conference play began with a narrow 81–76 win at California State University, Sacramento. The Wildcats then faced a challenging 82–59 loss at Portland State University, where Coach Abegglen was ejected, setting a rocky start to conference play.

However, the team regrouped and secured three consecutive home victories over Montana State University, University of Montana, and Idaho State University. A memorable four-overtime clash with Eastern Washington University showcased Arceneaux’s brilliance, scoring 20 points in the extra periods and sealing a 101–100 win.

The Wildcats faced adversity with an 87–53 blowout loss at Montana, bringing their conference record to 8–3. Remarkably, they went on to win their last five regular-season games, clinching the Big Sky title with an 11–3 record and the right to host the conference tournament.

Accolades poured in, with Coach Abegglen honored as the Big Sky Coach of the Year, and Arceneaux named the Big Sky Most Valuable Player, while Gill received Big Sky Newcomer of the Year honors.

Weber State continued its success in the conference tournament, defeating Montana State 93–73 in the semi-finals and Northern Arizona University 82–75 in the title game, earning a ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the 12th time in school history.

Selection Sunday placed Weber State as a 14 seed in the West Region, setting the stage for a historic matchup against national powerhouse North Carolina. In a stunning upset, the Wildcats, led by Arceneaux’s 36-point performance, secured a 76–74 victory, capturing the nation’s attention and becoming tournament darlings.

The celebration was short-lived as Weber State faced the University of Florida in the second round. Despite a valiant effort, the Wildcats fell in overtime, ending their remarkable journey. The season concluded with a 25–8 record, marking one of the most memorable campaigns in school history.

Coach Abegglen ended his eight-year tenure at Weber State with a legacy of success, leading the team to three Big Sky titles and two NCAA Tournament victories. Arceneaux and Gill, inducted into the Weber State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014, went on to have successful careers, with Arceneaux becoming WSU’s career leader in scoring average.

The 1999 Weber State men’s basketball team’s achievements, highlighted by their NCAA Tournament upset, remain a testament to teamwork, resilience, and the indomitable spirit that defined that historic season.

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Collyn Cowles
Collyn Cowles, Sports editor

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