Ryan Chartrand

Remember back in the day, while playing NBA Jam, when a player would somersault through the air with the ball streaking flames on the way to a slam dunk and the play-by-play announcer would shout, “He’s on fire!”?

That’s a little like how the two Cal Poly basketball teams are playing.

The women have won eight straight games for the program’s longest winning streak in 24 years, are one win away from the team’s best Big West Conference winning percentage ever and two wins away from clinching the program’s first winning overall record since the 1991-92 season.

The men have won 10 of their last 12 games, clinched the program’s first winning overall record since the 2002-03 season, are 10-2 at home, one win away from the team’s best Big West winning percentage ever and look as if they will finish with an overall record more than three games above .500 for the first time since going 19-9 in 1991-92.


But more importantly than all those figures, both teams have a legitimate shot at reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since moving to the Division I level in 1994-95.

March Madness.

The big dance.

Whatever you want to call it.

Sure, both Mustang squads are still a ways away from that point – both still have two regular-season games left before the Big West tourney even begins – but the possibility is a staggering thought considering how both began the season.

The women were 5-12 with more players injured than anyone could count.

The men were 6-8 and had suffered an embarrassing 80-63 loss at San Jose State (4-24).

But since those points in time, both teams have seen their youthful rosters progress leaps and bounds, injuries have been avoided for the most part and the rotations have been solidified.

Additionally, both teams have been piling up Big West Player of the Week awards.

For the women, senior forward Jessica Eggleston has taken two straight.

For the men, three different players have either won or shared the award over the past three weeks – junior post player Dreshawn Vance on Monday, senior forward Derek Stockalper last week and junior guard Dawin Whiten two weeks ago.

Both teams have a chance to secure the No. 2 seed in the Big West tourney, which would mean they would not have to play in the first two rounds of the tournament. The top four seeds receive a bye in the first round only.

But despite the historic strides made by both teams already this season, neither is satisfied. Both want to engrave their places in school history by becoming the first teams to reach the NCAA Tournament.

To do so, they would have to win the Big West Tournament, which runs from March 7 to 10 at the Anaheim Convention Center.

There will be plenty of room there for the Mustang Maniacs.

And if either Cal Poly team wins its final two regular-season games – which tip off Thursday and Saturday – it will not begin play in Anaheim until Friday, March 9. The title games are March 10.

What could make for a better pre-spring break, weekend road trip than Disneyland and the Big West Tournament?

Disneyland is a magical place, but the best magic of all could occur on the hardwood across the way.

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