Lauren Rabaino

We are going to be partying in March, mark my words. It’s never too early to be bold, to speak your mind and begin preaching.

This is the year – remember where you heard it first.

Cal Poly men’s basketball has floated below mediocrity for years. Mott Gym has been more like a ghost town than a college basketball arena. The atmosphere on campus has been disgraceful, and with good reason. Basketball season has been a non-factor, irrelevant. But thanks to this year’s team, our fortune as a community, a school and a fan base are about to dramatically change.

It’s time to be courageous and make a stand to say what no person on campus wants to hear or believe. This is the season things will change; this is the season we live to see March Madness.

Cal Poly will make the NCAA Tournament. Yes, I said it: Our school will be in your bracket when it’s all said and done.

Some may call me crazy, others may not even realize we have a team, but trust me, I know where I’m going with this one. I religiously follow this team and know its strengths and weaknesses.

The formula for this team is not complicated. When this team hits threes, it can beat just about anyone in the country.

When it isn’t dialed in from beyond the arc, it will probably lose. I told you the formula was easy.

Being a compulsive gambler, I follow Vegas and its daily lines, and I have seen some interesting trends with Poly and the love it gets from Sin City.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not getting New England Patriots-type treatment, but I imagine when the line comes out this morning, Vegas will show some respect.

With 4 to 1 odds opening night, I was making easy money until UMass got hot.

The game was tied at 56, until it all went south. Here’s the tell-all stat: Poly shot three-for-22 from 3-point range, or 13 percent, for those stat geeks.

See my simple formula at work? Cal Poly doesn’t convert from outside, Cal Poly doesn’t stand a chance against anyone, let alone a top-25 team.

Tonight, it can show not only Utah State, but also the entire country that it can play. This team is loaded with talent, and has more depth than any other in the conference.

It’s time for the Mustangs to step up and play like they are capable against a top-notch opponent.

Utah State is favored to win the WAC, and was one game away from going to the NCAA Tournament a year ago.

Jaycee Carroll, Utah State’s best player and an NBA prospect, will be in full effect.

This guy is averaging 23 points and seven boards a game while receiving national accolades. He’s an All-American candidate, a preseason pick to be the WAC Player of the Year and a likely first-round pick.

With 19 wins last season, Cal Poly’s highest total since entering Division I-A, expectations are sky-high.

This team played in the Big West Championship a year ago, until getting ran by in the second half against Long Beach State.

Trust me – my heart, and definitely my wallet, have not forgotten that dark night.

But I was able to move past that gloomy loss last year and become optimistic. I am trying to turn the corner and make myself into a glass-half-full type of guy.

This season has a chance to be very special.

Tonight is the night everything changes. Tonight’s the night this school embraces this team and realizes what it has. I challenge the student body to support this team, pack Mott Gym and bring some passion as if this game matters, because it actually does.

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