Ryan Chartrand

March Madness is literally right around the corner.

And if you haven’t been paying attention, Cal Poly is right in the mix.

No, this isn’t a joke or that paper that comes out once a year with funny articles that just aren’t funny. This is real, very real.

As real as Cal Poly wins its next four games – both women’s and men’s teams – and it’s going to the dance.

If both squads win their next two games, they will each finish second in the Big West Conference standings and be granted automatic trips to the semifinals of the conference tournament, which runs March 7 to 10 at the Anaheim Convention Center.

In the conference Cal Poly plays in, schools must win the conference tourney to get to the NCAA Tournament.

But first, let’s back up a second to that comment of the next two HOME games.

The Mustang men’s team hosts Cal State Northridge (7 tonight) and Pacific (4 p.m. Saturday), and I don’t think most students even realize the severity of this weekend.

These are the biggest two games that Cal Poly has played since losing in the conference title game to Utah State at the end of the 2002-03 season.

I’m challenging every student at Cal Poly to show a little pride this week.

Come to Mott Gym tonight and Saturday, and if you’re not impressed, then I don’t care if you ever come back. But I would bet you’d be pleasantly surprised by what you see.

When Cal Poly makes the NCAA Tournament in two weeks, you won’t feel like you totally missed the boat.

Before this year, my senior year in college, I had never been to a men’s basketball game. Like many of you, I once joked about what a joke the program was compared to all the big schools.

Then I decided to come out and see what this team had to offer. I’m not kidding – it has been one of the most fulfilling things I have done here at Cal Poly. At 16-10, the Mustangs are deeper and more talented team than anyone in the conference.

Cal Poly has beaten every team in the Big West except for Pacific and first-place Long Beach State, which it had a 14-point lead on at home before losing 80-77 on Feb. 8.

Since that game against Long Beach State, Cal Poly has won five straight games by an average of nine points for the team’s longest winning streak since the 1995-96 season, including a 90-80 win at Cal State Fullerton (19-8, 9-5) last Saturday.

Oh yeah, about Pacific, the Mustangs haven’t beaten it since the 2002-03 season and have lost eight straight to the Tigers. So to say that game is a big one would be an understatement.

While Cal Poly is not better than North Carolina, like I had mentioned a couple weeks ago, it is the best team in the Big West. To get to the NCAA Tournament, that’s all that matters.

The sad part is that so many of you enjoy sports.

I see enough USC, Dodgers, Padres and Chargers gear at this school to make me sick.

It’s just jealousy that causes me to say these words. The Trojans always beat Cal, L.A. stole Ned Colletti, the Padres have a closer, and I’m just plain bitter about Norv Turner.

But the point is, seeing everyone around campus wearing sports apparel on a daily basis makes me believe that the students at this school care.

Most students are just begging for something to grab onto at this school. I’m telling you that it’s right here for you to grab tonight night, baby.

Cal Poly’s going to the NCAA Tournament!

Mark my words – you will see Cal Poly in the bracket. Seeding, what regional and all the rest I can’t answer now, but the Mustangs will be playing in the dance.

I think Mark Twain said it best when he uttered, “there is no security in life, only opportunity.”

Who knows if Cal Poly will ever have a winning basketball team again? The point is -it’s good now and you have the chance to be a part of something special. I would hate to be on the outside looking in when it’s all said and done.

Come out this weekend and support your team.

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