The song at the end of Saturday night's Big West tournament championship game at Honda Center won’t be the NCAA’s signature “One Shining Moment.”
If you’re looking for a snappy lyric, try Frank Sinatra’s “Grab your coat and get your hat.”
The Big West winner, Cal Poly or Cal State Northridge, is almost certainly headed to a “play-in” game for the NCAA tournament on Tuesday or Wednesday in Dayton.
OK, OK, it's technically called "first round" now that the tournament field has been expanded to 68 teams.
The concept of allowing most teams to compete for the NCAA title produces excitement, upsets and sometimes a championship featuring schools with a combined record of 29-36.
Seventh-seeded Cal Poly (12-19) has reached the penultimate Big West moment by knocking off No. 2 UC Santa Barbara and No. 1 UC Irvine on successive nights in Anaheim.
The Mustangs entered the tournament having lost nine of their final 11 regular season games.
Cal State Northridge (17-17) is nicknamed the Matadors but could be the Midnight Ramblers after pulling off successive upsets well after midnight on the East Coast.
Thursday, fifth-seeded Northridge won a thrilling, 87-84, overtime game over No. 4 Hawaii. Few people noticed because the game ended at 10:56 PST.
A day later, night-watch Northridge did it again, taking down No. 3 Long Beach, 82-77, in another thriller that ended at 11:17 p.m.
“Everywhere we go we’re the underdog,” first-year Northridge Coach Reggie Theus said after Friday’s win. “Everywhere we go people are picking the other team. I think that’s good for us.”
Not so fast, Reggie.
NCAA bracket experts were scrambling early Saturday morning to access the Big West situation. Bleary-eyed ESPN and CBS prognosticators, surely looking only at the win-loss records, have predicted a Northridge win.
That could certainly happen but, for the record, Cal Poly swept the regular season series.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Northridge in Dayton playing Mount St. Mary’s with the winner tracking to play No. 1 Wichita State in the Midwest.
CBS expert Jerry Palm has Northridge, for now, playing the SWAC champion with the winner getting No.1 Florida in the South.
The Big West title, for what it’s worth, will feature schools with a combined Ratings Percentage Index rating of 467.
Cal Poly (222) or Northridge (245) can rest easy knowing it will not be the lowest RPI-rated school to make the tournament.
That distinction belongs to Liberty, No. 287 last year when it won the Big South.
Note also that Saturday’s SWAC final features Texas Southern (RPI 249) vs. Prairie View (301).
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