My head is still spinning a little bit from the idea that the Washington State University Cougars are in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. My buddy Chris must have thought I was going a little loony — I just kept saying, “Dude! We’re in the Sweet Sixteen!” randomly throughout the night.
Honestly, I rank this right up there with the Pac-10 championship and Rose Bowl in 1997. This is that significant.
Making it to the second round of the tournament last year was nice, but making it to the Sweet Sixteen is something else altogether. It means that for another whole week, every major media outlet is talking about the Cougars — especially because they’re playing North Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the tournament and one of the most storied programs in college basketball history. You can’t even begin to measure the worth of that.
It’s been a little irritating to me that it’s been a little late in coming, that the Cougs haven’t received any more attention than they have for absolutely dismantling two opponents (more on just how dominating those two performances were tomorrow). I think it’s because beating up two teams the way we did just doesn’t make for great television theater on SportsCenter — no high-flying dunks, no last-second heroics … just the cold efficiency of an assassin.
But the reality is that they will have to talk about WSU basketball this week, even if it’s only to say we don’t have a chance to beat North Carolina (as Digger Phelps and Steve Lavin did tonight). And at the end of that week, we’ll be on national TV, playing the No. 1 team in the country. It’s not great that we’re playing them at 4:30 p.m. on the west coast, but the people that want to see it are going to see it — including all those potential recruits.
And if we can somehow beat UNC? That’s even better. Go to the Final Four … well, all bets are off at that point. The way we’re playing right now, I wouldn’t put anything past this team.
But this much is certain: We’ve already cleared a major hurdle towards putting this program on the map, not just for last year and this year, but for years to come.