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It was the end of my brackets on Day 1

By From page B1 | March 21, 2014

Brackets, schmackets …

With St. Joseph’s, Brigham Young and Ohio State in my Elite Eight and picking Cincinnati and Colorado to win on Thursday, I have at least saved myself the anxiety of trying to find ways to spend $1 billion dollars.

I’ve never beaten my friends in our annual men’s Bracket Wars. But with so much money on the line, I would have liked to have made it through the first day and yuck-it up about how I’m going to get to meet Warren Buffett.

Nonetheless, there are two things about 2014 March Madness that still strike home for me.

Having agreed with so little Barack Obama has said recently, it made me melancholy when I discovered Wednesday that the Commander-in-Chief has two No. 4s — Louisville and Michigan State — in the championship game.

I do, too.

It was downright depressing when he picked the Spartans to win it all. So did I …

What does he know?

However!

Our own Big West Conference’s Joe Collero has coaxed Cal Poly to four consecutive wins when it’s counted most.

The Mustangs had lost nine of their last 11 regular-season games. Heck, even our last-place Aggies beat Cal Poly twice. (Honest, you can look it up.)

Then all of sudden, Collero and Company muscle up and get through the BWC tournament, before knocking off Southern Texas, 81-69, in the play-in game Wednesday.

It was the Cal Poly men’s first-ever NCAA appearance (radio analyst Scott Ferrell points out the Mustangs where college’s only Big Dance unbeaten team — at least until they get Wichita State this afternoon).

But Collero has the right attitude and he has his guys having fun.

Followers of the Big West will recall that Cal Poly (14-19) suffered a lot of injuries after a 3-0 conference start. Sound familiar? Injuries? The difference between UC Davis playing hurt and Cal Poly playing hurt wasn’t much (remember CP lost nine of 11 when reeling). The difference, however, was the Mustangs got their injured guys back in time for this late run. J.T. Adenrele and Josh Ritchart were out for, in essence, the year.

I digress …

The cool thing is that Collero is totally upbeat. When his guys were injured and down, he kept things light.

A spotlight on the turnaround occurred when UC Santa Barbara beat Cal Poly by 16 on Senior Night in San Luis Obispo. A week later, the Mustangs rolled the Gauchos by 31 in the tournament.

Watching the personable coach at practice when the Mustangs visited The Pavilion, you couldn’t tell his guys were in a tailspin — and he was cordial and accommodating to all the visitors at practice that day (me included).

You couldn’t help but like this guy.

Now, against all odds, he’s in The Dance against a 34-0 Shocker squad. A No. 1 vs. No. 16. The Little Guy has never beaten the Big Guy.

Collero’s guys are the second team with 19 or more losses in NCAA tournament history to win a postseason game.

The other was Bradley waaaaay back in 1955. Bradley? Oh yeah, Aggie coach Jim Les is a Bradley alum and coached there before moving to town. I’m searching for irony.

Collero told ESPN that he had a dream recently; a dream about a No. 16 beating a No. 1. “First time for everything,” the coach said. “Wouldn’t that be cool if it was us?”

It would be. The entire Big West would celebrate.

And so would Warren Buffett.

— Bruce Gallaudet is a staff writer for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.

Bruce Gallaudet

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