LAS VEGAS- Somebody pinch me.
Someone tell me what I just witnessed in the desert wasn’t a mirage.
I saw it happen with my own two eyes, but I still can’t believe our Rams are headed to the Big Dance.
This was the same team that lost seven straight games earlier this year. The same team that lost to Air Force, giving up 80 points to the lowly Falcons. But that very team came to Las Vegas on a mission and would not be denied.
The Rams first had to overcome the thousands of screaming Wyoming fans who mounted a full-scale ‘Poke invasion of the Thomas and Mack Center and outnumbered the CSU faithful 10 to one. But the Rams sent the Cowboys packing with their 74-71 stunner in the first round.
The Rams’ next hurdle was Brigham Young, another team CSU had lost to twice in the regular season. And the Cougars’ 39-29 halftime lead would have been a death-sentence for the CSU team of the regular season. But not for this new and improved model. The Rams simply shrugged off the halftime deficit and shot 62.5 percent from the field and made 12 of 14 free throws in overtime to knock off the Cougars.
But the most astounding accomplishment of the Rams’ miraculous tournament run was surely their composure in the championship game after Matt Nelson went down with a laceration on his left eye. At that point in the game, the Rams were down six points with 13 minutes left to play. They could have packed it in and settled for what would have been considered a nice run in the tournament. But they took the loss of the Tournament MVP in stride and virtually shut down UNLV down the stretch.
The senior leadership head coach Dale Layer had been looking for all season suddenly emerged. Seniors Brian Greene and Andy Birley both took their game to another level, knocking down big shot after big shot. And after Matt Williams skied for his block of Marcus Banks with 20 seconds to go, the Rams had a chance.
But they had been in this situation before. The Rams had a chance to win several games this season on the final possession, but failed to convert. Why would this time be any different?
But when Brian Greene hit the game-winning jumper with five seconds left, it was clear a new CSU men’s basketball team had emerged.
Crazy things can happen in the desert. And in my first visit to Vegas, there was no shortage of strange, unexpected and downright crazy happenings.
There was the unconfirmed report of Toby McGuire (the guy who played Spiderman) chanting “I’m proud to be a C-S-U Ram” in the bathroom of the Luxor Casino with a group of CSU students.
There was a Doug Flutie sighting at the tournament, only he was cheering against our lady Rams.
There was the roulette game that made all my money disappear in one quick swipe of the dealer’s hand.
But perhaps the strangest occurrence of all was somebody or something lighting a fire under the collective ass of the CSU men’s basketball team.
Never did I think I would be driving back to the Fort writing this column in the car. Let’s go dancing, baby.
Jason is a senior journalism major.