Conference tournaments allow for even the most unexpected teams to play their way into the NCAA Tournament. That's what we got from the Big West late Saturday night, as No. 7 Cal Poly topped No. 5 Cal State Northridge 61-59 to earn its first Big West tournament title.
It's the school's first trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Cal Poly: now 13-19. That makes it among the worst teams, record-wise, to ever qualify for the NCAAs. This was possible because freshman guard Ridge Shipley nailed the go-ahead shot, a 3, with 13.7 seconds to go.
The Big West has existed with a tournament bracket for 39 years. No team seeded seventh had ever won it until the Mustangs. But you can't say the team didn't earn it -- Cal Poly took out the top-seeded UC Irvine Anteaters and No. 2 UCSB before getting to face Northridge in the finals. It was the third time this season Cal Poly beat Northridge.
Player to know: Chris Eversley. Senior forward who leads the team in scoring (13.4) and rebounds (7.2). That's him kissing the trophy in the photo up top. Eversley is one of three senior starters on this Mustangs team.
- Record: 13-19 overall, 6-10 in the Big West
- Most recent tournament appearance: N/A
- Jerry Palm predicts: 16 seed
- RPI: 208
- KenPom ranking: 173
- Sagarin ranking: 174
- Best wins: vs. Hawaii, vs. Santa Clara
- Worst losses: vs. UC Davis (twice), at UC Riverside
- Notable stat: 40.5. That's the percentage of all minutes that are used by Cal Poly's bench, which makes this the deepest team in this year's NCAA Tournament, unless Arkansas earns an at-large.
- Closing quip: To be frank, I am not a fan of situations like this. I don't like that sub-.500 teams can play into the NCAA Tournament. I don't think they add to the experience, and it's nothing against Cal Poly, but the Big West would've been so better served to have UC Irvine or UC Santa Barbara represent the league. It would have a much better chance at an upset with either of those teams. Now, Cal Poly will go to Dayton and probably be bounced like that. But I wish it good luck nonetheless, and never begrudge kids who get to experience thrills like this. March has many victors.