On Friday evening, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo continues its run in the NCAA tournament against top-ranked Wichita State.
This isn’t just a 16 vs. 1 matchup. The Shockers are the first team to complete an undefeated regular season in twenty-three years. My alma mater, Cal Poly, is the only team in the tournament with a losing record.
Wichita State has an RPI of 4. Cal Poly’s is 208.
Wichita State wins by an average of 15 points a game. Cal Poly ranks 327th in the country in scoring.
Wichita State spent last April in Atlanta playing in the Final Four. Cal Poly spent last April on Hathway Avenue playing a really complicated drinking game called Final Four. (There was a rager going on for National Administrative Professionals’ Day.)
But if those aren’t enough reasons to root for Poly, here are 10 more.
1. Meet freshman point guard Ridge Shipley, the cold-blooded assassin who put Poly into the tournament with a clutch shot against CS Northridge. Aside from being deadly from three-point range, Shipley is also a very precocious eleven-year old. How can you not like that?
2. The Saves the Day song, “The Vast Spoils of America,” starts off ironically, “There’s something great about Kansas / It’s like staring across an ocean.” Saves the Day is from New Jersey, so that’s right, Wichita: even emo bands from New Jersey hate on your state. (Oh, and in case you were wondering, the chorus to that song goes, un-ironically: “California / where the mountains climb so tall / And waves crash blue around you.”)
3. Speaking of songs, Cal Poly believes in tradition. That’s why our fight song is so old and nonsensical that the school prints out the lyrics on the backs of t-shirts and give these shirts away at home games, so fans can literally follow along on each others’ back. And they still can’t make it through the first verse.
Ride high you Mustangs,
Kick the frost out burn the breeze,
Ride high you Mustangs,
The bow wows we’ll knock to their knees!
Hi Ki Yi!
Ride high you Mustangs
Chin the moon and do it right
Ride high and cut a rusty
Fight! Fight! Fight!
In contrast, Wichita State’s fight song sounds like a directly translated Soviet Propaganda anthem.
All Hail! Hail! Wichita U.
Rah! Rah! Rah for Wichita
March onward banners high,
With courage, force that can never
We’ll fight for Wichita,
Brave spirits never fail,
To Wichita all loyalty,
Hail! Our Varsity,
4. Recently, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall was asked by ESPN The Magazine who he admired most in the world. His answer? Charles Koch.
For those keeping score at home, the Koch brothers are the most influential deniers of climate change in the country. (Greenpeace said they had a more detrimental effect on the environment than Exxon).
In contrast, San Luis Obispo, hometown of Cal Poly, is beloved by Oprah, who named it the happiest city in America.
So you can root for a pair of billionaire tycoons whom the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity said “have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation” and called the worst thing to happen to American politics since Watergate. Or you can root for Oprah.
5. It’s perhaps not surprising that Gregg Marshall likes Charles Koch, since the Shockers play their home games in, you guessed it: Charles Koch Arena. On the other hand, Cal Poly’s Mott Gym was named after a longtime faculty member of the Phys Ed Department from the ‘40s and ‘50s.
To recap: You can cheer for the team that plays in an Evil Empire-style Coliseum that’s probably used in the offseason to host battle royales between homeless people to entertain the rich, or you can root for a team that plays in a tiny gym named after a local PE teacher who probably said “shucks” a lot.
6. Interestingly, it is Cal Poly’s gym, not Wichita State’s, that is governed by the laissez faire style rules that Charles Koch favors. Staff at Mustang home games abide by the, “If it’s not in a glass bottle with a liquor label, it must not be alcohol” rule. At least they did seven years ago. I think. It’s kind of blurry.
7. Staff at Cal Poly home games are really, really nice. Let’s say, for example, that you and your friends are a little tipsy on the 32 ounce vodka-filled Gatorade bottles you’ve been classily sipping throughout the first half, and you decide that now is the time to use the pregame research you did on your opponent, Utah State. Which means that when the only player on Utah State yet to complete his Mormon mission steps to the free throw line, you lead the student section in chants of “Do you mission!” Instead of escorting you out, the security guard will walk over and say, “Guys, come on. You can’t yell ‘mission.’ That’s not nice.” After much debate, you will return with the chant, “Do your something!” and the security guard will shrug his shoulders and return to his post.
8. Cal Poly fans appreciate everything they get…because they get so very little. At Cal Poly home games, when a player hits a big time three, the PA announcer yells, “From Higuera Street!” Because Higuera Street is in “downtown” San Luis Obispo. This always gets a chuckle from the crowd, because they’ve never heard the joke before, as the PA announcer only has occasion to use it two or three times a season.
9. During Cal Poly’s play-in game victory over Texas Southern on Wednesday, sideline correspondent Rachel Nichols reported that after Cal Poly bruiser Chris Eversley split open his eye in the Big West final, teammates starting calling him “Jean Claude Van Damme.” How can you not root for these guys? They share pop culture references with your dad. “Thanks, Kevin. Down here on the sidelines I’m hearing that David Nwaba has been so cool in pressure situations, teammates have started calling him ‘Nash Bridges.’”
10. Here are a list of laws that actually exist in various parts of Kansas:
It is illegal to drive one’s car through a parade.
No one may sing the alphabet on the streets at night.
All cars entering the city limits must first sound their horn to warn the horses of their arrival.
Riding an animal down any road is against the law.
Conversely, the one law that San Luis Obispo lawmakers emphasize year after year: “For the love of God—please stop peeing on things.”
In conclusion, are we going to win? Probably not. But stranger things have happened. And win, lose or…well, those are actually the only two options for basketball. But win or lose, after the game, we’ll be sipping Faderade and driving a car through a parade. Hi ki yi!