For basketball fans March is the most wonderful time of the year.
College conference tournaments are about to tip off and that means March Madness will soon be upon us. After getting a taste of postseason victory last year, the University of Pacific men's basketball team is hungry for a conference tournament championship.
"It's win or go home," Tigers junior guard Miles Reynolds put simply. "It's going to be some wars out there, a dog fight. We've got the horses forward and we're ready for battle."
In March, what happens in Vegas determines if you go dancing. A win over fourth-seeded San Francisco in this weekend's West Coast Conference Tournament, held at the Orleans arena in Las Vegas, would bring the Pacific Tigers one step closer toward a conference tournament championship and a spot in the NCAA tournament.
"We only got a guaranteed 40 minutes," sophomore guard Jahlil Tripp said. "If we want to continue to play, [again] we gotta win. I know everybody is just hungry. Nobody wants to start spring break early. We want to stay in Vegas as long as possible, until the very last day. I know I do."
The fifth-seeded Tigers dropped both regular season meetings against San Francisco and a win over the Dons would more than likely set up a meeting with top-seeded Gonzaga in the semifinals.
"Last year, we were in the play-in game. This year, we automatically qualified for the quarterfinals and that's another step," coach Damon Stoudamire, now in his third season at the helm, explained. "Getting a win against a good San Francisco team...that'll take us to the semifinals and that's another step for this program."
The Tigers are limping into the tournament with three straight losses and only eight available players. However, center Namdi Okonkwo is going into the postseason with some confidence after receiving West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors.
"Nam has done a great job," Stoudamire said. "He's really protected the rim, he's been our goaltender, he's bailed us out of a lot of situations...it's just been great."
The program takes on the personality of its head coach, who earned the nickname, "Mighty Mouse" during his 13 years in the NBA.
"I think we're one of the tougher teams in the conference," Reynolds said. "We haven't backed down to anybody this season. I think that's why we've been able to make the strides that we have from the previous year to this year."
Anything can happen in March, but no matter what happens during this week's tournament, the Tigers can already consider this season a success by notching nine conference wins, the most for the program since rejoining the WCC in 2013-2014. Two more wins would put Pacific in position to make even more history in a conference tournament championship game.
"We improved since the start of the season and we know that a lot of teams are not scared of us," Tripp said. "But they know we're going to come out and compete every night for 40 minutes."
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