How Sweet it is

At 4:27 p.m., Pullman shuts down. Classes are canceled, businesses will close and all eyes will be on the boys in red as they take on the boys in baby blue. Families will huddle around their televisions, office workers will huddle around their computer screens and thousands will stream into Beasley Coliseum to cheer on the Cougs with one voice.

At 4:27 p.m. in Seattle, a businessman in a sharply pressed suit will instruct his secretary he's leaving early, pick up the Cougar hat he's worn every day for the past 20 years from the coat rack and head on down to the nearest sports bar (he is a Cougar, after all). Once he walks in the door his eyes will be greeted with a sea of crimson, but he'll walk right over to the first purple coat he sees and sit down next to him. Their only exchange will be mutual nods, but it doesn't matter: Everyone's rooting for the same team today.

At 5:27 p.m. in Phoenix, at 6:27 p.m. in Kansas and at 7:27 p.m. in New York City, Cougars will come out of the woodwork. Proudly displaying their crimson and gray, they'll be keeping a sharp eye out all day long for fellow Cougs, and at the appointed hour they will gather 'round CBS to watch a truly historic Cougar sports moment unfold.

At this point, it almost doesn't even matter the Tar Heels are 3:1 odds to win the whole thing. Washington State, by contrast, is at 45:1.

But really, I think everyone's pretty satisfied to get here. Anything after this is almost gratis. Look how far this team has come: 12-15 in 2004, 11-16 in 2005 to 26-8 the last two years, with a shot at win #27. Not to mention senior center Robbie Cowgill's tie in the ASWSU election for District 7 senator. At this point, Glenn Johnson should probably watch his back; if Tony Bennett (or even Taylor Rochestie for that matter) ever gets it in his mind to run for mayor, I think he'd have a decent shot.

At this point, you can say only one thing to Weaver, Cowgill and Low: You did it. You've turned around a WSU program, long the laughingstock of the league, and brought it back to respectability. The Sweet 16 establishes the team as one of the truly elite in the nation. You don't owe anything to the university, the fans, or indeed anyone but yourselves. Just know the hearts, minds and throats of thousands of Cougar fans all around the world will be following the ecstasy and misery that can only come from an NCAA tourney game.

A special note to Aron Baynes: It's time now. It's time to shed the immature, pouting game you've lapsed into for the past two seasons. Every time we see flashes of brilliance from you, it's made all the worse when you revert back to hack-and-slash ticky-tack fouls. More than any other player on the court, you will decide this game. If everyone's clicking but you, the Cougars cannot win. If you play the same stingy defense, do the fundamental things (boxing out, rebounding) and limit your fouls the way you have in the first two games, you will decide the outcome of this game. Hell, if you can do that, next year the feared center everyone worries about won't be Tyler Hansborough or someone named Lopez; they'll be worried about Aron Baynes.

There's really nothing much left to say. For two hours, Cougar fans will experience something I would doubt many of them (everyone younger than 67) will be familiar with. They'll cheer with every 3-pointer and grimace with actual physical pain at every failed defensive stop, right alongside the players in Charlotte. But when it's all said and done, regardless of the outcome, WSU and yes the entire state of Washington, will stand proud, united.

Go Cougs.