I've been a West Virginia sports fan for 18 years, seven months, and 23 days now. In that time, there have been a fair share of ups and downs.
There was a run to the Elite Eight in 2005 led by a 6'11", tattoo covered white guy who looked like the big Mon Star in Space Jam. There was Jarrod West's buzzer beater to send Bob Huggins and the Cincinnati Bearcats home and get the Mountaineers to the Sweet 16.
I've witnessed the coaches of our two biggest sports bolt to Ann Arbor for greener pastures—and I've been very pleased with the results.
In one night I witnessed the man who many thought was the savior of the West Virginia football program transform into the devil and the most hated person in the state. I then witnessed a good ole boy from New Martinsville take a team that, after losing a shot at a national championship and their head coach, had lost all hope and lead them to a Fiesta Bowl win and then get his dream job as head coach.
I've seen buzzer beaters, game-winning touchdowns, triumphant, inspiring victories, and heartbreaking, humbling losses.
But this year's Mountaineer basketball team are able to bring about so many different emotions over the course of one game that at times you aren't sure if you're watching a basketball game or a hit television drama on NBC.
First, let me talk a little about what it's like to be a WVU fan, for those of you reading who have the wrong perspective on us, which if you go off of what you see on ESPN you're wrong.
You need to know that the fans here are just about as passionate about the success of this team as you can be, without going legally insane.
We're a lot like Red Sox fans before they won their first World Series in 2004. We give our all cheering, hoping, and praying that one day our team will win a championship—whether it be in football or basketball, heck any sport would be fine with me, I'm tired of only having rifle titles.
But over and over it always seems like there is something that goes wrong for us and keeps us from winning it all.
In that Elite Eight run, it was blowing a double digit lead to Louisville to keep us out of our first Final Four since 1959.
In the 2007 season, we even had a spot in the National Championship Game locked up but lost to Pitt at Mountaineer Field to, once again, kill the hopes of all fans in Morgantown.
This basketball team seems different though.
There's something about them that makes me think that this is the team that can do it, this is the team that could bring home that first championship.
But if experience has taught me anything, it's that you can never get to carried away expecting too much from these teams yet. As they said in the atrocious movie Fever Pitch (in an awful Boston accent), "Careful kid, they'll break your heart."
All the signs are there though, so let's start with what everyone around the country knows about.
Over the course of this weekend, there has been the emergence of the new "Mr. Clutch". His name, Da'Sean Butler.
I can't remember a single player that I've ever watched play, including the great Kevin Pittsnogle, that has been as much of a big time player as Da'Sean has become this season.
After his game-winner in the Big East Championship game, Butler had hit six game-winning shots this year. I haven't really done the research on it, but I'm pretty sure that that's at least in the top three in the country.
Just ask the Lakers how much having a big time clutch performer like that can help your chances of winning a title.
That's exhibit one, now reason number two is that, unlike when John Beilein was our head coach, we have an experienced coach who has actually been on the big stage before.
Bob Huggins gets a lot of attention for his sideline antics and his selection of clothing, but he is also a pretty good coach. In three years, he has turned a three point shooting team that thought that rebounding was overrated into a tough, physical team that's offense relies a lot on rebounding the basketball.
The players have bought in to the new philosophy and they are looking better than ever. These three years with Huggins here have solidified us as a legitimate national title contender and one of the best teams in the Big East year in and year out.
Another reason that you have to love Huggs is because as a fan, you know that he really wants to make this program a winner. He's from here, he knows how much this school and this basketball team means to the people of the state, and he will do whatever he can to make sure that this team will win a national title.
If you have any disagreements with that, you can just listen to his postgame comments after WVU's loss to UConn earlier in the year.
For the final reason that I think that this team can be different and make some noise in the tournament, I recently started reading Bill Simmons' new book The Book of Basketball.
This team has, what Simmons described in the book as, "The Secret."
The key to a team's success is not all about who is the most talented, or who has the most McDonald's All-Americans, but it's about chemistry and how well everyone gets along with each other.
On this team, no individual is going to have a lot of success without working with every other player on the floor.
For instance, in last night's game, Butler's final shot means nothing without Casey Mitchell and Joe Mazzulla's free throws. And those mean even less without Wellington Smith having an awesome day defensively against Georgetown's lottery pick, Greg Monroe.
This team works so well together and everyone knows their role on the team.
Butler's the clutch scorer, Jones and Ebanks are the rebounders who can give a scoring spark, Smith is the defensive stopper, Truck's the shooting point guard and Mazzulla is the distributor, Kilicli, Thoroughman, and Jennings are the bodies off the bench and Mitchell is the sharp shooter.
But the fans are the heartbeat and that it doesn't plan on stopping for these "cardiac kids" just yet.