It's a natural high -- watching the Oregon State men's basketball team pull out six unlikely victories, starting with the PAC-12 tournament.
UCLA. Oregon. Colorado. Those underdog wins produced a PAC-12 tournament championship, the only way Oregon State was going to make it into the NCAA March Madness.
Unable to see Oregon State play during the regular season because I'm stuck with DirecTV, which refuses to carry the PAC-12 Network, I became a big admirer of how the team was able to covert their underdog role into top dog wins.
Then came the NCAA tournament.
Tennessee. Oklahoma State. Loyola Chicago -- today's victory. Once again, Oregon State wasn't favored to win any of those games.
They won all three, propelling them into the Elite Eight round, one Monday win away from becoming the only March Madness 12th seed to make it into the Final Four.
I've become a calmer Oregon State fan.
During the PAC-12 tournament I'd get really nervous near the end of a game, because I couldn't believe the team was going to pull off the upset, though I really wanted them to.
Today I watched Oregon State's slow start, glacial really, in a fairly relaxed fashion. Oregonian sports writer John Canzano put it nicely in his column today.
If you closely followed Oregon State’s dismal start to this season, you probably recognized Saturday’s game as a perfect metaphor. Slow start, encouraging middle, and lethal finish. The Beavers couldn’t get easy shots early. They could barely get the ball in bounds, really. But just like this season, something shifted midway through, and Tinkle’s team took control.
Ethan Thompson, a senior guard, deserves much of the credit for the win over Loyola Chicago. Whenever he had the ball, my nervousness ratcheted down a notch.
Jarod Lucas, a sophomore guard, is more erratic. Lucas usually plays solidly, but at times he gets a bit frantic, especially in comparison to Thompson's steadiness.
Today Lucas hit a three near the end of the game that, as the cliche goes, put a dagger into Loyola Chicago's comeback hope. He's a confident shooter, as befits his record as the third leading scorer in California high school history.
Then there's forward Warith Alatishe.
He's a highly entertaining player. Alatishe's jumping ability is amazing. He's a terrific rebounder and makes scoring over opposing players look easy, because he's shooting from such an impressive jump-shot height.
Center Roman Silva is the jumping antithesis to Alatishe. I don't recall ever seeing Silva leave the ground. Of course, when you're 7' 1" you don't need to do a lot of jumping to score or rebound.
Silva is an appealing throwback to an earlier basketball time -- when centers played with their back to the basket and used guile to score rather than athleticism. He's a solid defender and contributes a lot to the Oregon State team, though Silva isn't a flashy highlight reel player.
Like all great teams, Oregon State is much more than the sum of its parts, the individual players. The team has excellent chemistry, buttressed by fine coaching.
I love watching them play. After each win, I feel really good. Not just because Oregon State won, but how they won.
With teamwork. With determination. With energetic defense. With clutch offense. With solid free throw shooting.
Monday they play either Syracuse or University of Houston for a trip to the Final Four.
Win or lose, Oregon State has become the Cinderella team of the NCAA tournament, a huge accomplishment given the preseason prediction that they'd end up at the bottom of the PAC-12 standings.