Sports and fandom itself lend themselves to the development of a common vocabulary and a level of shared experience between strangers that few other things can match. If you are an Indians fan, I may know nothing else about you, but I know the name Jose Mesa makes your stomach turn, your spouse probably is uncomfortable with your level of infatuation with Fransico Lindor, and you agree the worst mistake of Dan Wilson's life was turning his back on Kenny Lofton and meandering after that passed ball in the 1995 ALCS. I know these things because we share a common set of values based on fandom.
When it comes to Xavier, the Sweet Sixteen seems to be where players go from guys who are fondly remembered to legends who are revered in hushed tones as we recount their exploits. Some of the most indelible images in X history come from tilts in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Romain Sato was a skinny kid from the Central African Republic by way of Dayton when he got to X, but his 27 point explosion and cold blooded free throw shooting in 2004 mean he is now and forever a household name for Xavier fans, inextricably linked with Chalmers, Myles, and Doelmann in fond recollection. BJ Raymond had been enduring a poor outing in 2008's Sweet Sixteen, until the sharpshooter buried Bob Huggins and West Virginia with two colossal threes in overtime, ensuring Josh Duncan's 26 points against the vaunted Mountaineers defense was rewarded with a victory. Even in a losing effort, Jordan Crawford took himself from a single season success story to the author of one of the greatest moments in NCAA Tournament history with his buzzer beating bomb in 2010. These are games, players, and moments than any Xavier fan will instantly light up when mentioned. They are our shared source of happiness, despite whatever differences there may be between us. Or the fact we don't actually know each other.
So what will it be this year? Maybe it is Malcolm firing the ball into the rafters and demolishing an unsuspecting walk-on after making clutch play after clutch play down the stretch. It could well be Tyrique encouraging a partisan Orlando crowd to show some love in the midst of X's dismantling of their Seminoles. It could be Trevon Bluiett, the man everyone not in a Xavier uniform expected to take their biggest shot of the season, floating a pass over a pair of defenders for Sean O'Mara to finish. For me it is currently the embrace between Bluiett and JP Macura, two guys who, along with Ed Sumner, have become the faces of the program over the past three seasons, upon the buzzer sounding. To come to Xavier is to know that your success will mostly be judged by winning in March, and these guys had finally put themselves into the ranks of the all time greats with the win. Hopefully, the image that this run will be remembered by hasn't happened yet. I would love for it to be Coach Mack at the top of a ladder with a net around his neck.