Wednesday, March 29, 2006

By George...
When I last dropped in to share some frustrated thoughts on the Big Ten's goose egg in the NCAA Tournament, I half jokingly said that I'd have to root for the little guys to keep my interest in the tournament. By George, that guy George Mason did it!

I know there has been a lot of talk on the sports talk shows, SportsCenter, etc. about the Patriots' place in underdog history - rightfully so. Aside from the 1980 miracle on Ice, I have never witnessed - in all of my sports watching - a team quite like George Mason. Yes, an 11-seed (LSU in 1986) has made it to the Final Four before. Keep in mind, however, that LSU was coming from a power conference. They may have been one of the last teams in, but that isn't that big of a deal in my eyes.

Yes, a huge underdog has won the NCAA Tournament before (Villanova in 1985). But, again, that was a team from a big conference, used to playing on a big stage and one that had already played its opponent a few times that season. A big deal, but not this magnitude.

Sure, there are upsets and 15s have knocked off 2s, 14s have stunned 3s ... but none of those teams made it this far. I mean, we're talking a mid-major program (and IMO that is being kind because the CAA is more like a low-mid-major) that took out three of the biggest and best programs in college basketball. Michigan State has been to four of the last eight Final Fours. North Carolina won the whole enchilada last season. Connecticut, not overall top seed Duke, was the favorite to win the whole thing with a roster chock full of NBA prospects. George Mason beat them all and not with a Northwestern State-esque lucky, falling out of bounds, fade-away triple at the buzzer. The Patriots controlled the glass, the tempo, the defensive end of the court, stared defeat in the face and never blinked.

For my money, George Mason is the biggest and best "little guy" story that the game has seen - in my lifetime. The Texas Western story would be bigger given the times, but in the here and now, we may never see a run like this again. To beat the teams Mason beat over the course of a season would be huge. To do it back-to-back-to-back (more or less) over two weekends is amazing.

I'm not sure they'll come out of Indy as the champ, but they have already beaten three teams that I think were better than any of the rest that are still breathing. The ideal title game, in my mind, would be LSU and George Mason. If for no other reason because the teams have fun, they don't let a deficit shake them. Both remind me of the 2000 Michigan State team that won it all except that team was probably supposed to win that tournament title. If the Patriots do win the championship, you might never find a better feel good past-present-future, David and Goliath story of this level ever again...

Good move IU...
Word is that Indiana is going to name Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson as their next head coach. A good move by IU to cut ties to Coach Knight and start anew with a guy who's style will definitely fit in with the Big Ten.

Spring football is here...
I am hoping to get back to my mega team by team previews this summer. Fun to start thinking about football now that basketball is over for everyone but Michigan, but then again, I'm not going to wish spring and summer away before they get here!

3 comments:

BigTenSportsFan said...

Holy cow! Kelvin Sampson to Indiana?

Look out folks, these are the makings of a dynasty in Bloomington. Not only is Coach Sampson regarded as one of the nation's best recruiters, he brings a squeaky clean image to the Big Ten Conference!

A.G. said...

Dude, you are too much!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Sampson is leaving Oklahoma in the midst of an NCAA investigation into recruiting violations. So I wouldn't say Sampson is bringing a squeky clean image to the Big Ten.