ARTICLE OF THE DAY

Cinderella Story
by Kevin Monroe

3/28/06

March Madness is all about the underdog. Every fan fills out a bracket and the only way to win it all is pick the upsets early and have some teams left for the final four weekend.  The thing is, once you pick that upset, it’s usually safe to pick a higher seed to beat that giant killer two days later in the round of 32.  From time to time a Cinderella story will arise and a lower seeded team will make the sweet sixteen.  Gonzaga used to do it every year until people started taking them serious.  The problem this year, is that George Mason refuses to here the clock striking 12:00.

After losing to Hofstra to end the regular season, they faced them again in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament and lost to them once more.  Not only did they lose to Hofstra in the CAA tourney, but they only scored three field goals in the second half.  Mason ended the season playing their worst offensive basketball of the season.  When the selection committee chose the at large bids, George Mason was one of the last teams chosen.  When they were picked, several sports journalist were outspoken against the selection, because they felt other teams were more deserving. George Mason decided to enter the tournament on a mission.  The mission was to prove all the doubters wrong and show that they belonged in the field of 65.  

After being given an 11th seed, their first game was against the number 6 seed Michigan State Spartans.  The Patriots who ended the regular season ranked 9th nationally in defense held the Spartans to 65 points in their opening round victory.  Game number 2 brought on the defending national champions North Carolina Tar Heels that were only two weeks removed from upsetting number 1 Duke in Cameron Indoor.  The Patriots showed their nerves early, going down 16-2 to the Tar Heels, but they came out in the second half a new team.  George Mason forced UNC into six straight turnovers to begin the second half and never looked back.  Game number 3 was against a Wichita State team that George Mason had beaten earlier in the season.  With the regional being played in Washington D.C., the Patriots were just 15 miles from their campus and clearly had the home court advantage.  

After the victory over Wichita State, the Patriots started feeling as if it was their destiny to make it to the Final Four.  The overtime victory over the Huskies was one of the most amazing performances by a Mid-Major in tournament history.  Before the UNC game George Mason Coach Jim Larranga told his team that UNC was Superman and they were kryptonite.  Then before the UCONN game he told them that they were in a secret agency, the CAA (Connecticut Assassination Association).  I wonder what will be the pep talk before their Final Four game versus Florida on Saturday.  Whatever it is, the Patriots seemed to be having fun playing Cinderella and I don’t think they ever want to here the clock strike midnight.


Kevin Monroe
kevin@downeastsports.com