I must admit that I thought I would be watching very little college basketball today. My assumption was that UCONN would smack on George Mason and that Florida would beat Villanova and I would not watch due to my dislike of the Joakim Noah poses. I figured I would flip back and forth, but my primary focus would be on the Bristol NASCAR race, where at the very least, you are guaranteed a few fights.
Well that was my assumption. What followed was one of the great basketball games in recent years and three hours or so where I pulled harder for any team in a non-Kentucky game than I ever have in my life. I admit that I am a sucker for the underdog. I love watching the team that should not win take a victory and will pull for such a result, no matter the occasion. Throw in the fact that I spent a little time on the Mason campus, I love their coach and I find the entire Billy Packer vs mid-majors argument tremendously exciting, and there I was….jumping up and down like a little kid for George Mason.
You remember George Evans? Probably not…but he was a big kid who went into the armed forces, came out and played four years for Mason in the late 90s and early 00s. I loved the way he played….he was a man amongst boys and he very nearly led Mason to a victory over Maryland in the first round in Boise Idaho a few years back (off topic…that was the greatest one day of basketball ever in one building….but I digress). Well Baker was the beginning, and these kids were the end. With the mini-Big Baby skills of Jai Lewis, the redemption story of Tony Skin and the overjoyed excitement of their coach, George Mason is America’s team.
And after watching that game, I am ready to call it the greatest upset of all time. Think about what happened. A team from the Colonial conference….likely the 12th or 13th best conference in America…..took on the consensus best team in the tournament. A team that literally has about 6 guys that will make an NBA roster. Mason was an 11 seed and only one other 11 seed had ever made it this far….LSU…..a team that had a major conference pedigree and was meeting an opponent (Kentucky) that it had already played three times. With that backdrop, George Mason won…..making it the first “mid-major” team to make the Final 4 in forever (depending on whether you would count UNLV as such a team). In doing so, they came back from a heartbreaking end to regulation (how long was that ball on the rim?) and held on….despite missed foul shots and UCONN making big play after big play. A truly inspirational performance.
So is it the biggest upset ever? Well some would say Chaminade over Virginia….and that was big, but it was a regular season game and while it may have been more shocking, it didnt really matter. What about Villanova over Georgetown or NC St over Houston? Also big games and have the added advantage of being for the championship…..but these are major college programs with legendary pedigrees and enough talent to play with the best teams. Some say the Loyola of Chicago wins in the 50s or Texas Western in 66. Maybe, but college basketball was different then and these teams were good….people just didnt know because college basketball was not a national sport. And that was a long time ago, so it doesnt count.
No this is the biggest upset of all time. George Mason shocked the world today, and in the process, has brought college basketball to the tip of the nation’s tongue. Just watching them this week will be great….and what if they win. Not likely, but at this point, will you count them out?