Considering that this blog generally follows all things having to do with Kentucky sports and Kentucky is in the SEC, we should be spending today dissecting the LSU and Florida entries into the Final 4 and debating the possibility of an all-SEC final game. But we wont. Because George Mason making the Final 4 is not only the biggest story in college basketball, it is the biggest story in sports and one of the biggest stories currently being discussed in this country. I wore my George Mason shirt to work today and received about 10 comments from people, all of whom say “I love George Mason.” They are America’s team.
But in the day following last night’s amazing game the question is, what is the significance of this game? Is this a watershed moment in the history of college basketball, signaling the end of major conference dominance and the beginning of a new, more egalitarian era? Or is this a blip on the radar and a true upset that we may not see again for some time. I believe it is the latter.
What George Mason did is unbelievably impressive. Its run of three wins against Michigan St, UNC and UCONN ranks as the best college basketball upset ever and joins the US Hockey team in 1980 and Buster Douglas as one of the biggest upsets in all of sports. But I would venture to say that it wont happen again for quite some time. Mid-majors have been close for years, think Gonzaga in 1999 and Kent St in 2002, but they all have been stopped at the Elite 8, before they could make the miracle run. The reason…..simply, talent. Over the course of a seven game series, the UCONN talent would overwhelm George Mason. However it didnt need to in this one game scenario and Mason played spectacularly and was able to get the win. But that doesnt mean that this was a normal situation.
There is no doubt that talent has spread on the college landscape. The major powers no longer have a monopoly on the best talent. Kids no longer need to go to Kentucky, Unc, Indiana, Kansas, etc to get exposure and have successful careers. But that doesnt mean they will go to George Mason. Memphis and Gonzaga are the only two schools that are in non-major conferences that can recruit nationally….period. Thus while the change in the college landscape means LSU can have as good a roster from a talent perspective as any team in the country, it doesnt mean that SE Louisiana can. Thus in the end, the major conferences will win out and every 20 years or so, we will get a great story. This is our story for this round…..but it is not normal and a sign of things to come…..no matter what Doug Gottlieb says.