A true Cinderella story

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Mar 282006
 
Authors: Trevor Edy

If you haven’t already, hurry up and jump on the George Mason University bandwagon.

After receiving one of the last at-large bids to the 2006 NCAA Tournament, No.11-seeded GMU has become only the second double-digit seed to make the Final Four (No. 11 seed LSU did it in 1986).

It would only be fitting for a team from a mid-major conference coming out of the Washington D.C. area and named after one of our founding fathers (kinda) to silence all critics and move through one of the most heralded tournaments in sports.

To all the skeptics who think they had an easy road to Indianapolis, think again. They took the hardest path to the Final Four when they beat three of the last six national champions. The Patriots embarrassed No. 6-seeded Michigan State (2000 champions) in the first round with a 10-point blowout over Tom Izzo’s Spartans.

They proceeded to knock out perennial powerhouse No. 3-seeded North Carolina (2005 champ) in the second round, who just one year ago raised the national championship trophy. And not to mention the biggest upset of the tournament, when GMU rallied from 12 down to defeat top-seeded and 2004 national champion Connecticut in overtime Sunday. And, yes, they took out two future hall of fame coaches: Tom Izzo, Roy Williams and current hall of famer Jim Calhoun.

By making it to the “Quartet,” these Patriots that hail from the Colonial Athletic Association, have gone farther than other team in the league. They have the nation screaming “G’MASE!” from San Diego to every city along the East Coast.

In an ESPN Internet poll of over 200,000 people, 59 percent of our great country voted that they want to see Mason go all the way. We just love upset picks.

In a tournament in which none of the four No. 1 seeds are among the last four teams, for the first time since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, this should be no surprise that a small East Coast school is cruising through the big dance.

As ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski said, the Patriots are no longer “Bracket Busters” they are “Giant Killers”. They are the epitome of a team. All five GMU starters average double figures in points and not to mention have one of the stingiest defenses in the country by holding opponents to less than 58 points a game.

It was all smiles after GMU took down the juggernaut that is the Huskies, but for the Patriots this ride is not over. Eleventh seeded (as if that matters) GMU will face No. 3-seeded Florida in the national semi-finals Saturday. Senior Lamar Butler summed it up after Sunday’s game: “I guess anything can happen.”

So get on the bandwagon, everyone else is. Next stop: Indianapolis.

Predictions

This year’s Final Four could not have been more unpredictable. Out of three million entries in ESPN’s tournament challenge, four people, yes FOUR! picked all the teams going to Indianapolis; which if you think about it, is pretty good considering most people don’t have three of the teams left in their bracket.

No. 4 LSU vs. No. 2 UCLA- Glen “Big Baby” Davis is going to take advantage of the match-up problems on the inside against the Bruins. Davis and Tyrus Thomas will carry the Tigers to the championship game.

No. 11 George Mason vs. No. 3 Florida- The Patriots’ dream run will come to an end on Saturday, when Gator Joakim Noah will search for a repeat performance of his 21-point, 15-rebound, five-block night against No. 1 seeded Villanova.

Championship Game: No.3 Florida vs. No. 4 LSU- The Gators will figure out a way to stop Big Baby, but it will be Tyrus Thomas that will have a breakout game that will bring home the bling to the Big Easy.

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