Dave's Sports Views

Analysis, humor and opinion on the sports world

Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Greatest upset ever?

In reality, we should have seen this coming. The vaunted UConn Huskies, for all their talent, rarely found a comfort level as a unit. The George Mason Patriots took out three talented teams and played with no fear to reach their date with UConn. If there was ever a prescription for an upset, this was it. A confident, loose team playing a heavy favorite facing equally heavy expectations to win.

But it's still almost impossible to believe. George Mason 86, Connecticut 84. The Patriots are going to the Final Four. When Denham Brown's lay-up at the end of regulation hung on the rim, appeared to fall out of the cylinder, then swirled back and through the net, who didn't think the Huskies were going to cheat death once again.

Mason led by four in the final 20 seconds, couldn't nail the clinching free throws, and Brown's athletic play ensured that the Huskies would survive.

But they only survived for five more minutes. Mason executed its offense brilliantly in overtime, and though a couple of players had four fouls, the Patriots didn't have the widespread foul problems that essentially left Washington powerless on Friday night. They were able to play aggressively at both ends of the court. If the players were wearing blank jerseys and you watched the silky inside-outside game the Patriots possessed, you would have said you were watching a Big East or Big Ten power, not an 11th seed from the Colonial Athletic Association.

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun tried to tell people his team wasn't as great as their press clippings. The Huskies were a team with big men and wing players, and only one true guard in Marcus Williams. And with Williams suffering through a 5-for-13 shooting performance and Friday hero Rashad Anderson making only 2-of-8 free throws, UConn wasn't effective against the Mason zone defense.

Greatest upset ever? It's in elite company, at the very least. Villanova had played Georgetown twice during the season before upsetting them in the 1985 final. Ditto Kansas over Oklahoma in the 1988 final and LSU over Kentucky in the 1986 Elite Eight (the only other 11th seed to make the Final Four). NC State over Houston in 1983 was a classic case of an underdog controlling the tempo. Mason was able to slow UConn down a little, but in essence, the two teams played at a pace with which they both seemed comfortable.

This was a classic case of an underdog team from a little-known school taking the game to the favorite, taking blow after blow and returning them all. Where this game makes history is in its signal of a watershed moment in college basketball history. After the rule changes that put in the 3-point shot and the shot clock, the flood of players leaving to the NBA as teenagers and the heavier scrutiny of recruiting, the playing field in the sport is finally level. Any team can beat any other team. George Mason is named for the so-called "Father of the Bill of Rights," which outlines the freedoms we all have as Americans. The George Mason basketball team has ushered in the start of a new era in their sport -- all teams are created equal.


P.S. -- At the time of this writing, a frigid-shooting Villanova team trails Florida 35-25. If that score holds, the four number one seeds will have all been eliminated before the Final Four for the first time since 1980.


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