George Mason: Living the Dream


All that Glitters is Green and Gold



Next stop: Indianapolis - GMU vs. Florida.


From The Crabby Critic:  To say that I am delerious would be an understatement.  My alma mater, George Mason University, that until this month was just a big commuter school in suburban Virginia, is going to the FINAL F*CKING FOUR!!!!

The slipper fits. David slaughters Goliaths. Insert your own analogy/cliche here.

And if there is a God, he/she certainly has a sense of humor: Billy "Dumb" Packer and Jim "Dumber" Nantz, the two Brokeback CBS sports commentators who earlier this month criticized GMU's invitation to the NCAA tournament as "undeserving," will be commentating Saturday's GMU vs. Florida game. And then there's this guy, Gregg "Dumbass" Doyel, a CBS Sportsline commentator who wrote, and I quote: "George Mason can't beat UConn. Not on Sunday at the Verizon Center for the region title. Not on Halloween in an empty gym. Not tomorrow at the playground. Not ever. Connecticut is too big-fast-strong-deep for George  Mason"

Uhh, huh huh, uh, you were saying, Doyel baby? Dude, what the hell is wrong with CBS?  Viacom needs to get their head out of the sand. Wake up and smell the coffee. We just opened up a can of whoop ass on ya'll! 

A Roundup of today's GMU b-ball coverage:

Img9339070_1 The Washington Post: Jai Lewis hung the shreds of what remained of the basketball net around his thick neck. Lamar Butler, flashing a smile as wide as he is tall, tucked the string he had clipped from the net under the bill of his cap. Coach Jim Larranaga, 56, shimmied into a freshly printed T-shirt emblazoned with "Washington, D.C. Regional Champions," while delirious George Mason fans, their voices raw from screaming, snapped photos of the wild celebration with digital cameras and cellphones. All of the detritus, no doubt, will be preserved for decades to come as mementos of the greatest day of their lives: The day the school in Fairfax pulled off one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history by toppling top-seeded Connecticut, a two-time national champion, to earn a trip to the NCAA men's basketball tournament's Final Four.

Michael Wilbon: "...Yesterday, the Patriots shocked the world. Maybe -- okay, probably -- this is the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history. ...The details of the game will fade over time, except perhaps Denham Brown's shot bouncing three times on the left side of the rim before falling to force overtime (at which point everybody in the building not sitting on the George Mason bench thought Connecticut would win). But the outcome, the feeling in the arena, the realization that George Mason -- for cryin' out loud -- had reached the Final Four is everlasting. To think Larranaga had walked around earlier in the day humming the theme from Mission: Impossible. To think, in an attempt to keep his players laughing and loose, he said to them: 'Do you know what CAA stands for? It stands for Connecticut Assassins Association . . . should you choose to accept this assignment.'"

                    The Broadside:  (Back from their drunken escapades in Cancun or wherever the hell they've been during what was only the biggest story in Mason history):   "Livin’ on a Prayer”: Mason Stuns Connecticut, 86-84 in Overtime. Indianapolis, site of this year’s Final Four and college basketball’s national championship game, sits smack-dab in the middle of Indiana, some 600 miles from Fairfax. For the George Mason University men’s basketball team, the distance is but a small annoyance, for Indianapolis means just one thing to the Patriots: they get to keep playing basketball. Mason continued its improbable run through the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, defeating the top-seeded University of Connecticut 86-84 in overtime to secure the school’s first-ever berth in the Final Four.

Reuters - George Mason pulled off one of the most stunning upsets in NCAA tournament history by beating top-seeded Connecticut 86-84 in overtime Sunday to win the Washington Regional and advance to the Final Four.

USA TODAY: Cinderella men dance on.  George Mason University, the outside-the-Beltway outsider turned belle of the ball, is going to the Final Four. And at this point, four wins into what could become the most incredible run in NCAA men's basketball tournament history, it's clear the Patriots can win it. (includes embarrasing sidebar interview with point guard Tony Skinn admitting he has no "no clue who George Mason was.") - George Mason, the suburban commuter school from Fairfax, Va., beat top-seeded Connecticut 86-84 in overtime Sunday in the Washington Regional final, ending the stranglehold that big-time programs have enjoyed for 27 years in college basketball's biggest showcase.

Story of the day
Img9339080_1 Associated Press -- The Final Four has been dominated by college basketball's big boys for more than a quarter of a century, with powerful teams and tournament-tested conferences gathering at the end of the season to sort out the champion.

Well, this year will be a little different.

The main culprit is George Mason, a commuter school in suburban Virginia that never had won a single game in the NCAA tournament until two weeks ago.

Also headed to the national semifinals next weekend in Indianapolis: LSU, Florida and UCLA. Like George Mason, LSU and Florida never have won an NCAA title; UCLA dominated college basketball by winning 10 in the 1960s and 1970s, but had fallen on harder times of late.

Img9339032_1 Seeded 11th in their quarter of the field, George Mason is the first team since 1986 to be slated that low and reach the Final Four. And they're the biggest outsider — no basketball tradition to speak of, not a member of a major conference, no superstar player — since Ivy League school Penn made it in 1979.

How did they do it? With a string of consistent, defensive-minded performances, the latest an 86-84 overtime victory over top-seeded Connecticut in the Washington Regional final Sunday.

"We don't mind being the Cinderella," George Mason guard Tony Skinn said.

Apparently, there was more than one pair of glass slippers lying around. This is the first time since 1980 that none of the four teams seeded No. 1 reached the Final Four.

George Mason now faces No. 4-seeded Florida, which knocked off another No. 1 seed, Villanova, 75-62 in the Minneapolis Regional final.

Vzn13003262131widec In next Saturday's other Final Four game, No. 4-seeded LSU will play No. 2-seeded UCLA. Led by gregarious and 310-pound Glen "Big Baby" Davis, LSU won the Oakland Regional final by beating No. 2 seed Texas 70-60 in overtime Saturday. UCLA defeated No. 1 seed Memphis 50-45 at the Atlanta Regional.

"Nobody could have predicted what we've seen — not just this afternoon, but this whole tournament," NCAA selection committee chairman Craig Littlepage said on the court after George Mason cut the nets down to celebrate. "It's affirmation that this is a great game."

As anyone who's ever participated in an NCAA pool at the office knows, there always are upsets at this event. Hence the term, "March Madness."

But it's been quite awhile since there were this many surprises.

The last time no No. 1 made the tournament's showcase was also the last year neither the Big East nor the Atlantic Coast Conference had at least one Final Four team; those high-profile leagues combined to produce the past five national champions, including the ACC's North Carolina last year, and the Big East's Connecticut in 2004.

George Mason eliminated both of those schools, despite having relatively smaller players not thought of as NBA prospects.

"They don't measure heart by inches, they don't measure courage, they don't measure basketball instinct and intelligence," said Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun, whose team has three or four players probably headed to the pros.

The Patriots, he added, "are not on a magic carpet ride because there's any myth there. They are good. They are really, really good."

Img9339081Perhaps, but George Mason's basketball program is certainly unheralded: The team never has been ranked in The Associated Press poll, and it lost two of its last four games before the NCAA tournament.

Its players are unheralded. Asked this weekend who recruited him out of high school, forward Will Thomas joked: "George Mason, George Mason, George Mason. I'm glad I chose George Mason."

Its conference is unheralded, too. It had been 20 years since the Colonial Athletic Association received two invitations to the NCAA tournament, and some Connecticut players weren't able to name which league the Patriots play in.

All of the above are among the reasons that some, including CBS basketball analyst Billy Packer, questioned whether George Mason deserved to go to the tournament at all. The considerable Mason cheering section at Sunday's game — played about 20 miles from the school's Fairfax, Va., campus — broke into taunting chants of "Bill-y! Pack-er!" before and after the game, even though he wasn't announcing.

When Lamar Butler hit a 3-pointer to give George Mason only its second lead of the game, at 52-51 about halfway through the second half, Connecticut called a timeout. While Patriots coach Jim Larranaga stood with his arms crossed, smiling, Butler and a couple of teammates looked up at the scoreboard, mouths open.

Perhaps they were wondering, "Can this really be happening?"

It sure was.


The Scene setter

Fans swarm George Mason

Underdogs secure Final Four spot


No burning mattresses, no bonfires. Just unrestrained jubilation after George Mason advanced to the Final Four.

After George Mason's 86-84 overtime victory over top-seeded Connecticut on Sunday, more than 7,000 students stormed what is normally a sleepy campus on weekends for a pep rally at what is essentially a commuter school.

"I didn't even know they had a basketball team," said freshman Mar'esha "Dumbass" Farrish of Hopewell, Va.

One of the most diverse student bodies in the nation, the scene at the Patriot Center pep rally reflected that diversity. Coeds wearing Muslim head scarves cheered raucously alongside face-painted frat boys when coach Jim Larranaga and the squad entered the arena a little before 8 p.m.

The players were taken aback when they walked on the court and were greeted with a nearly full arena and a deafening roar.

"Man, we never even had this many people here for a basketball game," senior guard Tony Skinn said.

Did he resent any of the fans hopping on the bandwagon as the team progressed through the tournament?

"No, I'm cool with it. I'm cool with it," he said, pumping his fist.

Indeed, the team averages a little more than 4,000 fans for home games, leaving it to play in front of mostly empty arenas.

Senior Jason "Dumbass" Obenschain, who dyed his hair green, admitted that he had never been to a game before and only became interested in the tournament over spring break when some friends clued him in.

"It's really weird to see all this," Obenschain said.

Before the pep rally, nearly 2,000 students watched the game in the student union, and nearly all admitted they were pessimistic about Mason's chances when Connecticut forced the game into overtime with a last-second layup.

When Mason finally secured the win, "all hell broke loose," said junior Christina Bahrami from Fairfax. Students drove through campus, leaning out windows and exchanging high-fives with pedestrians.

"This has been the most unifying thing on campus that I've seen," said senior Casey Langdon, who wore a shirt with "Mason is Kryptonite" written on the back, paraphrasing the nationally televised pregame pep talk Larranaga gave his players before they defeated defending champion North Carolina in the second round.

People kept swarming into the Patriot Center after the victory. A crowd of about 2,000 was expected, and arena officials eventually had to open up the entire building to accommodate the crowd.

Jerry Tuben, a 1986 alumnus who lives near the campus, said he was surprised to see such a large crowd.

"The home games even lately haven't been selling out," he said. "Hopefully this will carry over and start something big."

The excitement over Mason's run is already having an impact, said Mason's director of admissions, Andrew Flagel.

"The phone is ringing off the hook," he said.

The 11th-seeded Patriots matched the 1986 LSU team as the lowest seed to reach the Final Four. They are the first team from a mid-major conference to get there since Penn of the Ivy League and Indiana State of the Missouri Valley in 1979.

Before knocking off Connecticut, George Mason beat No. 6 Michigan State 75-65, No. 3 North Carolina 65-60 and No. 7 Wichita State 63-55.