Friday, July 23, 2010

Flashback Friday: George Mason's Run To The Final Four

Posted by CoHoops DeAnte Mitchell Photo
Back in 2006, the College Basketball world was shocked. George Mason made a run to the Final Four before being defeated by the Florida Gators, who were then-National Championships.

But before anything like that happened, the Patriots made a magical run.

After or even before losing in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament to Hofstra, the Patriots were never considered to win any games after that.

But on Selection Sunday, the Patriots were granted a No. 11 seed and had the right to play the Michigan State Spartans. Now if you were following the year the Spartans had, it was average, but they still should have beaten the Patriots.

But that didn't happen. With balanced scoring throughout the starting line-up and great frontcourt play, the Patriots were able to take down the Spartans early and went on to win the game by ten.

They were on their way to playing the North Carolina Tar Heels in the second round. 

North Carolina was a better squad. They were (12-4) in the ACC, while acquiring a No. 3 seed in the tournament. Not to mention, they were the defending National Champions.

The Patriots frontcourt once again, locked down in the post. The Tar Heel great Tyler Hansbrough was limited to a ten point performance. The double-team worked and the Patriots moved on to the winners circle.

With Wichita State, the Patriots were looked to win this game. They're magical run was going to continue passed the Shockers.

But once they reached the UConn Huskies' everyone thought the dream run could be over. The Huskies were a No. 1 seed and with the Rudy Gay at the helm. So did you really think the Patriots could overcome the experience and talent on the Huskies roster?

At least I didn't. But they surely proved me wrong.

After one half of play, the Patriots season looked over. It was 43-34 and UConn was all over George Mason in attempt to stop an upset-bid.

However, after resurgence in the second half the Patriots took a two-point lead and the game looked like it was headed towards an upset. But that all changed when Denham Brown hit the game-tying layup as time expired.

Heading into overtime, George Mason had the momentum on their side. Once it was time to play in overtime, you could tell this was the Patriots game to win. They held the UConn Huskies scoreless during the right stretch and pulled away.

The George Mason Patriots from the Colonial Conference made a magical run to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

"I think it's been working for us, calling us Cinderella," Skinn said. "We were not supposed to get into the tournament, we got into it. We were not supposed to beat Michigan State and we beat them. Weren't supposed to beat North Carolina and we beat them. We definitely weren't supposed to be UConn. I think we'll stick to the script going into whoever we play. We don't mind being the Cinderella."

Now after the win over the No. 1 seed, the Patriots advanced to play the Florida Gators.

Now with the way George Mason had played throughout the tournament, they could have brought the Gators down--right.

But in reality, we all wanted to see them play longer. But the big-three of Florida, which presented Al Horford, Joakim Noah, and Corey Brewer, was just too much for the Patriots.

In the first half, the game was real tight. Going into the half, the Patriots were down just five to the No. 1 seeded Florida Gators.

However, in the second half, the Gators took over. Lee Humphrey collectively took the game over in the second half. He came out and hit three straight three-balls, and a free-throw that pushed the lead to 41-28.

After that, the game was already in the books. The Gators never let them get back in the game, and marched on to victory.

There frontcourt couldn't do the things they were accustom to because of the frontier force of Noah and Horford.

They ended with 25 compared to the 36 the Gators were able to pull down.

So with that said, the magical run was over and the Patriots sent home.

But it was a different approach for the program. They were the first team out of the CAA to make the Final Four; the second team to reach the Final Four as a double-digit seed; they were ranked No. 8 when the final poll came out, which happens to be the best ranking in school history; and made one of the best runs by a mid-major in tournament history.

George Mason run to the Final Four will always be compared with other mid-major programs. They defeated the tough opponents on their way to the Final Four.

If they could have stopped Humphrey's three-balls I think they would have had the chance to take down the eventual National Champion Florida Gators.

(Flashback Friday is a segment CoHoops does every week. If you missed last weeks segment of Flashback Friday, click here to read. To review the series click here)


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