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Monday, March 27, 2006

March Madness and the Miracle on Wood

I'm convinced that the NCAA Tournament is the greatest annual sporting event there is. This year's tourney once again has produced unforgettable moments, astonishing performances, and games to remember. History was made yesterday, as unheralded George Mason completed their magical run through the bracket by slaying the giant, the Connecticut Huskies, 86-84. The Patriots matched mighty UConn basket for basket, even outrebounding the much taller and more athletic Huskies. They overcame adversity at the end of regulation when UConn's Denham Brown capitalized on a Patriot missed free throw to convert a stunning reverse layup with .1 second left to force overtime.

Like everyone else outside the UConn community, I was pulling hard for the Cinderella story. I literally felt nauseous when UConn sent the game to OT. It felt over: George Mason had their chance and UConn wouldn't let it slip away this time. But you know the rest of the story. George Mason came out with resilience in the extra period, hit 5 of 6 shots in continuing to play out of their minds, and once again missed free throws to give UConn one last chance. When Denham Brown got a good look and hoisted a final three-point shot, I was just sure it would fall. Amazingly, it didn't and the George Mason Patriots go the Final Four. They become the first small school to make it since 1979 saw Indiana St and Penn advance.

I haven't even touched on the other games: Texas' buzzer beater against West Virginia, the UCLA stunner over Gonzaga, the tears of Redick and Morrison, Boston College's goaltending in the final seconds against Villanova, UConn's wild win over Washington, the charisma and talent of LSU's Big Baby, and on it goes. This weekend we saw LSU, UCLA, Florida and George Mason ensure that no one seeds would make it to Indianapolis. Right now, I like an all-SEC final of LSU against Florida. But any of the remaining four could win, including George Mason. Our brackets are all in tatters. Just 4 people out of 1.5 million in ESPN's bracket contest picked this Final Four. 4 people! But who cares if my bracket is in shambles. I will trade an accurate bracket anyday for the George Masons of the world reminding us that reality can and does surpass the manufactured magic of Disney.

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