Friday, March 17, 2006

Who has heart?

George Mason has it. Despite playing with suspended starting guard Tony Skinn, the Patriots posted their first NCAA tournament victory ever by pulling away from Michigan State 75-65. Mason played the game at a comfortable pace and took good shots. They made 60% from the floor, making up for 46% free throw shooting. Even more telling, they outrebounded the Spartans 32-23. For Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, whose teams are known for their toughness and domination of the glass, that statistic, along with the final score, had to be particularly galling.

Northwestern State has it. The 14th seed Demons from Natchitoches, Louisiana never backed down from the Big Ten champion Iowa Hawkeyes. Northwestern State won the game on a ridiculous fadeaway three-pointer from the baseline by Jermaine Wallace with .5 seconds left. This was after the Demons had missed a three but secured the offensive rebound. Northwestern State shot only 38%, but took 19 more shots than the Hawkeyes thanks to forcing turnovers and grabbing offensive rebounds. When it came down to crunch time, the Demons crunched Iowa, ending the game on a 27-9 run.

Albany has it. Sure they lost, but they were a #16 seed playing mighty Connecticut, they were supposed to be a mere appetizer for more tasty opponents to come. The Great Danes thought differently and amazingly held a 10-point lead with 11 minutes remaining in the game. At this point the mighty Huskies finally decided to play and outscored Albany 32-9 over the balance of the game. I thought it was a shame for the team that put forth the most effort to lose, but overwhelming talent can make up for lackadasical play.

The NCAA tournament has it. The next time I hear someone say the best 65 teams should make the field and not grant an automatic bid to smaller conferences, I'll remind them of George Mason, Northwestern State, and Albany today. They displayed the heart and spirit that makes the NCAA basketball tournament the best sporting event in America.


At 11:14 AM, Anonymous Rico said...

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