Tuesday, March 6, 2007

New Slipper Officially Needed

Warning: The following recap is unnecessarily dramatic.

Win or go home. With all due respect to Austin Peay vs Eastern Kentucky, (a game that featured two last minute lead changes and a final seconds shot by freshman Josh Taylor), the theater of March Madness officially began Monday. George Mason, trying to defend its final four crown, playing its best basketball of the season, took CAA regular season champ VCU to the limit. Unlike AP-EK, this is the type of game that all bubble teams fear. George Mason was not in anyone’s projected NCAA tournament field, and if they won, they would steal a bid from someone else. Would it be VCU’s bid? Doubtful? Would it be Drexel’s bid? Possible.

Household names Folarin Campbell and Will Thomas did not care. They wanted to tell the world to stop asking “Who will be this year’s George Mason?” They were this year’s George Mason and they had the swagger to prove it. VCU may have been the one seed and favored to win, but was there any doubt when George Mason built a 5 point lead in the final minutes that the dream would live on?

And then, Eric Maynor drew upon his inner strength. The kind of strength that only special players can call upon in March. To channel the catch-phrase of Jay Bilas, Eric Maynor showed “the heart of a champion”.

Like Dee Brown taking on Michigan in his Big Ten MVP season, Maynor caused two consecutive steals to tie the game and then hit another basket to give his team the lead. And, despite all the heart of outgoing George Mason senior Gabe Norwood, scoring 10 points in 10 minutes, the dream was over for Mason. VCU was the CAA conference champ and it was VCU’s dream now. Will Maynor repeat his performance in the NCAA tournament and will VCU be this year’s Cinderella? Probably not. But March Madness is here and anything can happen.

Kyle Whelliston explains the VCU "chain" here. More on Eric Maynor here.