Monday, March 27, 2006

UConn was just not able to turn it on against George Mason.

Let me tell you a story. When I was in high school, my brother, my cousins, some friends and I were in a youth bowling league. We began a season that would have two halves and the winners of the first half would play the winners of the second half. My team blew the rest of the teams out of the water in the first half. We were not the most talented bowlers in the world, but we were much better than those facing us.

After we won the first half of the season, we decided to just show up and not try as hard because we knew we were in the finals no matter what. We were not focused, we bowled between our legs, and we imitated other bowlers. We did not take things seriously.

When it came time for the final series we thought we could just switch it on and blow our opposing team out of the alley. We also thought that the team we were bowling against would be a little intimidated by us because we so dominated the first half that we figured our reputation would precede us.

Well, it didn’t happen like that. We bowled horribly and lost, badly. We could not focus and we were so out of rhythm in the second half of the season that it was impossible to get it all back in one series against a determined and focused team.

Why am I telling you this? Because I believe that is what happened to UConn against George Mason. UConn had already played three games in which they did not have to worry about really turning it on until it mattered. At the ends of their previous games, the opposing teams folded in the final seconds allowing UConn to slip away with a win. George Mason tried to do that by letting UConn force over time after George Mason missed crucial free throws.

I think you thought overtime was the end for George Mason, just like I did. UConn probably thought that way too. I thought that there was no way UConn would lose in overtime. George Mason decided it wasn’t the end and fought UConn to the finish. George Mason missed another crucial free throw leaving UConn plenty of time to drop another three to win this game. I had no doubt that this wouldn’t happen. I saw the shot bounce off the rim and UConn finally go down.

I think UConn was too much like a pro team. Like a pro team they only really got focused at the ends of games because that is winning time. George Mason was focused throughout and UConn let them believe that not only could George Mason hang with them, but they let George Mason believe they could beat them. That was UConn’s biggest downfall.

I believe George Mason’s coach, Jim Larranaga, needs to get a lot of credit for this run. He has kept the players focused on winning and not let them get a “just happy to be here” outlook going into the second set of weekend games. I also believe that Coach Larranaga did a good job of getting his players to not look at the names across the jerseys on the teams they have faced. That in itself is a big hurdle for a smaller team going up against a national power.

So my final four is demolished just like yours and I guess I should pick the last games and make myself look like an idiot. I am going with George Mason because they will not listen to those who say they should not be here. I do not think they will get rattled on this huge stage and I have been waiting for Florida to collapse since the second round.

I think LSU is just unstoppable right now, even though they have to rely on Glenn “Big Baby” Davis as their main three point threat. UCLA should not be allowed to play in Indianapolis because of the horrible game they were involved in against Memphis. LSU will dominate them inside and move on to the final.

In the final, as impressive as George Mason has looked thus far, I believe that the LSU Tigers are going end their run with a NCAA Championship banner. They are as hot as George Mason and Big Baby says he is still hungry. I don’t know about you, but I believe him. Of course these picks could be as wrong as my pre-tournament picks, but I think this is the way things will shake out. The LSU Tigers, your NCAA Tournament Champions.

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