Miracle Mason reaches Final Four
2006 NCAA tournament, regional final: George Mason 86, Connecticut 84 (OT)
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I was sitting behind Connecticut's bench that day, and I couldn't get over how much the Huskies looked as though they wanted the season to end. I had never seen a team that didn't enjoy winning. Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun was imploring his team to put away the pesky Patriots. This might have been the first time an 11-seed was the home team in an Elite Eight game. (The game was in Washington, D.C.) The atmosphere was like something I had never seen in the NCAA tournament. Seeing a mid-major team such as George Mason break through to the Final Four defines the tournament.
The euphoria in the Mason locker room was one of sheer joy. The stunned faces on the players, the coaching staff and the upper administration described how improbable this was for the Patriots. Connecticut, a No. 1 seed that entered the game with a 30-3 record, had so many chances to win the game but never closed out Mason. Mason's determination, its will to do the little things, ended up being the difference.
Just glance at the Connecticut roster: Josh Boone, Rudy Gay, Hilton Armstrong and Marcus Williams are in the NBA. Denham Brown is playing professionally, as is Jeff Adrien. Mason's roster was filled with players who wouldn't have cracked UConn's top 6. This win couldn't have been predicted. But the determination of the Patriots and the fogginess of the Huskies led to an improbable upset, one of the benchmark games in tournament history.