March Moment: The Cinderella That Refused To See MidnightPosted by jstevrtc on March 28th, 2010
Few college basketball fans are born with their love for the game. For most aficionados, at some point on the way from infancy to college hoops fan, there is a moment. A single play, shot, player, game, or event at which point they say to themselves, “I will always have this in my life.” Because it is the time of the season that carries the most gravitas, these things often happen in March. We asked some of our friends and correspondents: what was the thing that turned you into a lifelong college basketball fan? What was your…March Moment? We’ll be posting some of their answers for the rest of the month.
In this submission, correspondent Steve Coulter tells a tale of a very rare occasion on which he changed allegiances from the team he loved to a team that went on a tournament run that we’ll still all be talking about decades from now:
In my short lifetime there have been many memories from to the three glorious weeks referred to as March Madness.
There was Valparaiso’s miracle run to the Sweet 16 when I was only seven. I can still remember watching highlights of the Bryce Drew game with my dad later that day. There was #15 Hampton’s huge upset of #2 Iowa State when I was only ten. I stayed up that night with my brother, but as the game wore on into the night we both found ourselves sound asleep and kicking ourselves the next morning while watching ESPN. More recently there was Davidson’s Elite 8 run in 2008. Stephen Curry proved to be the littlest giant ever to step onto the hardwood in March, destroying the title hopes of teams such as Gonzaga, Georgetown, and Wisconsin. They almost conquered Kansas, the team that eventually won the tournament, losing 59-57 in a game for the ages.
All of these have been great and there have been many more excellent games, moments, and stories in my 19 years, but I am a sucker for the underdog and March Madness is where David always has a chance to conquer Goliath. And no true underdog team has ever pushed against all odds and had so much success in the NCAA tournament in my lifetime or anybody else’s than No. 11 seeded George Mason, who in 2006 shocked the entire basketball world by becoming the most unlikely Final Four team in all of history.
The Patriots proved to be as courageous as their team name was, upsetting every team they played and proving the analysts wrong consistently. Although other outsiders have cut down the nets, Mason’s run was so remarkable to me, because they had me cheering against my own home state, and favorite team, the University of Connecticut. Never in my life had I cheered against one of my teams to lose, but on this special occasion I was nearly voiceless at the end of the thrilling upset.
Goliath, #1 seeded UConn, had been stunningly slayed by a team that had been doubted ever since the beginning and was drastically over matched, yet when the game ended the score read, George Mason 86, UConn 84. As an at-large team, George Mason’s stay in the 2006 tournament was supposed to be short-lived. Almost everyone I knew had No. 6 Michigan State beating them. I know I did.
When they beat the Spartans, I didn’t even bother to turn on the game between #3 seeded North Carolina, the team that had won in 2005, and no-name George Mason. I got a call with around three minutes in the left of the game from a friend, who told me that a No. 11 team was threatening to ruin everyone’s brackets and keep on dancing. After the back-to-back upsets, there was no way I thought the Patriots could advance further, but this time I made sure to watch just to make sure.
I was mistaken again as they beat another mid-major, the Wichita State Shockers, by eight points.
Then came the Sunday afternoon matchup against the Huskies, the team I had watched win two national titles and who I had been rooting hard for all tournament long to win another title. When it started, though, I was neutral. I still was at halftime. By the time it was through I was bleeding green and yellow.
I remember watching the Final Four game against Florida the following week with my friends mocking me for rooting so hard for a team that didn’t stand a chance. They didn’t understand that I, like the Patriots, did not want to see the clock hit midnight and did not want to stop dancing; it had been a great tournament and to see Florida go to the national championship was something I did not want to see. Of course the Gators defeated Cinderella, but at that point it didn’t matter. The Patriots had cemented their legacy into March Madness folklore, to be passed down from generation to generation.
I just hope to see something like it again in the next 19 years, but for now I can live with the memory.