Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Does the slipper fit?

The media frenzy over George Mason making it to the Final Four is now just about in the hangover phase. All the local hairdos have done their remotes from the Fairfax campus of Mason trying desperately to round up a few students to jump around like chimps for the cameras. The local sports radio hacks are asking breathlessly what the implications are for Mason's program, the Colonial league, mid-major schools and mankind's existential dilemma. The national media isn't much better because the sports establishment is terrified of a ratings disaster given the unimpressive quartet that is still left.

LSU has a team full of athletes and one fat kid who are mostly devoid of any basketball skills. Florida doesn't have even a single recognizable star on their team that the casual fan would be able to identify. UCLA can't seem to score more than 60 points a game and when they're on defense their games resemble a prison yard riot. None of them are pretty or polished teams. Some of the games may be exciting in a "how big of a set back for college basketball will this be?" kind of way. Call me a kill joy but the fact that a squad like George Mason is in the Final Four is a prime example of how mediocre college basketball has become.

The media love a good underdog story, even if they have to shape and massage a story to fit that description. No one will mention this week that when the NCAA released its Academic Progress Report (APR) in February that George Mason failed to reach the minimum score of 925. The Colonials won't face any punishment yet since the NCAA instituted "squad-size adjustment" producing a grace period of 4 years for teams that don't meet the standard. Everyone assumes that since these kids don't play in the big bad power conferences that they are actually something closer to "student athletes" than those just using college as a stop over to the NBA. The reality is they are not much different at all, except that they don't possess the talent to ever make a living playing basketball. Tony Skinn, the star of the team and famous testicle cheap shot artist, couldn't even explain to the media who the man his university was named after was in American history and could only produced the lone fact that Mason signed the Constitution. Too bad that is incorrect.

I suppose the kind of history that Skinn should be more concerned about is that the last time a mid-major school made a famous run to the semifinals it resulted in one of the most lopsided defeats in tournament history as Michigan State obliterated Penn 101-67 in the 1979 tournament. When Marquette made an improbable run to the Final Four behind Dwayne Wade they also endured one of the most lopsided losses in tournament history to a powerful Kansas team in the semifinals, 94-61. Problem is that George Mason doesn't have a player nearly as talented as Wade.

1 comment:

Scratch said...

Yeah, but no one will confuse the Gators for the Magic Johnson-led Spartans or even the Hinrich-Collison Jayhawks of 2003. Mason already snuck past the most talented team in college basketball last round, so who knows? Chances are Florida won't make the same mistake as UConn in refusing to admit that their big guys needed help against Will Thomas and Jai Lewis, and this Cinderella story will end before midnight, but the talent disparity isn't as wide as one might think.