I‘ve probably seen “Hoosiers” 25 times, “Rocky” and “Rudy” 10 times each, and just a few weeks ago I saw “Miracle” for the first time. Less than an hour after the credits had rolled, it was back on, and I couldn’t resist.
Not once when these movies have been on have I not been sucked in and not had goosebumps at some point while watching.
But, in the end, it’s just a movie, and I always eventually wonder what it would have been like to have seen the improbable upset as it was actually happening. It has to be better than having it recreated by people who won’t hesitate to fudge the details if it amps up the drama, right?
Thanks to the George Mason Patriots, which defeated top-seeded Connecticut to advance to the Final Four in a tournament that many felt they didn’t even belong, in the first place, I now know the answer is “Yes.”
It’s silly to say this just hours after Denham Brown’s game-winning 3-point attempt bounced off the rim, but right now I can’t imagine ever watching another game that will leave me as ridiculously giddy as this game. In fact, the more and more I dwell on the game, the more incredible it becomes.
George Mason already had an amazing run, beating two of last year’s Final Four teams in Michigan State and defending champion North Carolina and fellow mid-major Wichita State. But throughout the game, it was clear that even the players knew that beating Connecticut would dwarf their previous accomplishments.
Throughout the second half, as the Patriots walked to the bench for every timeout, you could see them smiling, proud that they were ahead at that point, even though it might not last. Then, when Brown hit a miraculous reverse lay-up to tie the game at the end of regulation, the dream had to be over. George Mason had to be too deflated to play another five minutes, and Connecticut would be too elated. But that wasn’t the case.
And Connecticut, which could ultimately send eight or nine players to the NBA, didn’t even play poorly. In fact, they hadn’t played that well since the regular season. George Mason was just better.
As anyone who has been watching could tell you, this year’s NCAA Tournament has been absolutely incredible. In the last four days, nine out of the 12 games went down to the wire. From start to finish, the NCAA Tournament is the most riveting event in sports.
And can you imagine what it will be like this week at George Mason, a small commuter school in suburban Virginia? Many people likely knew nothing about the school, and now for a full week, it will be impossible not to hear about it. They’ve got to be just straight-up partying nonstop until Saturday’s game.
March Madness has always been awesome, but this year has completely surpassed anything before it. As far as I’m concerned, the only way it could be better is if Michigan was in it.
Next year, right?
Sharad Mattu tried very hard not to bring up the Michigan basketball team. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.