Posted: Sunday March 26, 2006 10:24PM; Updated: Monday March 27, 2006 12:37PM
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SI.com: Did you expect such resiliency from George Mason?
Davis: When UConn hit the shot to go into overtime, you definitely expected UConn to pull away in overtime. And [Jim] Larranaga said afterward -- and this is what I love about him -- said that he told his team, "There's nowhere I would rather be right now than with you guys in the Verizon Center, playing this game in overtime for a chance to go to the Final Four." So through it all, this guy maintained an unbelievably positive attitude. In the first round, they beat a very good Michigan State team without Tony Skinn. That's really amazing. Imagine Duke trying to play George Washington without J.J. Redick. This team just seems to have something special that at a time when most teams would have folded, George Mason was able to do it, and you just have to be so impressed.
SI.com: When did you start to believe that George Mason could actually win?
Davis: About midway through the second half, when it seemed like they were starting to click and it seemed like they were getting so excited and they started really feeling like they were going to win it. So I started feeling that they could win when it was obvious that they were feeling that they could win. It's funny, my mother was at the game, and she was with my nephew and my brother-in-law. And she was text-messaging very early in the game saying, "Can you hear the crowd, the crowd is incredible, it's all George Mason." It was really a home game for them, which is a great advantage to have in a regional final. So I think that had something to do with being able to come back after Denham Brown hits a shot like that at the end of regulation. Sometimes you just feed off the energy of the crowd. It was really special to watch. And my nephew's a college hoops fan for life now. I don't think I've ever been to a sporting event like that, and this kid's seven and he's been to one.
SI.com: How did George Mason overcome such a severe size disadvantage?
Davis: George Mason really just came to play. And Josh Boone has not played well in about six weeks. The thing is, everyone was expecting this light switch to go on for Connecticut, and this is just who they are. There was one point when Josh Boone was standing at the foul line and I thought, He looks like he would rather be anywhere else in the world than at the foul line late in this game shooting important free throws. He's just hoping he hits the rim. And Hilton Armstrong is a shot blocker/rebounder. He's not really a scorer in the post. They were going up against guys who are good basketball players. Will Thomas is unbelievable; he is a highly skilled sophomore. And then you throw in Folarin Campbell and Jai Lewis -- those are good players. It kind of goes back to the parity question; the talent disparity between Will Thomas and Hilton Armstrong or Josh Boone is not that great.
SI.com: In the grand scheme of things, how big is a Final Four run in terms of the mid-majors' fight for respect?
Davis: I think people now definitely understand what this parity is all about and where the sport is at. I think people who follow the sport closely have known this for some time now, but I think [for it to become apparent to everyone] it takes something exactly like this -- a legitimate mid-major sleeper to romp through big time programs and get to a Final Four. I hope people really start looking at the sport differently, whether it's the people who run the sport, the people who comment on the sport, the people who play the sport, watch the sport, general sports fans. I think that people need to take a much closer look at the way power-conference teams schedule -- that if you duck these guys, you should be judged on that.
SI.com: What were your thoughts about Florida's dominant performance?
Davis: I kind of stuck with Villanova because they were my pick and I didn't want to bail on them. And of course I'm sure that if I would have picked Florida then Villanova would have won the game. Florida was the worst kind of matchup for Villanova. Florida and Boston College both had size, and Boston College hurt Villanova with its size. But Florida's size also has speed. So the only way Villanova was going to win the game was to shoot really well from 3. And not only did they not shoot well, they shot very poorly.
SI.com: You've given much praise to the LSU front line, but how about this Gators duo?
Davis: Yeah, and it's not just the two starters. Florida brings two guys off the bench who are big and strong and pretty quick in Chris Richard and Adrian Moss. They have a deep front line. [Al] Horford and [Joakim] Noah complement each other extremely well -- not just in their styles but in terms of their personalities. Horford is an even-keel guy and Noah's a high-wattage guy.
SI.com: How big is it for Florida that Taurean Green got back on track against Villanova, scoring 19 points?
Davis: Definitely huge. Not that he has to score a lot for them, he just has to be a threat to score. Green and [Corey] Brewer are the attack guys, and Green's a better shooter than Brewer. They don't need him to score 20 points, they just need him to make timely 3s. And he did that today; he made a couple of really timely baskets when they needed them. If he gives that to them in Indianapolis, they're going to be really hard to beat.