Posted: Monday March 27, 2006 9:55AM; Updated: Monday March 27, 2006 12:39PM
Folarin Campbell helped drive George Mason past UConn and into the Final Four.
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I tried to warn you. Right here on this very Web site, a little more than two weeks ago, I did my best to foreshadow the improbable Final Four field that bore itself out this weekend. I even gave you two of the teams, LSU and UCLA.
But you didn't listen, did you? When you filled out your bracket, you slotted one of the two supposed heavyweights, Duke or UConn, into that national-title line. It's understandable. Tournament history tells us it's almost always a good bet to go with the grain. After all, six of the past seven national champions (1999 UConn, 2000 Michigan State, 2001 Duke, 2002 Maryland, 2004 UConn and 2005 North Carolina) were teams that, like the Blue Devils and Huskies this year, spent the entire regular season at or near the top of the polls.
As I wrote on Selection Sunday, however: "There is no team [this year] that, like North Carolina last year, scares the living bejesus out of people. There is no team that, like Illinois last year, seems to have that magical aura of destiny. But there are about 27 teams that, like Michigan State last year, are sitting there non-threateningly in the middle of the bracket right now just waiting to spring up and terrorize your office pool."
Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you UCLA, Florida, LSU and George Mason?
OK, so I can't take full credit. I did have another now-eliminated No. 1 seed, Villanova, winning it all. And George Mason was hardly in the "middle" of the bracket. But the same logic that applied to those selections back then -- the lack of truly dominant teams in college basketball this season -- is the same reason any of the four remaining teams could down the net next Monday.
And that absolutely, positively includes George Mason.
The reason the four No. 1 seeds are no longer with us is that, unlike in some years past, each had discernible weaknesses that an opponent was eventually able to exploit. Duke wasn't athletic enough. Connecticut lacked ball-handlers (though that seemed to hurt the Huskies more in their Sweet 16 win over Washington than in their Elite Eight loss to George Mason). Villanova lacked size. Memphis lacked experience.