Gus Johnson breeds excitement.
Seriously. Its unreal. It seems like every game that he calls in the NCAA Tournament comes down to the wire, so it should be no surprise that No. 8 George Mason’s exciting, 61-57 comeback win over No. 9 Villanova had Mr. March Madness on the call.
Mason was down for much of the second half, and after getting to with a point on a couple of different occasions midway through the half, the Patriots found themselves down 54-48 with about two minutes left in the game. But the Patriots used a 13-3 run, capped by an emphatic put-back dunk from Mike Morrison and an ankle-breaking, step-back three from Luke Hancock.
The only thing less surprising than an exciting finish with Johnson on the call is a late-game collapse by Villanova.
For the second straight season, the Wildcats finished off a disastrous finish to their year with an early exit in the NCAA Tournament. And much like their first round loss to South Florida in the Big East Tournament, the Wildcats looked as good early in the game as they did bad down the stretch.
Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes were both on fire in the first half, but neither could buy bucket in the second half as Jay Wright’s team, once again, resorted to dribbling the air out of the ball. Its almost frustrating to watch Villanova late in a game. Fisher and Maalik Wayns seemingly take turns dribbling out the shot clock and forcing up a tough shot.
One of the talking points coming into the tournament was that the Big East was overrated; that there was no way that a league sending 11 teams to the tournament would produce results living up to expectations; that the Big East had a lot of good and not much great.
And while Villanova lost this game, don’t let that sway your opinion about the Big East’s performance as much as, say, Louisville’s loss to Morehead State.
Most folks had George Mason winning this game. I know I did. In fact, a Villanova win would have been a much more surprising result. Using this as evidence of the lack of power in the Big East would be a slap in the face of this Patriot team.
Villanova lost their last six games, eight of their final 10, and ten of their final 14. George Mason was on a 16 game winning streak — the longest in the nation — when VCU beat them in the semifinals of the CAA Tournament. George Mason is a very good basketball team, even if they didn’t play like it for the first 38 minutes today.
The most impressive part about this victory is that George Mason was able to win despite getting poor performances out of both Cam Long and Ryan Pearson, their two leading scorer. The two combined for 15 points, 10 boards, four assists, and six turnovers on 4-17 shooting from the field. Instead, it was Luke Hancock (18 points, five assists) and Mike Morrison (10 points, 11 boards, four offensive) that carried the Patriots.
Those two are going to be very important on Sunday.
George Mason is not a very big basketball team. They don’t have a lot of depth in their front court, which is not a good thing with Ohio State and Jared Sullinger on the docket for Sunday.
The Buckeyes are also a very good defensive team, and Hancock, despite being the team’s small forward, is the team’s best ball handler and creator.
Ohio State is the best team in the country. There are not many teams that matchup well with them, and George Mason is no different.
But if the Patriots get the kind of play they got out of Hancock and Morrison today, and Pearson and Long play up to their standards, GMU has a shot.
No one thought Jim Larrananga was going to be able to knock off UConn in 2006, either.