Men’s Basketball Victory Receives National Attention

Posted: March 21, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Nicholas Zinzer

The George Mason men’s basketball team victory against the University of North Carolina on Sunday earned the team more than a spot in the Sweet 16. In addition to advancing in the national tournament, the team’s prowess on the courts has caused the country to sit up and pay attention.

Members of university administration, as well as the coaches and players, have been getting media attention in numerous national publications and on TV.

“Being in the Sweet 16 is fantastic,” said President Alan Merten, as quoted in The Washington Post. “When I walked off the court, people were asking me for tickets [to the Wichita State game on Friday]. I have friends now I didn’t know I had.”

Head Coach Jim Larranaga told media outlets that Mason proved critics wrong as a result of Sunday’s victory. “I think a lot of the experts expected [UNC] to dominate us…We have enough faith and confidence in ourselves that we’re not listening to the experts and the so-called prognosticators,” said Larranaga, according to the Ohio daily newspaper The Blade.

Jai Lewis at microphone
Jai Lewis is one of the Patriots who is getting used to having a microphone in front of him.
Mason Athletics photo

Senior guard Lamar Butler echoed Larranaga’s view of media critics when he was interviewed after the game. “We didn’t get a lot of respect this year, even though we thought [men’s basketball] is the best it’s ever been,” said Butler, according to the Dayton Daily News. Speaking to The Washington Post, Butler said, “We showed ourselves against Michigan State … we beat the third seed, the defending national champions. We earned our way [to the Sweet 16].”

Senior guard Tony Skinn, who sat out Friday’s game against Michigan State but played Sunday, told The Washington Post, “We just worked so hard, day in and day out, fighting each other literally…The victory we got today, we deserved it so much.”

Caulton Tudor of The News and Observer, a North Carolina daily newspaper, says the “65-60 [UNC] loss … will stand for years among the rank postseason showing in UNC history.” At the same time, he grudgingly praised the George Mason team. “To the Patriots’ credit, they were committed enough to take the win that was handed them.”

The Virginian-Pilot calls George Mason the “biggest party crasher” of the tournament. The newspaper described Mason as “an unknown interloper for [basketball] fans beyond the beltway and something of an obscure curiosity even along the Potomac, despite its proximity to the Sweet 16 party.”

Dayton Daily News described Mason as a potential fan favorite because of its underdog status. “You [have] a team that is a long-shot second-round participant. GMU also could be a fan-favorite dark horse.”

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