Thank you George Mason

"It's something that's going to go down in history," said senior [Mason] guard Lamar Butler. "Whenever you talk about the Final Four, you have to mention us. We changed the face of college basketball."

Not a whole lot left to say about Mason's Final Four run, every angle and story has been covered. Liz Clarke at the Washington Post has a great paragraph summing up just what Mason has done.

"While energized Patriots fans, no doubt, will expect the team to build on its success, George Mason's 2006 tournament run was, in many ways, the result of a perfect storm -- a veteran team dominated by seniors who had come of age on court together, led by a masterful coach who had convinced them that anything and everything was within their grasp. And perhaps the final ingredient was the very absence of expectations. The Patriots were at least six-point underdogs in nearly every tournament game. So they played with total abandon; they played for fun."

Mason coach Larranaga did a masterful job of motivating his players while also keeping them relaxed. There is no better example of that than the pregame speech Coach Larranaga gave yesterday.

Coach Larranaga did something I've never seen before in the history of pregame speechs, he read a motivational poem that left Walt Whitman rolling in his grave. As bad as the poem was you could tell the Mason players loved it. And when Larranaga read the last line about Florida "leaving sooner than later" you could tell the enthusiasm from the Mason players was genuine. Especially when contrasted with the wooden "don't judge a team by the name on their jerseys speech" given by Gators coach Billy Donovan.

The World is Flat

Seth Davis has been pimping this concept pretty consistently this March, even before Mason made their run. In short this is the idea that the talent gap in college basketball has narrowed because so many talented guys are jumping to the NBA earlier and earlier. Ignoring the fact that Seth Davis stole this term from Tom Friedman, a better explanation for Mason's run would be there is more talent out there for the mid-majors to find. While it is true that the most talented players are still leaving college early for the NBA there where several teams this year which were stocked with NBA talent, notably UConn and Villanova.

Or to put my agrument another way, it's not so much that the power teams have gotten shorter (metaphorically speaking) but that the mid-majors have gotten taller (talent-wise). Through a combination of better scouting, overseas players, an increased number of professional jobs (i.e. European basketball leagues and NBDL) and better coaching the mid majors have more talent available to them than every before. As a result, there has been more talent in college backetball recently than at any other time.

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