Loyola-Chicago has had an unbelievable run to the Final Four as they were an 11 seed coming into the tournament and not many gave them a chance to win. One thing that should be noted is that they are a really good team, so it shouldn’t come too much as a shock with their run, but it certainly wasn’t expected. The team, in the first three games, won by a combined four points as they played their competition really close, but won comfortably in their Elite 8 game against Kansas State. Loyola-Chicago plays fundamentally sound basketball and play as a team while not having a “star” player on their squad to rely on. This was more than deserving for the school and it’s been fun to watch them play.
However, it does remind me of something that I will always remember, George Mason’s run to the Final Four in 2006. Not many people gave George Mason a chance during the tournament and even some people thought they didn’t even deserve a berth after losing in their conference tournament in the semi-finals. However, they got one and that’s all that mattered. One thing many people forget is that they were even in the Top 25 at one point that season. George Mason was a good team, so when people made their predictions, they forgot how talented they were. In the first round, they beat a very good Michigan State team, but what was more impressive was their contest against North Carolina, the defending champions. After falling into a deep hole early in the game, George Mason stuck to their game plan and came from behind to beat UNC. Their next game was against Wichita State, but George Mason shot extremely well and didn’t look back as they defeated Wichita State comfortably. However, their next game was going to be a test as they faced off against the one seed in their region, UConn. What transpired was probably one of the greatest games in the history of the tournament. Neither team had all that big of a lead in the game as it was played close. Maybe because of the stakes, so many were tuned into watching the contest especially around the D.C. area. George Mason played hard and played like a team, like Loyola-Chicago, by not depending on a “star” player to lead them to victory. Despite the intensity of the game and how talented UConn was, George Mason won, sending everyone into a frenzy. If you ever get a chance, watch that game. It was the most incredible games I have ever watched. The jubilation I experienced was as if they had just won National Championship. And at that time, it was one of the most remarkable accomplishments in the history of the tournament. George Mason is a commuter school and a mid-major, so to see the program even accomplish that is way more incredible than people may realize.
Loyola-Chicago is in that same boat. Right now, their run is not quite as remarkable as George Mason’s, but if they can beat Michigan in the Final Four (heck, even becoming National Champions) then it would be more incredible. However, watching their run has been giving me flashbacks of George Mason’s. It’s been a lot of fun and it has been exciting to watch. That being said, to all the fans of Loyola-Chicago, enjoy this moment. It was so much fun when George Mason did it and I know exactly how it feels to be in the position you all are in. Soak it all in. While it didn’t quite go the way I wanted to see the season end, I kept smiling.
I hope your team can accomplish more.