If You Believe in Yourself . . .

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By Michael Wilbon
Monday, March 27, 2006

There are few basketball outcomes more unimaginable than Chaminade beating Virginia in Honolulu 24 years ago. Chaminade, back then, was an NAIA school. That's further away from big-time college sports than Division III.

Chaminade was so small back then it shared a campus with a high school. Yet, one December night in 1982, the Silverswords beat Virginia of the mighty ACC, beat the undefeated and top-ranked Cavaliers, beat three-time player of the year Ralph Sampson.

I was there, sitting in Blaisdell Arena, the night that Chaminade beat Virginia.

So was Jim Larranaga.

He was on the wrong side of history that night, an assistant coach for Virginia, stunned like everybody in the gym in what is widely believed to be the greatest upset in college basketball history.

Yesterday, coaching another school in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Larranaga was on the right side of history. Even though George Mason had defeated Michigan State and North Carolina, half of last year's Final Four, earlier in this tournament, yesterday's victory over top-seeded Connecticut for a spot in the Final Four is no less than a hush-your-mouth stunner.

For me, nothing will ever be as big an upset as Chaminade beating Virginia. A Division I power wouldn't even schedule an NAIA school anymore.

It was the basketball equivalent of a super flyweight Golden Gloves champ knocking out Muhammad Ali in his prime.

But there was so much more at stake here yesterday, which makes George Mason beating Connecticut the college basketball equivalent of Ali beating Sonny Liston, which changed the fight game as we came to know it. In eight days, we could look back and see that George Mason was good enough to win a national championship. But yesterday, the Patriots shocked the world.

Maybe -- okay, probably -- this is the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history.

At this moment, six days before the Final Four begins, George Mason is the face of the NCAA tournament, an honorable and easy-to-root-for symbol of mid-major basketball programs everywhere. A tournament that began two weeks ago amidst a contentious debate over the worthiness of mid-majors, specifically George Mason, is now down to four teams, none of them No. 1 seeds.

Duke, out. Memphis, out. Villanova, out. Connecticut, out.


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