Well, the answer to that often-asked question may very well be… George Mason.
At 26-6, Mason has compiled its best pre-NCAA Tournament season record to date, and for several weeks the Patriots have been included in various lists of the top-30 teams in the nation. Though it fell in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament semi-final, it earned an at-large bid to this year’s tournament this past Sunday and is seeded eighth in the East Region. Mason will play Villanova on Friday, March 18th in the first round.
Andre Smith (left) and Lamar Butler (right) embrace after the Patriots' victory over the #1-seeded University of Connecticut in the 2006 East Regional Championship game. Image from the George Mason University Archives Collection, University Publications.
It’s hard to believe it was five years ago that Mason received a generous at-large bid and turned it into an historic Final Four run, knocking off Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State, and Connecticut, only losing to the eventual national champ, Florida. It is a safe bet that many of us in the Mason Community remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when Mason defeated heavily-favored UConn on March 26, 2006 to become a member of the NCAA’s Final Four. On that Sunday afternoon, and for four weeks in March, the atmosphere here at George Mason University was undeniably electric.
Though we collect archival materials relating to all university happenings year-round, Special Collections & Archives began collecting items relating to the 2005-2006 basketball season and the historic Final Four run with added enthusiasm during March 2006. History was indeed happening right here at Mason. To that end, we assembled a collection of any and all materials relating to that memorable month and year. “Giveaway” items related to the team such as whistles and other items were saved. Fliers and posters advertising events on campus relating to the tournament were carefully collected from campus walls and doors. People stepped forward to donate items they had collected themselves. Oral history interviews of persons involved in the Final Four run – from players to university administrators – were recorded by our Oral History Program staff.
Interview with Jim Larranaga, 2006. Please click on this image to view a short segment from the interview.
The George Mason University Men’s Basketball Collection, 2006 contains over one hundred distinct items relating to Mason’s 2005-2006 season and postseason. It is comprised of artifacts, such as figurines, t-shirts, objects; printed materials such as posters, banners, fliers, programs, tickets, news articles, and oral history recordings (DVD and Mp3). Though the majority of the items were either produced by the University or members of the University community, some, such as game tickets or game programs, were produced by outside sources. A digital archive displaying many of the items in the physical collection can be accessed at http://digilib.gmu.edu:8080/dspace/handle/1920/1021.
"Coach in the Box" featuring Coach Jim Larranaga. From the George Mason University Men's Basketball Collection, 2006