Mason Nation to gather for 'Selection Sunday' Watch Party

Junior Ryan Pearson and his fellow Patriots share a laugh and celebrate at the end of their victory over Georgia State in the CAA Tournament. They will learn their fate for the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.  (John Powell)

Sunday is often a day of rest. A time for people of all ages across the nation to kick their feet up, relax, maybe go to Church. Maybe not. Often a day designated for getting things done, like homework, which rarely ends up happening.

However, this Sunday, March 13, is not like any other Sunday. This Sunday is “Selection Sunday.”

For those well informed in the world of college basketball, no further explanation is necessary. Selection Sunday is a big deal. It is the day the fates of teams from all over the nation are determined.

Sixty-eight teams will be left satisfied, the rest will be left questioning what went wrong and begin preparing for next season. Or maybe the NIT, or CIT, or PIT. Well, the PIT may not exist, but that’s exactly the point. Anything below the NCAA is like going to the Prom with your second, or third– or worse– choice. You’re just going because you know you have to but don’t really want to be there.

The point is, anything below the NCAA is seen as a failed season by many. Head coach Jim Larranaga has established a winning tradition at George Mason. His team’s miraculous run to the Final Four in ’06 is well documented, but he has been building that winning tradition ever since he arrived in Fairfax 14 seasons ago.

Luckily for Larranaga and this years’ squad, there will be little suspense as to whether they make the NCAA Tournament this year. They are in. If they are not– the entire county of Fairfax will rise up in revolt against the NCAA and restore order to the nation. Well, probably not, but let’s not dwell in something that simply won’t happen.

The Patriots will be dancing come Sunday– for those of you unfamiliar with college hoops lingo, the NCAA Tournament is referred to as the “Big Dance.”

Just because Larranaga’s crew knows they are in the field of 68 doesn’t mean they won’t be filled with anxiety come the Selection Show on CBS Sunday evening. They know they’re dancing, but they just don’t know who they’re dancing with or where. Unlike the Prom– well maybe just like the Prom for those of you who did go with your second or third choice– you don’t get to choose who you dance with in the NCAA Tournament.

Sharing that anxiety with the team will be Mason Nation. The players, students, cheerleaders, Masonettes, and the “Patriot” mascot will be gathered in the Johnson Center to watch the selection event live on two big screens that will be displayed in the atrium. The “Watch Party” will begin at 5:45 p.m with various giveaways and prizes.

Once the Patriots are officially announced as a member of the field of 68, it will be Mason’s third appearance in the tournament in the last six years. It will be Larranaga’s fifth appearance in his highly respected career.

In the latest bracketology projections by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the Patriots will be the eighth seed in the East Region, taking on the ninth-seeded Florida State Seminoles of the ACC in the opening round.

Lunardi had the Patriots as a seven seed out West prior to their loss to VCU in the CAA Tournament last weekend. That loss snapped the Patriots’ nation-leading 16 game winning streak and ended their hopes of winning both the regular season title and tournament championship in the CAA.

Yet, they achieved a record of 26-6 overall and 16-2 in the conference, the best season in school history.

They were ranked No. 25 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll last week, which was the first time a Mason team had ever been ranked nationally during the regular season. They currently sit in the 27th slot in the RPI rankings and were as high as 20th.

Yes, the Patriots will be dancing.

Whether they can jig their way back to the Final Four remains to be seen. Regardless, Larranaga, his team, the students, and the entire Mason Nation must be satisfied with what this team has already accomplished and not forget how far this team has come since losing to Wofford to fall to 2-2 back on Nov. 21.


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