The NCAA Tournament first and second round games in Orlando, Fla., were full of lots of little subplots, just like every site in the tourney.
The first-round match-up between the University of Louisville and Creighton University featured two high-octane offenses that promised to put up huge numbers.
Samford University was hyped as “Southern-Fried Princeton” because they run back cuts and hoist up threes by the dozens. And the fans from the small Birmingham, Ala., school took over a large section of Orlando Arena March 11 to create a home-court atmosphere against St. John’s University.
University of Maryland head coach Gary Williams was trying to get past the “Sweet 16” for the first time in his career.
But above all the storylines were two centering around GW. And both, sadly, fizzled away rather quickly with the Colonials’ loss to Indiana University.
Nearly everyone in the stands and on press row in Orlando wanted to see GW, that little school that pops up with a No. 10 or 11 seed once in awhile, face former head coach Mike Jarvis and a resurrected program from St. John’s.
Many basketball commentators had been saying GW was a dark horse in the tournament and could make some noise. Jarvis had said March 10, the day before the tournament started, that it might have been a “conspiracy” that St. John’s and GW could meet in the second round.
If that was the master plan, somebody forgot to tell the Colonials.
Perhaps it was just as well that GW never got to face the Red Storm. Judging from the way Jarvis and company steamrolled Indiana and later Maryland, GW probably would have been flattened in the same way, or even worse. And that would have been more embarrassing than the blowouts GW suffered in its final two games against Indiana and Rhode Island.
The other storyline everyone was buzzing about was Shawnta Rogers. The 5-4 point guard had been lighting up the Atlantic 10 all season, but a down year for the conference meant he got little of the attention he deserved. With GW’s at-large bid into the NCAAs, he finally got into the national spotlight with a chance to prove himself to the country.
Rogers was bombarded with questions at the press conference the day before the game, and Jarvis, GW head coach Tom Penders, and Indiana head coach Bob Knight were all asked about the smallest college basketball player in the nation.
He started the Indiana game slowly, committing several turnovers as GW fell behind early. But the “oohs” and “ahs” reverberated throughout the “O-rena” as Shawnta led a GW comeback. In a play GW fans were used to seeing during the regular season, he drove the middle and somehow managed to hit a layup against much taller Indiana defenders.
But the comeback was short-lived, and GW was thoroughly trounced for the rest of the game. Rogers tried mightily to put the rest of the Colonials on the back of his 155-pound frame in the second half, taking 22 of GW’s 54 shots in the final 20 minutes.
But the comeback never came, and poof, nearly at the stroke of midnight, a tailor-made Cinderella was gone.