Everyone wet their pants over George Mason getting to last year's Final Four. It was a great site to see, a little guy knocking off Michigan State, North Carolina and UConn en route to college basketball's biggest stage.
Of course, it used to be that those little guys would get to that stage routinely. In the 1970s, we had Penn, Indiana State, Western Kentucky, Jacksonville, St Bonnaventure and New Mexico State. And schools like Florida State, Memphis, Providence and Marquette weren't household names either.
Oh, and there was UNC-Charlotte.
I went to school at UNCC in the early 1990s when the basketball program was making it's re-emergance to the national stage. We were transitioning from the Sun Belt conference to the Metro Conference to what would eventually be Conference USA. Still, the signature moment of the basketball history is the 1977 season. The 1977 Final Four in Atlanta.
To get to the Final Four, the 49ers [who were in just their 7th season of D-1 hoops] had to beat Central Michigan, Syracuse and Michigan. The year before, this team played in the NIT title game [back when it still had a little bit of flavor] and now is in the Final Four.
When you think of that 1977 season, you think of Al McGuire's Marquette team smacking up North Carolina for the National Championship. It neatly didn't get to that point. Marquette skimmed by UNCC, 51-49, in the semifinals.