Tuesday, March 25, 2008

This Year's Mouse

We are at the point of the NCAA Tournament when unexpected story lines start to garner mass media attention. With his 70 total points in the first two games, I am sure that #10 seed Davidson's Stephen Curry has a backlog of interview requests, and #7 seed West Virginia's star player Joe Alexander has an interesting profile in today's NYT. (By the way, Alexander makes Larry Bird look like a slacker).

In my mind, the first player and team to come from the nether regions of college basketball to tournament stardom was Ken "Mouse" McFadden and his Cleveland State Vikings in 1986. As a 14th seed, and believe it or not at-large invitee since their conference was not assured of an automatic bid, Mouse's Vikings upset Bob Knight's #3 seed Indiana Hoosiers in the first round and #6 seed St Joseph's Hawks in the second round before falling 71-70 to David Robinson and the Navy Midshipmen in the Sweet 16.

Mouse was a freshman recruit out of New York City, brought to Cleveland by Coach Kevin Mackey, who designed a frentic pressing style, dubbed the Run 'N Stun, to be able to compete with larger, more physical teams. It worked brillantly, but more importantly captured the fancy of basketball fans across the country, most of whom would have been hardpressed to locate Cleveland State if the city had not been in their name.

The fleeting nature of stardom (nobody gets residuals from their basketball game performances) is well illustrated by the Cleveland State story though, as the Vikings have not been back to the Big Dance since. Oh, and Mackey was arrested at a crack house four years later. But we have Curry and Alexander this year, the latest in the legacy of the House That Mouse Built.

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