Where Did This Final Four Come From?

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Commentator John McCann looks at the unlikely contenders competing this weekend for a shot at the NCAA men's basketball title. McCann is a columnist for The Herald-Sun in Durham, N.C., home of Duke's Blue Devils, one of many powers upset on the road to Indianapolis.


Next on NEWS AND NOTES, Atlanta has become a Mecca for black Americans. And a new movie that opens today brings the city to the big screen. We'll hear from the director of the movie ATL about what attracts people to Hotlanta.

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CHIDEYA: You're listening to NEWS AND NOTES from NPR News.

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CHIDEYA: Next time on NEWS AND NOTES, we'll look at the state of black America report issued by the National Urban League and Robin Givens makes history on Broadway. She'll join us to talk about her role as Roxy Hart, in the musical, Chicago.

I'm Farai Chideya; join us next time for NEWS AND NOTES from NPR News.

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This Saturday, four teams will go head to head to vie for slots in the NCAA basketball championship games. Commentator John McCann says this year's final four is not the usual suspects. One Cinderella team in particular made it to the big dance without all-star dunks and jump shots, simply good old fashioned team work.

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Mr. JOHN McCANN (Commentator): Remix: (singing) bet your bottom dollar I can make you holler, don't you know all black men can't jump.

Mr. McCANN: Not all of us can run fast either, or dance, or as you just found out, not all the brothers can sing well, like me. And even those of us who know how to put the ball through the hoop a little bit, not all of us are worthy of being the first dude selected in a pick-up game.

Which brings me to the NCAA Basketball tournament: man it's been a good one. Not just the men's hoops, the ladies have been ballin' to. Ballin' like men, chest bumps and popping their collars and all that. I mean, did you see that girl from the University of Tennessee, Candice Parker, homegirl took off down the court and rolls up LeBron James and slam dunked. Then she came back later on a backdoor cut and flushed it down. I'm like, good gracious young girl!

But then I started hatin', because I was in a rec league recently. There I was on a break toward the basket, and I rose up too like LeBron--and the ball came clanging off the rim. So here's to Candice Parker and them shooting set shots and leaving the dunks to the fellas, all right?

You see what's happening in the NBA, don't you? Dudes can't even shoot 15-foot jumpers because they lack the fundamentals. Everybody's trying to be like Mike. Hey, I ain't hatin' on the ladies, just trying to preserve the integrity of the game. Well, okay, I am hatin'. So don't mind me, ladies, you all go and do your thing, because the juggernauts in the world of women's college hoops are still hanging around the tournament as expected.

Now a different story with the men, where all the number one seats have been sent back to campus. All the so-called bracketologists, have by now invested in large buckets of White-Out to correct their tournament sheets. And that's due in large part to the eleventh-seeded George Mason Patriots, the Cinderella story from the obscure Colonial Athletic Association. The University is viewed as a little commuter school in Fairfax, Virginia. As for being steeped in tradition, it was just founded in 1972. But here they are, 10 brothers, a couple of white boys, and two Hispanics, poised to win it all.

Now on its face you would say, more black guys on the team than white, they ought to be as good as anybody. But I just told you not all black guys can jump. We're not all Michael, or Magic, who really wasn't a great leaper, but man could he pass. And George Mason shows you don't have to be like those guys. George Mason shows that a good team goes farther than a couple of great individuals.

See I live here along college basketball's storied Tobacco Road, where Duke University's JJ Redick and Sheldon Williams are watching the rest of the tournament from the crib. UNC had a dominant freshman in Tyler Hansbrough, but it wasn't enough to outlast the senior leadership of George Mason.

I was on a conference call this week with George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga when he said UNC probably would have beaten his team this year, if former Tar Heels Shaun Nea(ph), Rashad McCants and Raymond Felton hadn't left school early for the NBA. I asked the coach if any of his guys would ever even make it to the NBA. And he said the leagues enamored with big bodies, so it'd be a long shot for his undersized guys; yet here they are. A team basketball gurus said didn't even deserve a shot at the big dance on the cusp of doing something great.

And in the process, they're teaching us something great: that sheer individual talent has it's advantages, but there's so much power in the collective; and sticking together; and not being crabs in a pot and pulling each other down to promote self; instead being a team, being my brother's keeper. So let's get it done, Patriots.

And for the record, I ain't hatin', but Candice Parker, I might not be able to dunk it down like I used to, but homegirl, don't you try me.

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CHIDEYA: John McCann is a columnist for "The Herald Sun" in Durham, North Carolina. This is NPR News.

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