Cinderella NCAA Tournament Run Comes Up Short in Conference Quarterfinals

The clock finally struck midnight for Cinderella on Thursday, as Central Connecticut State’s potentially magical March run ended just seven rounds short of seeing them become the first sub-.500 team to make the NCAA Tournament Final Four, eliminated in the NEC Conference tournament quarterfinals by Robert Morris, 71-63.
“We were so close. That’s why it hurts so much,” said senior power forward Trace Johnson. “I just can’t believe it’s over.”
Blue Devils head coach Jim Manning stressed to his team that despite the disappointment, they can be proud of all they accomplished.
“Whether we like it or not right now, not every Cinderella is going to go to the Final Four like George Mason,” said Manning. “But I told my guys that we are very similar to George Mason in that no one expected anything from us. And no one can ever take that away from us.”
CCSU’s Cinderella run began way back at the beginning of their NEC opening round game against Robert Morris when they took an early 2-0 lead. But a quick three by the Colonials put CCSU behind for good.
“That 2-0 lead was pretty amazing,” said small forward Stefan Bonner. “We were playing some of our best basketball of the season on that first possession. Unfortunately, we couldn’t keep it up. It’s too bad. We would have captured the imagination of the nation – interviews on 60 Minutes, the Today show, an audience with the president after we won the title, all of it. But that three they hit finished us off.”
Coach Manning knew his squad was primed for such a run.
“We had been losing most of our games, missing most of our shots. All season long,” he said. “The law of averages said we were possibly ready to really break out and do something special.”
But with it all at an end, the Blue Devils (12-18) still wonder what could have been.
“We were only nine wins in a row away from winning it all. Think about that. Just nine wins,” said point guard Jamar Pinto. “Well, probably more like 10 because I’m sure we would have been put into the play-in game on account of us not being good. Still, though — close."