George Mason University is representing all the so-called mid-majors at the Final Four this weekend in Indianapolis.
Next season could it be Florida International University carrying the torch of the smaller schools to the Big Dance in Atlanta?
No way, you say? Thanks to GMU of the Colonial Athletic Assn., FIU of the Sun Belt Conference at least can dream of the possibility.
"We'll look at that. George Mason shows mid-majors have a chance," said former Kansas University guard Alex Galindo, a 6-foot-7, 214-pound sophomore-to-be who transferred to FIU last spring, leaving KU after one season in order to play closer to his Puerto Rican home.
"We've got to get players and chemistry. George Mason has chemistry. They play together and know their roles," added Galindo, who practiced but did not play in games this season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules.
Though Galindo has kept an eye on George Mason and Sunshine State Final Four entrant Florida - "I hope they (Gators) win it all. It would be good for the state of Florida," Galindo said - he followed one team closer than all others.
That's his former school, KU.
"I watched every game. It was nice to see the team improve so much," Galindo said of the Jayhawks. "They started out so bad. I was rooting for them. I wished they went longer in the NCAA. Next year, they'll have a great season. They'll be more mature."
In fact : "They'll be a top-three team," Galindo predicted. "The freshmen did great. Now they'll be full of sophomores, juniors. They will have a great season next year. Hopefully they'll get out of the first-round curse."
His favorite KU player remains his former roommate, Russell Robinson, who improved greatly from his freshman to sophomore campaigns.
"We kept in contact at least once a week. He's my boy. My best friend. I'm really proud of him," Galindo said. "If Russell wouldn't have played like that, they wouldn't have done as well. He ran the team, didn't turn it over. This year he really showed he can play."
Galindo has teased Robinson about losing roommates for the second straight season. Micah Downs, Robinson's first-semester roomie, transferred at the semester break.
"Russell should have his own room. He's had bad luck. We joke about that," Galindo said.
Galindo said it was difficult watching Florida International's Golden Panthers struggle to an 8-20 record while sitting out the season.
"Watching the games, I wanted to be out there," said Galindo, who put on 10 pounds in the weight room. "It helped me visualize basketball as a player and fan, too.
"I am a lot stronger now. My dribbling is a lot better. My shot is better. I expanded my game a lot. The most important part is, this year helped me get stronger, appreciate basketball more."
Galindo, who averaged 4.1 points and 10.0 minutes per contest in 23 games his freshman season, said he was refreshed mentally.
"I went home five times (since leaving KU). It's only an hour-and-a-half flight," Galindo said. "My parents and friends came up here to see me. The weather is awesome. Right now, it's 82 degrees. I could get in my car and go to the beach."
There are, however, things he misses about KU.
"My teammates. I miss the people. The fans were great fans. They were nice to me. I think they liked me. I just am always smiling, so they got attached to me," Galindo said. "I never denied a thing, a photograph, an autograph. I'd be late for class because I was talking to somebody about basketball."
Galindo also misses Allen Fieldhouse and hopes KU schedules a game against FIU in the next three seasons.
"I want to see a game in there again," Galindo said. "It'd be different being the away team, but I want to play against them and talk to my teammates. I've joked with our coaches (about scheduling KU). Hopefully in the next three years they can make that happen."
KU hoops tidbits: Former KU assistant Ben Miller and former KU guard Tad Boyle are two of four finalists for the vacant head-coaching post at Northern Colorado. Miller is an assistant at Missouri State, Boyle an assistant at Wichita State. Boyle was an All-American at Greeley (Colo.) Central High School, guiding the Wildcats to the 1981 state title before playing collegiately at KU, serving as the Jayhawks' captain his senior season. The other two finalists are: former Arizona State assistant Brooks Thompson and Stanford assistant Tony Fuller. The hire will be made by Northern Colorado AD Jay Hinrichs, former director of KU's Williams Fund. : KU signee Sherron Collins has been tapped second team Parade All-American. ... KU coach Bill Self will not be in Indianapolis for the Final Four. Instead, he's attending a relative's funeral. : KU senior associate AD Larry Keating is looking forward to watching his son Kerry's UCLA team compete at the Final Four. Kerry is an assistant and lead recruiter for Bruin coach Ben Howland. "It's great, really exciting as a parent," Keating said. "He talked about (how) he went in coaching because I was in coaching. It's nice when your son says that. He's been telling me the last couple of weeks he thought they'd be really good the next couple of years. They've got a lot of talent coming back and good kids coming in."