LAS VEGAS — Stepping out of our ride in front of The Orleans, the parking lot was filled with purple. For the fans of Grand Canyon University, Thursday was the first day on their March Madness journey and they were going to soak it all in. Once inside the Arena I ran into Jerry Colangelo and GCU President Brian Mueller. They were excited for the game and seeing another brick put down in the growth of the program.
All of the feel-good thoughts were gone pretty quick. The ‘Lopes fell behind 20-4 and had to go through a root-canal-like process to move on the the semi-finals, beating UMKC 77-74.
“It’s a huge win for our program,” Majerle said after the game.
I circled back to Colangelo and Mueller after the final result. Mueller was patting his heart in rapid fashion, while Colangelo spoke glowingly about the fight from the team. For context sake, both men were standing the final few minuets of the game. The last time I saw Colangelo stand at a game with nervous energy would’ve been 2001 at the World Series.
Yes, this game meant A LOT to him.
Majerle admitted that he almost broke down when the final buzzer sounded. He added that if he had seen the two, the emotion would’ve come out.
“I didn’t want to,(make eye contact with them),” he explained. “I swear, I would’ve started crying. I would’ve lost it for sure.”
So with the first conference tourney victory behind them, here’s a couple of thoughts on the Lopes moving forward.
-Alessandro Lever is a very, very good big man, with plenty of room to grow. The ‘Lopes have a terrific future in front of them with Lever. He finished with 29 points in 33 minutes.
-This team probably won’t win the WAC Tournament if they continue to get lack of production out of 2017 player of the year, Josh Braun. Thursday, the senior guard went 0-3 from the floor and finished without a point. Majerle can’t have that.
“It’s on Josh, we try to get him shots,” Majerle said. “I put him in the game late and ran a play for him and he pump faked, and I took him out.”