Photo by Heather Middleton
Every year since I was about 14, I have filled out an NCAA men's tournament bracket.
Once in awhile, I seem to make the right picks, other times, my bracket is ready for the paper shredder by the end of the first week.
This is one of those years.
Yes, I was actually dumb enough to choose Notre Dame to make it all the way to the championship against Ohio State.
Such is life, and now thanks to FSU's victory over the Fighting Irish, my bracket is toast.
One bracket I didn't fill out was the NCAA Division II Women's tournament.
And with good reason. I am prejudice. I would have picked Clayton State to win it all.
Because I truly think the Lakers are the best Division II women's team in the land.
Tonight the Lakers have a chance to prove it in when they play for the NCAA Division II National title against Michigan Tech. The game will be played on ESPN2, so a national audience can watch for themselves and figure out what I already know:
This isn't just a talented team, It's a fun team to watch. They play basketball one way, and one way only--fast.
Clayton State has the ability to get the ball down the floor for the easy basket in the paint, or pull it out on the perimeter where they can knock down the 3-pointer.
The Lakers have great chemistry, and it starts with its National Coach of the Year Dennis Cox.
Since Cox arrived on campus, Clayton State has gone from a small school in Morrow that was mediocre at best, to a national Division II powerhouse that makes annual visits to the NCAA tournament.
Three times in the last five years, Clayton State has made it at least to
the Elite 8.
On the court there are no real superstars on this team. The Lady Lakers all seem to get along, and all egos, if any exist, are left inside the lockerroom.
Being with them to reach one of our biggest goals in everyone of our lives is just great. We have worked hard for this from day one, and to be here and get a chance to accomplish one of our goals together is just unbelievable," Tanisha Woodard said about the chemistry on her team.
One day, it could be senior Teshymia Tillman leading the way. The next night it might be Woodard stepping up.
Then again it could be somebody like Jonesboro High School graduate
Drameka Griggs playing the role as the "go-to player". Griggs was the missing link for an already good team when she transferred home after playing one year at Jacksonville University.
What Clayton State has done is special, but not surprising.
Yes, Clayton State flies under the radar of most sports fans, but it certainly doesn't lack success.
Athletic Director Mason Barfield has surrounded himself with good coaches.
Men's basketball coach Gordon Gibbons' teams have been a solid contender in the Peach Belt and national picuture for a decade.
Pete Petersen led the men's soccer team to the Elite 8 last fall.
The men's golf team has played on the national stage and the track and cross country programs have a long list of accolades.
If Clayton State wins tonight and brings home the national title it will help put the school on the map, but it won't come as suprise.
Of course, national championships don't come along every day either, but if the Lakers win, I bet it won't be their last.
After all, success is nothing new at CSU. Because winning just seems to go with the territory.
(Doug Gorman is sports editor of the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)