The Road to the NCAA Tournament: 38 Minutes

ORLANDO — Cinderella was a tall, beautiful girl with blonde hair and blue eyes who was forced into a tough situation working for her evil stepmother. Her clothes were ragged, her only friends were animals, and she got picked on by her stepmother and step sisters.

When the prince prepared to look for a princess, he sent out invitations to all the single mistresses. Cinderella, however, must finish her chores and find an elegant dress to wear. This is a tall task that couldn’t have been done without the help of a fairy godmother to enchant a spell on Cinderella.

With the spell, Cinderella is magically dressed in a beautiful, white ball gown with glass slippers. A pumpkin turns into a carriage, the mice turn into horses, and the dog turns into a coachman.

Cinderella goes to the ball. She dances with the prince. Everything is going great. But the spell wears off at midnight and Cinderella goes back to being dressed in ragged clothing. She never marries the prince.

That’s how it went, right? That’s what it sure seemed like last Thursday night.

Once upon a time, the Jaspers were 6-25. They scored just 60 points a game – 328th in the nation – and at one point had a 15 game losing streak.

Manhattan had only dreams of making it to the NCAA tournament, and with a roster made of some of New York City’s finest basketball players, it was possible. Then Steve Masiello came into the picture in 2011, and seemed to enchant a spell that gave Manhattan a 15 win improvement – the largest turnaround in the nation that year.

Players with no scholarship offers other than Manhattan – like George Beamon and Shane Richards – transformed into superstars and three years later, the Jaspers got to the big dance. Not only do they go to the NCAA tournament, they dance with the prince: the defending champs.

For 38 minutes, the Jaspers were dancing with the Cardinals. For 38 minutes, Masiello would get the last laugh from Louisville head coach Rick Pitino – his “step mother” who he coached and played under.

For 38 minutes, it seemed like the Jaspers would be a Cinderella story in Orlando, just minutes away from Cinderella’s castle in the Magic Kingdom. For 38 minutes, the Jaspers were up two on the defending champs in front of a national audience.

And then the spell wore off.

Luke Hancock scored eight consecutive points and the Jaspers went on to lose by seven after a 13-4 run by the Cardinals in the final two minutes and seven seconds.

Thirty-eight minutes.

Sure, Manhattan is now eliminated from the NCAA tournament. Sure, Manhattan’s three best players – George Beamon, Rhamel Brown, Mike Alvarado – will graduate this spring.

But look at the magical run they were able to make in just three years. If they can go from being the worst in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference to competing with the defending champions in three years, imagine what they could do in five.

Of course, the Jaspers just need their fairy godmother back.

The Jaspers season is over. It was a good one. They may have lost, but that doesn’t mean they are finished being Cinderella.

This is the end of a scene. Not the end of a movie.