2016 GMUHoops.com Bracket Challenge


It’s that time again, join our bracket challenge on CBSSports.com and win Mason prizes. Join an elite group of winners that features former walk-on player Jimmy Nolan! 

Here is the link to the bracket group

The password is mason

My wife has already picked her bracket, based on team mascots, and will probably beat me again for the fifth straight year. Good luck.

A look back at the 2006 Final Four


Lot of coverage this week on the 10th anniversary of George Mason’s Final Four run in 2006. Has it been that long? Definitely has a special place in my heart as I started this site that August after it happened. There’s a great in-depth look from Matt Norlander of CBS that is definitely worth your time and shares a lot tidbits that most people don’t know. Also the Washington Post has a great video:

Jim Larranaga and his Miami team will be practicing at George Mason to prep before the ACC tournament. Will they scrimmage our guys?

Luke Hancock, a hero in the national championship game for Louisville

Former Patriot Luke Hancock has been having one hell of a week. Last night be became one of the most memorable 6th men in national championship history. Despite how you may feel about his exit from George Mason it’s hard not to proud of the kid, especially when you read stories like this. Hancock earned Final Four MVP honors after going on “a shooting spree for the ages” last night scoring 14 straight points at the end of the first half. He was also the first reserve player ever to win the award, that’s pretty impressive.
So yeah, this year’s AP Coach of the Year and Final Four MVP were at George Mason together in 2011. Crazy part in all this is that Jim Larranaga wasn’t even that impressed when recruiting him and initially wanted to pass on him. Hancock was certainly a hero to Mason fans back in March of 2011 but he really has turned a corner with Rick Pitino. While in Fairfax he was a great glue-guy, held everything together, rarely made mistakes and would give a scoring lift when needed. His leadership qualities and work ethic definitely made Louisville a better team and I think you attribute a lot of that from what he learned while playing two years under Larranaga. 

The financial impact of George Mason’s 2006 Final Four run

George Mason’s Final Four run of 2006 is of course in the news again due to Jim Larranaga and Miami playing in the Sweet 16 at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. Besides all the trips down memory lane, I thought it was interesting some for financial numbers being talked about again. Some are comparing the costs for the NCAA tournament travel and other expenses for smaller schools that have made runs because of Florida Gulf Coast’s current position. ESPN’s Darren Rovell shares some interesting costs that George Mason had to fork over in 2006:

A source close to the George Mason athletic department told ESPN.com that the school lost hundreds of thousands of dollars that were not reimbursed during its 2006 run to the Final Four. One of the culprits: The school still had to pay for hotel rooms even though it played its Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in Washington D.C., just 20 miles from the school. However, it was a good trade off as George Mason professor concluded that the team’s performance in the tournament that year was worth more than $677 million in free publicity to the school.
Crazy that Mason had to buy all those rooms even though they were so damn close to the Verizon Center but that’s the NCAA for ya. 
Rovell later tweeted that George Mason “lost hundres of thousands of dollars in travel costs” during the Final Four run due in large part to this factor. Not really a big deal consider the extra attention and funds the run brought the school after the fact. The NY Times has an article out detailing some of the figures:
There was a 25 percent surge in the number of alumni who were considered active with the university’s alumni association. A $100 million fund-raising campaign attracted $132 million in donations.

The George Mason bookstore took in more money in March 2006 ($800,000) than it did the entire rest of the year ($625,000). Enrollment in the annual summer basketball camp more than doubled. N.C.A.A. licensing revenue went up by $100,000.

I know a lot of people already knew this information but just found some if interesting and it’s such a bigger deal for schools like George Mason, VCU, and Florida Gulf Coast to make deep runs in the tournament

How to pick your bracket if you’re a George Mason fan

Sweet 16

Louisville – St. Louis

Is it ok to root for Luke Hancock? Why did he leave? Why won’t you accept my friend requests? God damn you’re so deceptively athletic, I can’t pick against you. EVER.

Middle Tenn St. – Creighton

Go mid-majors go! Remember when George Mason was that team all BCS bubble school fans hated? This year it’s definitely MTSU. 

Wichita St. – Wisconsin

Wow seems like ages ago when Mason beat Wichita State to not only get into the big dance but then advance to Elite Eight. Eh, I’ll guess I’ll pick them to hand an overrated #1 seed an upset.

New Mexico – Ohio State

I shouldn’t pick Ohio State to go this far because I should despise them. But every time I watch them play I say “oh that’s what it’s like to have a true point guard who runs an offense efficiently and actually plays defense.” Touche Buckeyes touche. Also them New Mexico boys ain’t bad. They did score eight points in the last 30-seconds against Mason earlier this year.

Kansas – VCU

God dammit, how is VCU a #5 seed?!? If I pick them I feel I will disgrace the Mason nation and if I don’t I know they will somehow make the Final Four again. If have to hear Jim Nance talk more about “Havoc” I might have to kill myself. Ah screw it. 

Indiana – Syracuse

Georgetown won’t make it this far so IU-Orange it is, they always kill my bracket, not this year Hoyas! Go Florida Gulf State!

Butler – Miami (FL)

I knew it I knew it I knew it. Coach L come back to Fairfax! If I don’t pick Miami they will win the national championship won’t they?!?!  How can I pick against them, I know damn well that scramble defense is going to eat the East region alive. Remember when Shane Larkin came to Mason Madness?? (sobs). Kill me now, get ready for Larranga’s million interviews this week comparing each win to 2005-2006.

Final Four picks:

Louisville – Ohio State

Luke, I just want you to be happy. I can’t quit you. Wait, I mean good luck, remember Peyton Siva is faster than you down the court! By the way I noticed you changed your phone number, no biggie, I know your probably busy with practices and stuff. Text me!

VCU – Miami (FL)

Oh perfect. Either way I’m pissed. Havoc once again meets scramble. Larranaga will win and will go on to say this is the best program he’s ever been around. Sticking it to Tom O’Connor and rightfully so. During the game their will be so many George Mason and CAA references that you mute the TV five minutes in and make the move to hard liquor. 

Happ March Madness!

[Photo by John Powell]

George Mason to face College of Charleston in first round of CBI

So the 2012-2013 season still goes on for George Mason and they have accepted a bid to the CBI tournament. Remember this isn’t the CIT and at least their are BCS programs in the mix. The Patriots take a road trip to future CAA member College of Charleston in the first round of the tournament Tuesday night. The full bracket is here and the game will be televised if you can find the Axs.tv channel on your TV. My FiOS plan has it and here is a channel finder if you dare to watch. On Friday we talked about the merits of continuing the season in this tournament and despite the disappointment of the year I think it’s good that they are doing it. 

A win against Charleston tomorrow night gets them either Texas or Houston in the next round. Fun fact, Rick Barnes, head coach of Texas, was George Mason’s head coach during the 1987-1988 season. The venue for that game in the semis is still TBD so another game at the Patriot Center might not be out of the question. Don’t know how many fans would actually show up for that one though. 

Let’s not forget VCU won this tournament in 2010 and then kind of had a good March the following year. Comparing George Mason’s situation to that isn’t the same but I do think the extra reps will be good for this team. They certainly have been humbled this year and with how they lost against Northeastern in the CAA tournament they must know that they need to put in hard work for next season. Why not start now, especially considering they will have six seniors next year. These tournaments serve a purpose for teams returning a lot of players and if anything it helps the younger guys like Marko Gujanicic and Patrick Holloway.

The way George Mason lost to Northeastern in the semifinals was the story of the season. We saw some flashes of excellence but then it was quickly negated by the team’s recurring fundamental problems. At least if Mason plays well in this tournament there will be a glimmer of hope going into next season. We’ll just have to see how seriously the players take this tournament.

[Photo by John Powell]

George Mason doesn’t receive bid to NIT

Well we knew the Patriots had a slim chance of making the NIT this year, and all the regular season champions losing in their conference tournaments certainly didn’t help. Athletic director Tom O’Connor stated the school wasn’t going to participate in either the CBI or CIT tournaments so that season is officially over for Paul Hewitt and George Mason. The Washington Post has some quotes from Hewitt:
The Patriots’ chances were “a flip of the coin, at best,” Coach Paul Hewitt said Sunday night after watching the 32 teams unveiled.

“I started to feel uneasy the last few days with all the regular season champions getting knocked out,” said Hewitt, who had a 24-9 record in his first season at George Mason. “It seemed there were two every day.” 
 I know some fans think it’s crazy that a 24-9 team isn’t playing in any post season but most high mid-major and BCS schools view the CBI and CIT as a joke. Keep in mind the Patriots barely drew 2,000 fans when they hosted a CIT game in 2009, so O’Connor isn’t making things up by saying it’s not a financially good option for the program. The Patriots had a weak schedule this season, which wasn’t Hewitt’s fault considering that last coaching staff built this year’s schedule. The CAA as a whole didn’t do themselves any favors in the non-conference schedule and sadly it really hurt Drexel and Mason’s postseason chances. Still  Mason missed key opportunities, especially in the preseason NIT and on the road against UVA. Also, had they had made the CAA finals, they might have had their named called for the NIT bracket last night.
And for the people that are saying all extra games benefit the young players is not something I necessarily agree with. This is going to be a completely different team next season, so playing another sloppy game this season with Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison hoisting up another 17-20 shots isn’t going to help next year’s team much. Three starters are gone and the front court will be completely different, plus you have two guys who sat out this season and two freshmen joining the rotation. 
Join the GMUHoops.com 2012 bracket challenge here. If you played last year you are already enrolled for this year’s bracket selection challenge. The password is mason.

George Mason is not in this year’s Final Four but they will certainly be in the TV coverage this weekend

George Mason might not have made it to this year’s Final Four in Houston but that doesn’t mean they won’t be talked about this weekend. If you are trying your action on College Basketball Betting provided by BetUS then don’t forget to catch Jim Larranaga, the Godfather of Cinderellas, will join CBS’s official pre-game television coverage on Saturday starting at 4 p.m. He will join host Greg Gumbel and analysts Greg Anthony, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Seth Davis. I never thought I’d see Coach L on a TV broadcast with Charles Barkley, this could be gold.

There is also going to be a special presented by Fox Sports called “Mason Impossible: The Story of Coach L and the Improbable Patriots”, great title. The program will be aired on Saturday at 12 p.m., Sunday at 4:30 p.m. and Monday evening at 8 p.m. Not sure from GoMason.com’s release what channel this is actually going to be on. Is there a Fox College Sports channel? Nevertheless great to see Mason getting more free pub during VCU’s run.

If you don’t get the Fox College Sports channel you can watch the special here. Here is the first segment, you can watch the rest by clicking that link.

Also a great read today from Patrick Stevens of the Washington Times debunking the George Mason-VCU Final Four comparisons.

In case your wondering how Jim Larranaga’s salary and bonus stack up among all the coaches in the NCAA tournament

USA Today did an analysis of the salaries and other compensation of all 68 teams’ head coaches in this year’s NCAA tournament. Jim Larranaga appears to be in about the middle of this list however the data for some private universities was not available.  Coach L is the highest paid head coach of the three CAA teams that made the big dance this year and I think it’s crazy that Shaka Smart was making that much more than ODU’s Blaine Taylor this season (edit: I found out later that Taylor makes more from booster club funds). From the data USA Today collected it appears some info is missing for team bonuses paid to these coaches but it sure seems like Coach L is going to be very well compensated this season.  They have his bonus at $460,000 and was probably a result of the team’s regular season success along with the team’s victory over Villanova in the tournament.  I would not be surprised if his success in 2006 allowed him to get in these big money incentives into his contract as opposed to him getting a higher salary in the ACC or Big East. Also part of that bonus is academic-related:

“At George Mason, which made the tournament this year and famously reached the 2006 Final Four, rewarding academic success emphasizes school values. When coach Jim Larranaga signed a new contract in 2006, his academic incentives included a team grade-point average of 3.0. In 2009, the school raised the bar to 3.3. Meeting that would earn Larranaga about $52,500.”

[via USA Today]

VCU’s run to Final Four is eerily similar to George Mason’s in 2006

The VCU Rams are playing ridiculously good basketball right now. Not only are they taking down BCS teams but they are thoroughly handling them on their route to this year’s Final Four.  Even if you don’t like VCU you can’t help but be amazed by what they are doing right now.  George Mason in 2006 certainly blazed the trail for teams like Butler and VCU and mid-major conferences are continuing to show there isn’t really anything “mid” about what they can accomplish in March.  It certainly is a boost for the CAA to get another team in the Final Four five years after George Mason’s historic ride but that’s not the only thing VCU and George Mason’s tournament runs have in common.
Weak Finishes.  Both teams didn’t end the regular season or CAA tournament on the best note.  George Mason lost twice to Hofstra down the stretch and was eliminated from the CAA tournament in the semifinals.  VCU this season lost their last four conference games and was then beaten by ODU in the CAA championship. 
Win over Wichita State in the Bracketbuster game. Both VCU and George Mason played at Wichita State in ESPN’s Bracketbuster Weekend and both times it was their best out of conference win on their resume heading into Selection Sunday.  You can make an argument that both times it was basically a play-in game for each team to make the big dance.  
At-large #11 seeds. Neither team won the CAA auto-bid and they are two of the three #11 seeds to ever make the Final Four.
Criticism from the media on Selection Sunday.  Who could forget Jim Nantz and Billy Packer grilling the selection committee for the selection of George Mason back in 2006.  This year it was ESPN’s Jay Bilas who openly criticized VCU and UAB in the field of 68.  Both times they said that the two teams didn’t have any “good wins”. Here is a compilation of ESPN guys dissin’ VCU from Selection Sunday.
BCS schools taken down.  It seems like VCU has beaten almost every BCS conference already: PAC10, Big East, Big Ten, ACC, and Big 12. In 2006 the Patriots took down the Big Ten, ACC, and Big East on their path. If they had the First Four back in ’06 and Mason was in that it they probably would have been matched up against another BCS team as well.
Pregame Elite Eight trash talk from future NBAer that motivated them. Some people might not remember this but Rudy Gay said something to the Mason players before the UConn-George Mason Elite Eight game. Towards the end of the game Tony Skinn reminded Gay of his pregame comments as he walked up to the free-throw line.  Yesterday during the pregame hand shakes one of the Morris twins from Kansas said “You guys had a nice run, but it’s time for y’all to go home.”

Beat #1 seed to advance to Final Four. #1 UConn in ’06 and #1 Kansas this year were both heavy favorites despite how good George Mason and VCU were playing in the tourney.

Defense is the backbone. George Mason and VCU would not have gotten to the Final Four without their exceptional defense throughout the tournament. VCU’s is playing so good lately that we could see them in the national championship game.  The 2006 George Mason team probably relied on it a little more as they were not as athletic as these 2011 VCU rams are on offense.  But still coaches Jim Larranaga and Shaka Smart both used effective defensive schemes that really frustrated these BCS teams.  
NBA talent? I just thought it was interesting that the 2006 George Mason team had no guys do go to the NBA and most likely this year’s VCU’s team won’t either. Last year’s Butler squad that went to the national championship did have one in Gordon Haywood.  I just found it funny that VCU has had two 1st round NBA draft picks recently and yet the season they don’t they make the Final Four.