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. 
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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. 

Charlie Sheen’s Bracket had George Mason over Ohio State

Yes Charlie Sheen found time between his drugs, porn stars, and web shows to fill out a bracket for this year’s NCAA Tournament.  He submitted his celebrity bracket to the Dan Patrick Show and like most of ours it’s already busted. You might find it interesting though that he had George Mason beating Ohio State and Old Dominion in the Elite Eight.  Nevermind that he had Akron as his national champs I’m still going to say that Sheen cursed George Mason before Sunday’s game!

George Mason gets dominated by Ohio State in 98-66 loss

Not much to say to say on this one. This was the Patriots’ worse NCAA tournament loss in school history besting their 24 point loss to Cincinnati in 1999. That was Jim Larranaga’s first NCAA trip with George Mason. The Patriots’ ran into a Ohio State team that was unbelievably hot from behind the three-point line. Granted the Patriots perimeter defense was non-existent but it’s still a pretty amazing to watch a team go 16-for-26 from there, I believe it was a record in the NCAA tournament. If that was not a record I think Ohio State’s David Lighty’s 7-for-7 from behind th arc certainly is or pretty damn close.  After starting the game on an 11-2 run the Patriots were manhandled in almost every area. At one point Mason went 10 minutes without a field goal; your not going to beat anyone left in this field playing like that. However it did seem like every foul call, loose ball, and shot attempt seemed to go in the favor of the Buckeyes.  It was like quick-sand, the harder Mason tried to dig themselves out the more they sunk deeper.  Every shot seemed to fall for Ohio State tonight who certainly looked like the #1 overall seed after this performance.  
Luke Hancock missed today’s game with food poisoning and the Patriots’ certainly could have used his ability to create in this game.  Unfortunate way to end the season missing one of your starters in the season’s biggest game but I’m sure most agree it might not have mattered tonight.  
Some positive things to take away from tonight is the fact that Johnny Williams again got quality playing time against elite talent for the second straight game.  And I’m sure juniors Ryan Pearson, Mike Morrison, and Andre Cornelius will not forget this bitter taste in their mouth and strive to erase it next season.  You cannot discount what this year’s George Mason team accomplished this year. It was a great year and it’s sad it had to end this way. Personally I’ll feel a lot better if Ohio State wins the national championship. 

How George Mason can beat Ohio State

This game is a bit personal to me on another level, my brother is an OSU grad. Naturally sibling rivalry wants me to see George Mason crush Ohio State but I’m trying to not let it distort my reality on the game. Mason didn’t get the best draw on Selection Sunday, they may have been paired with a Big East team on a serious losing streak but they are also in the same region as the #1 overall seed in Ohio State.  If you have watched any college basketball this season you’re probably familiar with All-American forward Jared Sullinger , who is one of the best players in the country right now.  Outside of Sullinger inside you have to deal with the perimeter shooting of Jon Diebler and William Buford, the slashing penetration skills of David Lighty, and Aaron Craft at the point making it all happen.  Like Mason they are balanced and can beat you in a number of different ways.  
I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone to say that Mason needs to play a lot better overall then they did against Villanova in order to win this game.  If they give up that many open looks from behind the arc the Buckeyes will bury them early and I don’t think they will be able to mount a 2nd half comeback.  Ryan Pearson was pretty much shout out by the Villanova front court and as a result got into early foul trouble making him a non-factor.  The Patriots can’t let that happen again.
So with all that being said, just how can George Mason defeat Ohio State on Sunday? Here are the keys to the game for the Patriots:
Guard the perimeter. Ohio State is #2 in the nation on 3-point shooting percentage. Jon Diebler is a big reason for this.  Mason will have to make a better effort to prevent their opportunities from behind th arc in order to stay in this game. Villanova had too many early looks and made Mason pay early, imagine that times 10 against Ohio State.
Get them into foul trouble, especially Jared Sullinger. Sounds easy right? Actually the Buckeyes are the #1 in the nation in personal fouls per game according to teamrankings.com and this could an area the Patriots attack. Overall they need to frustrate Sullinger and not give him easy baskets. Luke Hancock and Ryan Pearson got to the line a lot against Villanova and they need to do it again against these guys.  Ohio State coach Thad Matta has a short rotation and guys like Sullinger logging a lot of minutes on the bench would thwart their finely tuned offense.  Don’t discount Larranaga’s game management skills here.
Three-point shooting. You didn’t see the Mason light it up from behind the three-point line against Villanova but they will need to against Ohio State. To defeat a team that is much more talented than you are you have to make outside shots to open things up in other areas.  The Patriots inability to make these shots really hurt their inside game against the Wildcats. It was obvious even on the last three-pointer by Luke Hancock that they didn’t respect the Patriots outside game when he was left wide open.  Vertrail Vaughns was held scoreless against ‘Nova but hopefully that is not the case Sunday.

George Mason defeats Villanova in thrilling finish 61-57

At times it looked ugly and at times it looked pretty hopeless for the Patriots but they hung and applied the pressure on defense to come out on top.  Mike Morrison put the exclamation point on the end of the game with a breakaway monster jam in the closing seconds. The big man finished with 10 points but more importantly a team-high 11 rebounds.  Luke Hancock really stepped up when the team needed him today. Ryan Pearson was hobbled with foul trouble and mostly shut out by the Villanova’s front court. Mike Morrison and reserve Johnny Williams made key contributions down the stretch in Pearson’s absence. 
Luke Hancock was really the MVP today. In the first half he was getting beat on defense and yielded a couple of open look three-pointers from Coreys but he turned things around in the second half.  He was able to get to the foul line when the Patriots needed a basket and help swing the momentum in their direction in the 2nd half.   
Villanova’s two Coreys dominated the first half but Mason held them mostly scoreless for the beginning of the second half and used that to inch closer into the Wildcats’ lead. There was sloppy passes and ill-advised shots but Mason eventually mounted a run late. The Patriots closed the game on a 13-3 tear but the more impressive part of the ending was the stout defense that came alive in the closing seconds.  For most of the game we didn’t see that defense that got Mason to where they are now.  
Here is the last stretch where Mason took control:

Here is an interesting statistic from ESPN after the game: “Four of the last six teams to defeat Villanova in the NCAA tournament have gone on to win the championship”.

Post game interviews. Coach L when asked how his team came back today: “I have no idea.”

Game Day Preview: George Mason vs Villanova

So it’s finally here. After a 12 day lay-off since the George Mason last played in the CAA tournament we get to see them today in white jerseys for the first time in the NCAA tournament. We already talked in-depth about how the two teams match-up in this one but I just wanted to share some final thoughts before this afternoon.
Here is a preview of the game CBSSports.com. I like this preview because Jon Rothstein has been following Mason all season, even before their national leading winning streak.  He gives praise to the Patriots’ depth at guard and the play of Cam Long and Vertrail Vaughns off the bench.

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Here are my keys to the game for George Mason today:

Create favorable matchups. Last year they did a good job of this and is the big reason why they were leading most of the game in Puerto Rico. Mason does this the best on the perimeter and if they can force the Wildcats into some bad mismatches there you will see some open looks from behind the arc. Three-point shooting could be the biggest factor today as Villanova’s last couple of opponents have had a lot of success from there.


Keep Villanova off the offensive boards. You saw how this doomed ODU yesterday and they were a team that made a living off the glass this season. Even weaker rebounding teams step it up in the tournament and the Patriots have to win this battle today. 




Start strong. I don’t think I can stress this last key enough. Recently they have had some trouble defending in the beginning of their last couple of games.  Their poor efforts on defense dug them into a 14 point deficit at the half of their last game against VCU and it turned out to be too big to overcome. Mason doesn’t need to have a big lead at the half, as they have done their best work in the 2nd half this season, but they need to keep the momentum in their favor and not give up a lot of open looks.



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George Mason players watched the end of the ODU-Butler game, cheered on the Monarchs

Just after the George Mason basketball team got finished with their open practice in Cleveland they stopped to watch the end of the ODU-Butler game on the big screen at the Q (above).  They were cheering on their CAA brothers right up until the buzzer beater by Butler’s Matt Howard:

Tough loss for ODU and the CAA as I really thought the Monarchs would take this one. In the end Butler beat them at the own game and won the battle on the boards. Sure it was a “mid-on-mid” crime but it was still a great game to watch. And I’m sure we can all agree that if Mason loses like that tomorrow we will all be depressed for days.