George Mason and VCU will face each other for the first time in two seasons after the Patriots spent 2012-13 in the hoops purgatory that was last season’s depleted Colonial Athletic Association. The two are back to being conference rivals with Mason playing their inaugural A-10 season, but will the rivalry be the same? Game tips Thursday night at 7PM in a special “Check the Stu” game where all fans will receive a free VCU t-shirt.
A RECENT HISTORY
2011-12 Season: George Mason drew first blood by hitting a half-court miracle dagger to defeat the Rams in Fairfax, 62-61. Then, in one of the most memorable moments between the two, George Mason players entered the court as Bradford Burgess celebrated his senior night moment, a slight the Rams would immediately punish in a 89-77 VCU win. The Rams also repaid the Paul Hewitt-led squad with a 74-64 CAA tournament boot, in what started as a 32-4 Rams lead before George Mason rallied back to pull within six points. That was as close as they got however and the Rams went on to win the CAA tournament.
2010-11 Season: VCU was embarrassed at home, 71-51, in one of the toughest months in VCU history–the Rams lost five straight CAA games to end February of 2011, including two home blowouts and a Senior Night disaster against JMU. VCU had the last laugh in the VCU v GMU series that season however, blowing out the Patriots in the CAA tournament before matching GMU’s 2006 Final 4 run with a 2011 version of their own that included an extra win, as the Rams became the first team in college hoops history to go from the newly-implemented First 4 to Final 4.
2009-2010: Once again, the Rams suffered a road loss, this time in overtime in the only regular season meeting between the two teams but paid back the Patriots by kicking them out of the tournament with a 15-point loss despite Mason taking a 3-point lead into the half. Current NBA star, Larry Sanders, posted a 17-point, 12-rebound, 4-block line in his last game against Mason before becoming the Rams’ first player to get drafted before completing four years of play at VCU.
2008-2009: The Eric Maynor-led Rams swept Mason in their two meetings that season, first at the Siegel Center, then by once again knocking them out of the CAA tournament, this time in a 71-50 Maynor/Sanders highlight fest.
2007-2008: The year of the Patriot, as George Mason won the only meeting between the two teams, 63-51 in Fairfax. The Rams were eventually upset in the CAA tournament semi-finals by a surprisingly good William & Mary team that came up just short of what would have been the Tribe’s first-ever NCAA tournament bid.
2006-2007: Eric Maynor, BA Walker, Jesse Pellot-Rose, Jamal Shuler…this was a VCU team loaded with guard talent and it proved to be an incredibly tough squad in Anthony Grant’s first season as head coach of the Rams. VCU won all three of their games against George Mason, defeating them in Fairfax, 75-62, then at the Siegel Center 63-49 before finally delivering the CAA tournament dagger, 65-59, in an exciting CAA tournament finale that saw Eric Maynor score five points in nine seconds to tie the game, then added another four points to give the Rams a four-point lead with just 19 seconds to play. The Rams went on to upset Duke in the 2007 NCAA tournament that season before failing to pit in the round of 32 in an overtime rock fight.
2005-2006: Make no mistake, this was the year of the Patriot, and if we’re being honest with ourselves…most Ram fans ended up rooting for George Mason that season despite their two-game sweep of VCU during the regular season. VCU was in the process of building something special while George Mason was putting together their best season in the history of the program, not to mention one of the most exciting seasons in NCAA history. The Patriots were knocked out of the CAA tournament without the trophy, received a controversial NCAA tournament bid that was blasted by the media on selection Sunday, then shocked the world in a run all the way to the Final 4. Sound familiar? Turns out my cheering for George Mason during that run was just a practice for VCU’s run just five seasons later. Raise your hand if you thought Mason was going to be able to have Final 4 bragging rights for a long long time. (Me).
2004-2005: Another VCU sweep this year, first 81-74 in Fairfax, next 89-91 in Richmond. Neither had great seasons that year (Rams were blown out by Davidson at the Siegel Center in the NIT, Mason sat out the postseason) but both were on the verge of having their best season’s in school history.
2003-2004: VCU and Mason both protected their home courts in the rivalry that season, VCU winning at the Siegel Center 80-56 then Mason bouncing back with a 69-57 home win in Fairfax. The tie-breaker came in a CAA tournament final thriller that fans of neither will forget anytime soon. “I’d be lying if I told ya’ll I wasn’t nervous,” freshman walk-on, Jesse Pellot-Rosa told reporters after his second free throw with 1.6 seconds to play gave VCU a 55-54 win against George Mason in the CAA championship Monday. JPR’s first attempt clanged off the back of the rim. “After I missed the first free throw, I was like, `This game’s not going to overtime.’ I knew I had to make the second one. The Patriots got one last chance however, but Jai Lewis’ open fallaway 12-footer missed. “I was nervous. I thought the shot was good,” VCU’s Troy Godwin said. “But I thought if I was nervous, he had to be nervous to take the shot.” The Ram punched their first ticket to the NCAA tournament since 1996 with that win.