For a solid minute of basketball last night it looked as if VCU was destined for a rematch with the Rams of Fordham University. But alas, Fordham Fordhamed, George Mason fought and the Patriots snatched victory from the jaws of defeat (overcame a 7-point deficit with 46 seconds to play) to advance to take on VCU in what will be the third meeting between these two this season. The black and gold won both contests, most recently wrapping up their regular season with a 72-60 home win over the team from Fairfax and had previously dropped the green and gold 73-64 on the road to start conference play. The Rams will hope to make it three in a row today while punching a ticket to the A-10 semifinals in the process.
VCU (24-7, 14-4)
GEORGE MASON (20-12, 9-9)
A QUICK LOOK AT GEORGE MASON
We’ve looked at these guys twice already this season so hopefully you have a good idea of what we have facing us today, but here’s one key update: last night Mason played essentially six players in an overtime game and will have to turn around and do the same just 24 hours later. GMU’s Marquise Moore and Otis Livingston both logged over 40 minutes while starters Jalen Jenkins, Jaire Grayer and Justin Kier each played over 30. Freshman Ian Boyd added 26 minutes off the bench. Mason has played that core group heavy minutes all season but this will be the first time they’ve had to log heavy minutes in consecutive games since November. Mason’s last neutral court tourney setting came at the start of the season where they went 2-1 over three days in Florida. The Pats were dominated by Houston (kenpom No.44) before bouncing back to take down Kent State (No.149) by four points, then followed that up with a 10-point win over Bradley (No.215). They’ll have a much tougher test today against a well-rested Rams team that hasn’t played in six days. In terms of strengths, George Mason has been one of the better rebounding teams in the country despite playing a small four-guard lineup. In A-10 play Mason has been a dangerous three-point shooting team with that lineup, but like VCU, looks to do the majority of their scoring inside the arc. The Pats are led by Marquise Moore and Jalen Jenkins, an underrated senior combo that is combining to average 29.7 points and 16.9 rebounds for GMU. Weird/annoying stat to watch today: Mason is No.1 in A-10 play in free throw rate defense (the foul shouts to field goal attempts ratio) and it’s not even close. VCU on the other hand is ninth.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
You know this team, you love them, so let’s fast forward to some key stats. The last time VCU played GMU they beat them up in the paint, hitting 56% inside the arc in the win. It was the second time this season VCU had shot at least 56% inside the arc against Mason, finishing an even better 57.8% of their twos in Fairfax. VCU won both games somewhat comfortably despite shooting a combined 6-31 (19.4%) in the two contests. Only one player, Mo Alie-Cox, played 30 minutes or more for VCU in the Rams most recent win (although he finished with just six points on five attempts). Those stats basically mimic VCU’s season. The Rams score the majority of their points inside the arc where they have shot 52.5% this season and typically struggle from behind the three-point line, shooting just 33.1% from deep (258th nationally). VCU however plays to their strength and typically limits their number of three-point attempts, choosing to pound the paint instead. But while VCU has struggled from distance more often than not, they can catch fire at times. VCU shot a decent 35% or better from three in half their games this season and over 40% five times. The last time they did so came in an 84-point night on the road in a win at Richmond. That game came directly after the Rams had dumped 91 on Saint Joseph’s thanks to 13 made VCU threes. VCU has been good but with a merely DECENT long distance shooting night can become a very dangerous team.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: GMU 75, VCU 74.8
Scoring Defense: VCU 66.2, GMU 71.7
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 51.6%, GMU 49.9%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 47%, GMU 48.5%
3-Point Field Goal%: GMU 34.7%, VCU 33.1%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: GMU 32.4%, VCU 33.4%
2-Point Field Goal%: VCU 52.5%, GMU 49.1%
2-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 45.7%, GMU 48.4%
Rebounds per game: GMU 40.7, VCU 36.1
Turnover% Offense: VCU 18.3%, GMU 18.7%
Turnover% Defense: VCU 21.6%, GMU 14.1%
VCU WINS IF
The Rams will attempt to pound the paint once again against this Mason team and if successful, advance to take on the winner of Richmond and George Washington. VCU must defend with the same intensity and discipline we saw in the last matchup between these two as well and I think move on to the semifinals if that’s what we get today.
GEORGE MASON WINS IF
It’s all about whether or not Mason can stop VCU inside today. So far Paulsen has not had an answer for Justin Tillman and Co. inside which is why his team is 0-2 this season against the black and gold. Mason has to slow VCU down inside to win this game but may also need to dominate the three-point and free throw margins as well to advance.
Kenpom: 76-69 VCU win with an 72% chance of a Rams victory.
Game tips at 6PM at PPG Paints arena in Pittsburgh, PA.
Watch: NBC Sports Network, Official game day headquarters are Buffalo Wild Wings locations at Virginia Center and downtown on Cary Street in Shockoe Bottom.
Listen: Fox Sports 910 AM & 98.5 FM
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation