Who plays?: Mt. St. Mary's (1-1) travels to the Patriot Center to take on the George Mason Patriots (3-1)
What's at stake?: There won't be too many better mid-major non-conference matchups all season. It has a bracket buster feel in November. The Patriots got national attention when they won the Eastern Regional and advanced to the Final Four three years ago. This isn't the same Mason team, but its no slouch as its 3-1 record indicates. The Mount needs a win like this to help its case at the end of the year, should it win the NEC tournament again, to avoid the #16 seeds and give itself a chance in the tournament.
When is tipoff?: Tuesday night at the Patriot Center, 7:00pm.
Where is the game?: The Mount is on the road for the third straight game, while the Patriots play at home for just the second time in five early season games. The game is at the Patriot Center, home to such great performances in the past as High School Musical on Ice. For those of you unable to get around the beltway at that time of day, don't bother, the game is on TV again, its live on MASN - channel 640 on DIRECTV. If you can't pull it in on the TV, WTHU-AM Thurmont 1450 will have the radio call. Steve Stofberg and The Coach Roy Sigler bring you the action on the Mount Radio Network. And since I want no part of that beltway traffic, I'll be in front of the computer live blogging on The Fan Blog. We had a fun group for last week's near win in Blacksburg. We're always looking for more folks at the Inn.
The Analysis: Mason is in a bit of a rebuilding year, but they are 3-1 thus far. Only a loss at Hampton has the Patriots from sporting a perfect record. The Mount's 3-game losing streak to start the season comes to an end with a tough game. This is one that folks around the country would probably take notice to. A win over GMU gets instant recognition, and would clearly justify the Mount's #22 mid-major ranking. The recent Bog Poll has Mason 6 and the The Mount 7, so this should be a good one.
Advantages for Mt. St. Mary's: The Mount hasn't played in better than a week. Is that an advantage? It just might be as George Mason played three times last week, including two on the road at the end of the week. I think the Mount's solid defensive play could be a big advantage for it against the Mason offense that lacks a real superstar. The Patriots shot it tremendously in the win over East Carolina, but really struggled against Hampton. Which shooting team shows up? My guess is the Mount defense has a say in that. I think the Mount backcourt of Jeremy Goode and Jean Cajou, playing a home game, will provide difficulties for the Patriots. I also look for Kelly Beidler to rebound from a tough shooting night in Blacksburg. He needs to get to the basket.
Advantages for George Mason: Mason has six players averaging almost eight points a game. So they epitomize balance. They don't need to rely on one player if somebody is having an off night. And that balance goes both inside and out. 6-6 widebody Darryl Monroe is the leading scorer and the Mount will need to keep him off the boards. Freshman Andre Cornelius had a great day shooting the ball on Saturday at ECU. Senior John Vaughan also has an outside j that the Mount will need to contend with.
What to expect?: I get the sense that the Mount has been stewing for a week after that one that may have gotten away in Blacksburg. There was no satisfaction in the near loss. That is a good sign. But this isn't going to be easy. Not by any standard. Mason scheduled this game for a reason, and this is a team that plays in the ever tough CAA - so they get games like this all the time. With the schedule the Mount has been playing - and will be playing, this is very comparable. Again this is a game that the Mount can win. It doesn't mean they will and truly, I think they are the underdog. However, if they give a comparable performance to the one they played last week at Tech, they will have every right to win this game. And if they put themselves in that position again, I think they will perform better down the stretch. I'm picking them to pull the upset, 66-60 going away down the stretch.