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George Mason Basketball

George Mason Basketball: March 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

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]

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

City of Fairfax sends Coach Larranaga and George Mason basketball team a congratulatory letter

The council of the City of Fairfax sent a letter to Jim Larranaga and the George Mason men's basketball team congratulating them on a successful season.  And just think President Obama might be congratulating VCU at the White House in a few months, oh boy.


George Mason featured on the Best of College Hoops Special on CBS

If you happened to miss the 'Best of College Hoops Special' on CBS this past Sunday one of our readers uploaded the segment on George Mason. It talks about how George Mason University has grown and benefited from the 2006 Final Four run and talks about this year's team. They interview a couple players and Coach Larranaga and is definitely worth a look.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Luke Hancock on NBC4's Lunch with Lindsay


Recruiting update: Corey Edwards' team falls OT of the New York State Federation Class AA championship

2011 George Mason recruit Corey Edwards
Thought I would share a recruiting update on one of George Mason's two incoming freshman for 2011. Point guard Corey Edwards and Christ the King high  school (where Ryan Pearson attended) lost in overtime to Mount Vernon (Sherrod Wright's high school team) in the New York State Federation Class AA championship.  Christ the King had won the previous two years and used clutch free throws and big shots down the stretch to win.  That was not the case this past weekend as future Mason point guard Edwards missed three free throws in OT and was 5-for-10 overall from there for the game.  I am sure you must be thrilled to see the Patriots are continuing to bring in talent that cannot shoot free throws. All kidding aside Edwards is actually a very clutch player and this was very uncharacteristic of him to miss big time shots.  In the NY Post story he was quoted as 'blaming the loss on himself' which speaks to his leadership qualities.  

Edwards will join a George Mason team next season that is still pretty deep at the guard position despite losing senior guards Cam Long and Isaiah Tate to graduation. Vertrail Vaughns, Rashad Whack, and Bryon Allen will all be getting more minutes next season along side starter Andre Cornelius so it's tough to predict how much of an impact Edwards will have as a freshman.  It seems like it would be a great opportunity for a kid like him to redshirt for a season like Kevin Foster did his freshman year but I imagine that's a hard sell for the coaching staff.


Monday, March 28, 2011

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. 


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jim Larranaga a finalists for the Hugh Durham Award

George Mason head coach Jim Larranaga is among the sixteen finalists for the 2011 Hugh Durham Award.  The award is essentially given to the to top mid-major coach in Division I college basketball. Because you have to have won or shared your conferences' regular season title or won your conference tournament to be a finalist you won't see VCU's Shaka Smart on here; which kind of makes no sense to me.  Regardless still a nice recognition for Coach L after he guided the Patriots to their best regular season in program history.  

Coach L will be doing a live chat today over on starting at 12 pm.

[Photo Credit: JWPowell9 via Flickr]


NBC4's Lindsay Czarniak talks about the flu that kept Luke Hancock out of the Ohio State game

It really was a shame that we weren't fully manned against the Ohio State Buckeyes last Sunday. You can't help but wonder if Hancock being in the lineup could have changed things for the Patriots. Even though Mason still probably would have lost that game, you hate to sit around and ponder what could have been.  NBC4 had a short segment on Luke Hancock's flu yesterday:


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Conan O'Brien mentions George Mason in his "NCAA Mascots That Should Never Dunk" segment

Conan O'Brien poked fun at college mascots last night on his show. He had a segment called NCAA Mascots That Should Never Dunk.  The 2nd mascot mentioned was the George Mason university Closed Caskets:


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

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 set to play in Preseason NIT

This is not news to most readers of this blog but since there has been quite an influx of new readers I thought I'd share this again.  The Washington Post's Steven Goff confirmed the rumors from earlier that George Mason is tentatively set to play in the Preseason NIT this November. He says the details are not finalized but that they could end up playing in "four-team group at Virginia Tech."

Definitely something to look forward to as the Patriots return a large part of their veteran core that led them to their most successful regular season in program history. If you remember earlier this season VCU participated in the NIT Season Tip-Off and made it to the semifinals at Madison Garden


Sunday, March 20, 2011

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. 


Saturday, March 19, 2011

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 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.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

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."

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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 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.


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.

Follow me on twitter for live game updates (@gmuhoops)

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

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.


Getting inside: Our Q & A with a Villanova blogger

Now that we can put to rest the worries of having two injured starters, it's time to move on to getting an insiders' perspective on Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats this season. We had a Q & A session with the guys over at and learned a lot about the team.  Here is our exchange:

Villanova was one of the hottest teams to start the season down the stretch and lost in the 1st round of Big East tournament. What are the main factors that contributed to this? Was it mostly due to various injuries to key players?

Jay Wright probably would tell you that injuries had a lot to do with it, and it certainly didn't help to lose a player like Corey Stokes for as much time as we did this season. There were other injuries on the team as well, along with other issues that hurt depth down the stretch (like Mo Sutton missing curfews).

With depth issues, Jay Wright turned to an approach -- the "burn offense" -- that was wildly unsuccessful. [more on the "burn offense" here]

How would you describe the Wildcats on offense this season? What kind of pace best suits their game?

Villanova's offense works better when they use the shot clock and move the ball. It's not necessarily a matter of pace. The most consistent offensive weapon on this team is Corey Stokes, but he needs to be in a position to get the ball.

That said, a slightly faster pace seems to be most effective for Villanova. Earlier in the season, the 'Cats seemed to play a slightly-faster pace, with possessions in either the high-60s or low-70s most of the time. As the season went on (and fell apart), the 'Cats played fewer possessions and won fewer games.

What types of teams give Villanova the most problems on defense?

There is no real pattern in terms of defensive philosophy when it comes to Villanova's losses. They have losses to Zone teams, Man teams and teams that don't have a statistical lean either way.

Defenses that force turnovers have had, perhaps the most success against Villanova recently. In the more conservative offense that the 'Cats have used lately, the guards play very tentatively and have turned the ball over far too easily.

The last 10 minutes of GMU-Villanova game from last season in Puerto Rico

What do you think are the Wildcats biggest advantages over George Mason heading into this game?

Experience. It seems strange to say that when talking about a team that has more Sophomores than Seniors and Juniors combined, but Villanova has played a tough schedule in the Big East and the Senior class is going on to it's fourth NCAA tournament berth and were part of the last Villanova Final Four run.

Last season these two teams played each other in a thrilling game at the Puerto Rico Tip-off that came down to the last few seconds. Who would say are the most improved players for Villanova from that team last year?
The answer is probably Corey Stokes, but since Mouphtaou Yarou didn't even play in that game, perhaps he has a claim to that title as well.

Stokes played 22 minutes against George Mason in Puerto Rico last season and scored exactly one point. He averaged less than 10 points last year. This season, however, he has been lights out from deep and has shown stronger ability to dribble drive and create his own shot. He's averaging 15 points per game to sit less than a point per game behind Corey Fisher.

Stokes went from a bit player to a key piece for the 'Cats.

Who could be a potential x-factor for Jay Wright this Friday?

Well, the easy choice would be Isaiah Armwood, right?

More likely, it will be one of the guards. Maalik Wayns is the healthier of the two point guards on the team, and it seems like when he plays well, the 'Cats win. He doesn't have to put a big number on the scoreboard, but if he can play his game, score a few and distribute the ball to Stokes, Fisher and the Bigs, the offense should run pretty smoothly.

What is the injury status of Corey Stokes, Corey Fisher and Mouphtaou Yarou? Will they be 100% by game time?

Word from Jay Wright is that everyone is expected to be 100%. Yarou was sore after the USF game and he was held out of the second half of that game because of concussion concerns, but we've heard that the training staff expects him to be back to normal before Friday's game.

Predictions for Friday?

If Villanova uses the "burn" offense for more than 5 minutes during the game, they will lose by at least 10. If they come out and play to their strengths, they can probably win.

George Mason is good, and Jay Wright stresses defense, especially in games like this. I don't think it will be a blow out either way, but a close and exciting game.

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Update on the injury status of Andre Cornelius and Luke Hancock

It appears the injuries to starters Andre Cornelius and Luke Hancock are minor and they should be good to go for Friday's game against Villanova. When asked yesterday about the health of the two players Coach Larranaga assured the media that if the game was Wednesday they would have been in the starting lineup. I talked to a few reporters who were at the practice where the injuries took place and they all said it did not seem serious.  I did hear however that Cornelius' limp was very noticeable.  Nevertheless both have had plenty of time to get treatment and take it easy before Friday afternoon.  We will have more updates about the team's practice today on twitter so stay tuned.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why Jim Larranaga might surprise us again this year in the NCAA tournament

I tend to think of Jim Larranaga as an unorthodox head coach, making moves that sometimes leaves you scratching your head but in the end produces results. This season has already been living proof of how good this team can be when they fully buy into his game plan philosophy. And we saw how great of a game coach he can be in 2006 during the Final Four run when he has a balanced, versatile group of players.  I believe he has a squad like that again this year and it allows him to take high-risk high-reward chances like he did five years.  In the Patriots' last NCAA tournament game in 2008 it was a different story. They relied heavily on the play of Will Thomas and Folarin Campbell and had spotty production from the rest of the group both on offense and defense.  Perhaps the difference in those two teams is the amount of trust Larranaga had in each one and how it effected his coaching decisions.  

An article today from Yahoo Sports reminds us of the gutsy call Coach L made in that 2006 Elite Eight game versus UConn:
The design of the greatest NCAA Tournament upset ever came not in frantic scribbles on a clipboard and furious offensive calls but rather in the beautiful simplicity of the same play perfectly run over and over and over again.

Larranaga calls this play “three” and drawn out on paper it must look so confusing with its array of options: Curls across the top, passes down to the two big men below, a drive and layup underneath. But as the mighty Connecticut Huskies lunged at George Mason that afternoon in 2006, Larranaga did something few coaches would have the stomach to try. He shouted “run three,” with about 10:00 left in the game and then after watching his players score a basket, he never took it off for the rest of regulation and all over overtime until the Mason players were dancing on the floor, trimming the nets and heading to a Final Four that UConn, the No. 1 seed, seemed to treat as a birthright.

It is a brilliant example of coaching. Or rather, not over-coaching, of not letting ego complicate something that is working well. Too many other men in his place would have been signaling for substitutes, holding up fingers, bellowing anything simply tolook as if they were coaching harder than they ever had in their life. Larranaga resisted this temptation in the biggest game he ever coached. In addition to running the same play the last 25 times George Mason took the ball down the court, he never made a substitution in that time, either.
Yes your reading that correctly, George Mason ran the same play with the same five players for their last 25 possessions against UConn in that game. I think this a perfect example of Coach L getting the most out of a team he had built to near perfection when it comes to playing as a 'team'.  We don't know if he can get the same results as from this year's team as he did that season, it's very unlikely, but it just goes to show how good this team can be if they believe in their coach like the players did in 2006.

I'm not trying to complain this year's team to the 2006 one, I'm just saying this team might instill the confidence in Coach L that that team did during the post season.  We may see some more interesting coaching moves that pay off like that way that one did against UConn.  Larranaga has already said they will be tweaking their game plan a bit so don't be surprised if we see some new things on Friday. I have a feeling Larranaga has got a few more tricks up his sleeve this go around. 

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Andre Cornelius and Luke Hancock got banged up in practice yesterday

There are two media outlets reporting today that Andre Cornelius and Luke Hancock left practice early yesterday with ankle injuries.  The Washington Times tells us it was due to new shoes sent to Mason by Nike and the Washington Post goes as far as telling us Hancock was wheeled off the court on a rolling office chair. The local media is probably blowing this out of proportion and the coaching staff is most likely just being cautious about their two starters but this still isn't news Mason fans will take lightly.  

Nevertheless Coach Larranaga didn't put Mason fans on ease today when he was asked about it during an interview on 106.7 The Fan this morning with the Junkies. You can listen here:

He dodged the question and it shouldn't be surprising as you don't want to show your cards to an opposing team before the start of an NCAA tournament game where any info can be an advantage. Even if the injuries to the two prevent some minutes you have to remember that guard is where the Patriots are the deepest. Injuries to guys like Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison would disrupt the teams flow a lot more but this could still be significant.  

You can watch a video from ESPN's "All-Access with George Mason" that includes some interviews and footage from yesterday's practice below. The team leaves for Cleveland today. 

What's funny is in the video is that Mike Morrison asks Luke Hancock how he likes his new Nikes. Bet he had a different answer after practice.

Also from ESPN you can vote for Rashad Whack in their "Coolest name in the NCAA tournament" bracket.

Don't forget you can still join the Bracket Challenge: (password is mason)

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tale of the Tape: #8 George Mason vs #9 Villanova

Here is a statistical breakdown of how the two teams match-up.  Right now George Mason is looking like a 1.5 point favorite.  Tomorrow we will post a Q & A conversation we had with the guys over at VU Hoops for some inside analysis on Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats this season.

Statistically the Patriots have the edge in a lot of categories but as you know this is March Madness and that tends to make some of these categories meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Both head coaches are defensive guys and neither team gives up a lot of points. One stat that could turn out to be the difference in the game is turnovers.  Although Mason has the slight edge here on average they did cough up the ball 14 times in their last game against VCU. Villanova has had double digit turnovers in three of their last six games.   

Sidenote: Villanova's sophomore Maalik Wayns had 24 points in Villanova's 70-69 loss to South Florida in the Big East tournament. He's been averaging 22.8 points per game over his last four contests.

When looking at the Four Factors chart below that we have been posting here after every game, you notice that no team really has a huge advantage in any of the key factors. 'Nova has a slight edge in their offensive rebounding and getting to the free throw line.

Don't forget to join the Bracket Challenge: (password is mason)

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Cam Long makes the cover of SI ........ joining about 67 others.

Cam Long and "the Patriot" are seen here on the cover of Sports Illustrated's 2011 NCAA Tournament preview issue. Not in exactly the same form as Lamar Butler 5 years ago but hey still pretty cool.

[Image via @SI_24Seven]


Monday, March 14, 2011

First look at Villanova

#8 George Mason vs #9 Villanova - East Region - Cleveland, OH. Friday 2:10 pm on TNT (Gus Johnson/Elmore)

First some video from last nights selection show viewing at the JC from the Washington Post:

The Patriots have drawn Villanova in their first round (technically 2nd round I guess) game in the NCAA tournament.  Sure we can all argue about being in what most would say is the toughest region and the reward for beating Villanova ends up having to face the number 1 overall seed in Ohio State. But let's take this one game at time.  Because let's face it at the beginning of the season if you had told us this team would be the higher seed in their first NCAA tournament game as an at-large we all would have called you crazy.  We have watched this Patriot team really develop into something special this season and I'm glad they were rewarded for their impressive regular season.  

When talking about Villanova it's hard for most fans to forget last season in Puerto Rico. Mason had built a 13 point lead but fell short in the final seconds off a three-pointer from then freshman Isaiah Armwood who had not yet taken a shot in the game prior to that.  The media in Philadelphia is already saying this is not going to be an easy game for the Wildcats, who enter the NCAA tournament on a five game losing streak and have lost 10 of their last 15. Their last win came in OT against Big East bottom feeder DePaul. Earlier in the season Villanova was rolling and won 16 of their first 17 games, at one point they were ranked 6th in the nation.  

The NCAA tournament gives Villanova a chance to prove they are worthy and it's always a chance for teams to start fresh.  The Wildcats still have a ton of talent and they play in the most stacked conference in Division I basketball.  Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes are both healthy now and can score in bunches. Overall the team has been banged up all season and in their last game center 6'10" Mouphtaou Yarou took a hard fall and needed stitches on his cheek and was seen later with ice wrapped around his ribs.  The team has been sloppy lately, squandering leads in the second half, having trouble in-bounding the ball, and going on long scoring droughts.

Back to that game last season in Puerto Rico, if you remember Larranaga created mismatches that gave Villanova fits for most of the game. He opened up opportunities for Luke Hancock, Ryan Pearson, and Kevin Foster and exploited a lot of the Wildcats holes on defense.  In the end the Patriots were dominated on the boards and yielded a ton of offensive rebounds.  This year's Mason squad knows the important of making the efforts on the glass and it will no doubt be a priority in this game.  

Don't forget to join the Bracket Challenge:


Sunday, March 13, 2011

George Mason receives at-large bid to NCAA tournament as an #8 seed, will face Villanova

The Patriots have been given an at-large bid to the big dance for second time in school history.  They are an #8 seed and will face #9 seed Villanova in the East region at Cleveland. This is the highest they have ever been seeded in the NCAA tournament.  Mason played Villanova last season and lost a very close game in  the Puerto Rico Tip-off.

Much more on this tomorrow, but what are your initial thoughts on the seed and opponent for George Mason?


George Mason Bracketology - Selection Sunday Edition

Here is one final look at where the experts see George Mason being placed.  Seems that now a lot are projecting the Patriots facing another mid-major foe in their first game. This can very well happen as if seems the committee is set on having the little guys knock themselves out in the early rounds for better ratings in later rounds. 


Friday, March 11, 2011

George Mason leading the country in another category: Student Percentage Increase in Bar Spending during March Madness

This year's George Mason held the nation's longest winning for awhile and most seasons they are among the nation's leaders in scoring defense, three-point percentage, and points per possession. But here is statistic us fans can actually take credit for: Percentage Increase in Bar Spending during March Madness: 

Obviously this statistic from a study at Bundle was greatly swayed by the Mason's explosion of school spirit back in March of 2006 but who cares! Take that Notre Dame!

Great job guys as I am sure most of you reading this had a small part in this (I certainly did as a senior back in '06) and don't worry I will do my part to keep us the nation's leader in this category by supplying the drinking games.


Ryan Pearson highlight video for your viewing pleasure


Thursday, March 10, 2011

George Mason Final Four Bobbleheads seen on ESPN's PTI

The Final Four bobbleheads have reached the big time!

Thanks to @Ciao_Mia_Bella for sending this in!

[via TwitPic]

Providence might be looking for a new coach, so naturally Jim Larranaga is again thrown into the mix of possible candidates

It's being reported that Providence is expected to part ways with head coach Keno Davis as early as this weekend. With this news some are already penciling in Jim Larranaga as a possible candidate to replace him. If you remember three years Larranaga rejected an offer to coach the Friars, his alma mater and a school that plays in the Big East conference.  I'm writing this post to tell you Larranaga isn't going anywhere. 

First of all he turns 62 this October and he signed a one-year extension last March that locks him in Fairfax throught the 2015-2016 season. I can't imagine he'd sign that extension if he had any thoughts of ending his coaching career somewhere other than George Mason. Also, it would take about 4-5 years to resurrect that program at Providence even if Larranaga was maximizing his recruiting by selling the lure of the Big East to high school kids. Also, the old coach now has deeply rooted ties with George Mason and keeps openly voicing his love for the green and gold and the university itself. The coach has praised the school for committing more money over the years for facilities and Providence's right now are nothing to get excited about. It also doesn't hurt that the Patriots are coming off their best regular season ever. If he wanted to jump to a bigger conference he would have done it three years go when the offers were pouring in. In short you can put money on Larranaga finishing his coaching career at George Mason.

Now let's back to our speculating of March Madness...

[Photo credit: Shamus Ian Fatzinger/Fairfax Times]

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

George Mason might need to tweak their game plan a bit before the NCAA tournament

John Mcdonnell / Washington Post
George Mason's loss to VCU in the CAA tournament ended the team's 16 game winning streak and may have opened eyes to some about how this team enters into games.  There is no overhaul that needs to be done, they had the nation's longest winning streak for a reason, but their are some minor details I think they started to overlook during the streak.  Some of which teams learned to exploit in the early goings of some of the Patriots' last few games. According to Jim Larranaga, teams started to take notice of Mason's style of play more closely in the last couple of weeks:
"Larranaga said as the regular season came to an end, teams began to adapt to the Patriots' style of play.

"[In the past few games] teams have been a little more conservative offensively against us," he said. "The games are slower paced, they're lower scoring and there are fewer possessions. It puts a premium on defensive rebounding and your shots."
Why is this such a big deal? The Patriots' thrive on high possession games. They led the CAA and are currently ranked 14th nationally in points per possession (1.13), so it's easy to see how this can throw off the team's strategy on offense if an opponent limits their touches.  With Mason having four players shooting better than 48% from the field (Long, Pearson, Hancock, and Morrison) they can be very deadly if another team trys to run and gun up and down the court against them.  However opposing teams have not been doing that lately.

The conservative play by some of Mason's recent opponents is only a small part of the story here.  Another underlying factor is the Patriots' defense in the first half of those games.  Take a look at some the first half shooting percentages from Mason 's last couple of opponents:

Aside from the game against a dreadfully bad shooting Northeastern team, Mason has yielded some pretty high shooting numbers in the beginning of their last couple of games. In the Northern Iowa and VCU games it was obvious how open they were leaving the perimeter and the two teams shredded the Patriots early on. A lack of defensive effort in these games didn't allow Mason to force the other team into playing their type of game.  They want to force turnovers, get more possessions and make the other team settle for shots they don't want to take.  We haven't seen much of that recently and the reason a loss like the one to VCU didn't come earlier was because this is team is full of clutch players and is very strong offensively.  They have the ability to storm back at any point when they are down but the point I'm trying to make is that they shouldn't be putting themselves in that position.

For Larranaga and his staff this issue really isn't something that can't be corrected very quickly. We've seen the team perform at the level they need to win in the NCAA tournament many times this season.  The loss in Richmond could end being a blessing for the Patriots as they enter into March Madness as I doubt haven't learned they need to play a whole 40 minutes and 94 feet of court in all their games.  


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

George Mason Bracketology Part IV

Selection Sunday is just five days away. The Patriots' loss to VCU in the semifinals seems to have dropped their average projected seed to around 8. I think it's worth noting that Mason's "worst loss" Wofford is now a tournament team as they won the SoCon last night.

Also you can find a list of the Top 40 RPI teams that got snubbed from the NCAA tournament since 1994 here, if you want to play devil's advocate.


Sunday, March 06, 2011

Cornelius provided VCU's locker room with some bulletin board material

Well here is an interesting article from UNCW beat writer Brian Mull today who was covering this weekend's CAA tournament. Apparently Andre Cornelius expressed his confidence in his team on twitter before their semifinal game against VCU. 
"About two hours before top-seeded George Mason and fourth-seeded VCU tipped off their CAA Tournament semifinal game on Sunday, Patriots point guard Andre Cornelius posted this on his Twitter account: The game is over don’t forget to tell VCU that’s over."
Later VCU head coach Shaka Smart printed out the the tweet and posted it the team's locker room wall next to a picture of Cornelius. As if the Rams needed more motivation.

Hopefully this move doesn't mean we have seen the last of Mason players on twitter. We already had to deal with the loss of Coach Larranaga daily tweets.


VCU eliminates George Mason from the CAA tournament, nation's longest winning streak comes to an end

The VCU Rams have now eliminated George Mason from the CAA tournament for the 5th time since 2004.  The Patriots did not look like themselves in this one as the nation's longest winning streak comes to an end at 16 games. The Rams first half defense and barrage of uncontested three-pointers in the first half doomed the Patriots from the start.  Mason was frustrated on offense all day long while VCU had an answer for all of their runs. The Rams had 11 three-pointers, one shy of the CAA tournament record and it stunned the Patriots. The frustration reached it's breaking point when Mike Morrison fouled out while hitting Bradford Burgess on a three-point attempt.  Burgess sank all three free-throws and Mason looked pretty lifeless after that.  

The Patriots inability to penetrate VCU's zone defense resulted in a lot of ill-advised shots.  Mason never settled on offense, despite going a few runs in the beginning of the 2nd half.  At half time the Rams were clearly beating the Patriots at their own game: three-pointers, forced turnovers, and 13 assists to George Mason's 1.  The second half didn't bring much change for the Patriots as they only finished with 8 assists and were engaging in way too many one-on-one battles. 

You have to credit VCU's defensive game plan in this one.  They prevented the Mason front court from making any kind of contributions early on. Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson were frustrated and both ended up in the foul trouble.  Cam Long tried to do too much in the 2nd half and didn't really get any support. It's a shame to finish a CAA season like this without cutting down the nets in Richmond but Mason now has to roll with the punches and prepare for a new challenge. 

George Mason now has long week ahead until Selection Sunday where they await their fate in the NCAA tournament. Various experts have penciled them in as a lock for an at-large but it still would have been nice to eliminate any doubt.  Don't know how much this loss will affect their seeding, perhaps they might not get that #7 spot we have been seeing recently.  

[Pictures via SmugMug]

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George Mason takes on VCU in the CAA semifinals. Hmm this looks familiar.

TV viewing options for today.

George Mason takes on VCU today in the CAA tournament semifinals. This will be the fifth time the two teams have faced-off against each other in this tournament since 2004. VCU has pretty much owned George Mason in the CAA tournament in their last four games at the Richmond Coliseum. This dates back to 2004 in the conference finals, remember when Jai Lewis missed the game winning shot in those ugly as hell black jerseys? Most recently the Rams dismantled a young Patriots team in disarray last year at this time by 15 points.  Although today's game isn't for the conference championship it will certainly feel like it. VCU needs this victory today along with a win Monday to get into the NCAA tournament, their bubble may very well have burst back when they finished the regular season on a four game losing streak in the CAA.  Don't discount how much the Rams would love to end the nation's longest winning streak and again prevent the mighty Patriots from taking the CAA title.  

The Patriots looked impressive yesterday as they battled back from being down by as many as 11. Meanwhile the Rams needed 24 points from Jamie Skeen and a buzzer beater in order to beat 5th seeded Drexel. Back on February 15 a few block down the road at the Siegel Center the Patriots defense never let the Rams get into any kind of rhythm.  They held point guard Joey Rodriguez to only one assist and leading scorer Jamie Skeen to half his scoring average.  Mason's defense will again need to disrupt the Ram's flow on offense and they will to stay out of foul trouble. VCU got to free throw line with ease yesterday and got 25 points from there.

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Saturday, March 05, 2011

George Mason dismantles Georgia State in 2nd half to advance to CAA semifinals

The George Mason basketball team is starting to become a broken record, and one that fans are certainly not getting tired of. The nation's longest winning streak is now at 16 and the Patriots have advanced to the CAA semifinals. Once again we saw an opposing team start off strong and the Patriots look a little sloppy.  At half time Mason was up 3 after being down by as many as 11.  And yes once again the Patriots went on a huge run to break the spirits of the team they were facing. The team's overall balance was too much for GSU to overcome. 

After Mason was down 11 in the 1st half they exploded for a 42-9 run that eventually led to a 68-45 victory. The run included Ryan Pearson getting to the line, Vertrail Vaughns hitting shots, and Isaiah Tate throwing behind the back passes. The Panthers just could not keep up with the Patriots for 40 minutes as they didn't have nearly as much firepower on offense.  Mason just had too many scorers, Ryan Pearson had a relatively tame game and they didn't miss a beat.  And after allowing GSU to shoot 60% in the 1st half the Patriots locked down on defense and held them to just 21% in the 2nd. Mason had 27 points off the Panthers' 21 turnovers and 12 fast break points to pull away in the 2nd half.  

George Mason will face VCU tomorrow at noon.

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Friday, March 04, 2011

George Mason to face Georgia State in CAA quarterfinals

Georgia State defeated UNCW this afternoon to advance to quarterfinals and will play George Mason at noon tomorrow. Hopefully most of you will be able to actually watch the game. The Patriots played GSU in their final CAA regular season game last week so the tape on them is still fresh.  Mason was a little sloppy in that game but need a big second half from Cam Long to escape with the victory.  They weren't playing for anything back then other than to extend the nation's longest winning streak and that isn't the case this week. Mason has to chance cap off one of the most impressive CAA seasons ever by cutting down the nets in Richmond at the end of this tournament.  

The Panthers are one of the worst teams in the CAA when it comes to efficiency but had a pretty good shooting day today against UNCW.  They gave the Patriots some problems last week by doing a good work on the offensive glass and getting some easy second chances points.  Overall they are shot over 43% from the field against Mason and nearly 48% today against UNCW, both are above their season average.  

The Patriots can do quick work of GSU by simply pushing the tempo.  The Panthers are dead last in the CAA in points per game and don't have a player averaging double figures. Mason got to the free throw line twice as many times as GSU did in their last contest and that could be another key if the Panthers are hot from the field.  Cam Long and Ryan Pearson have done a great job getting to the charity stripe lately and they should continue to push for that in this one.  

Overall GSU plays pretty good defense, where they have struggled this season is to put points on the board. They don't give up a ton of threes as the Patriots only got off 11 and 12 attempts from there in their two games against GSU.  Normally the Patriots average close to 17 attempts a game.  That definitely slowed down Mason's scoring in both of those games and look for GSU to attempt to do the same again.  

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The key to George Mason's success this season? They are following Jim Larranaga's "Ten Commitments"

Jim Larranaga has a unique brand of coaching and while it might not fit every players' style, you'll see success like we are this season if he has a team full of guys buying into it.  I came across the above YouTube video and it really lays out how this year's Patriots effectively ran through the CAA this season.

In the video Larranaga explains each one of his "Ten Commitments" which he has laid out at every practice. If you are a long time Mason fan you can probably guess what most of them are.  After going through them you can really see how this year's team continues to play Larranaga-branded basketball and how they performed well in almost all of his commitments.

Here is a breakdown of the Ten Commitments:
  1. We will set our defense every time 
  2. -We haven't seen the Patriots get caught out of position on defense much this season. It was really only an issue in their game against NC State in the Charleston Classic and their game at Hofstra.
  3. We will pressure the man with the ball
  4. -Larranaga's patented "scramble defense" is based on the premise of putting maximum pressure on the ball handler.  The Patriots held the rest of the CAA to an average 0.82 assist-to-turnover ratio.  A good recent example of them doing this well was in the game against VCU, where Joey Rodriguez had only one assist; three days later he had 11 against Wichita State.
  5. We will pack the lane to prevent penetration
  6. -Here is an area they really improved on from the beginning of the season but could still use some work. When they prevent slashing guards from going to the hoop is when they can really start to dictate the tempo of the game.
  7. We will contest all shots hands high, without fouling
  8. -Although they have had guys foul out in the recent Northeastern and Northern Iowa games, they done a much better job at reducing overall fouls.  Mike Morrison, who at the beginning of the year struggled to stay in the game during most 1st halves has been a lot more disciplined. The team's overall opponents shooting percentage numbers really reflect how well they contend almost every shot on a nightly basis.   
  9. We will block out, rebound and run
  10. -Another area that the Patriots have improved on and while their rebounding numbers won't blow you away they have been getting the job done in order to close out games. It has been no surprise to witness how well this team has ended a defensive possession with a rebound and then parlayed that into fast break points.
  11. We will run for lay-ups and open threes
  12. -Not much to mention here that I'm sure most fans and observers haven't already taken notice.  This is how Mason has been averaging a CAA best 73.9 points a game, they can beat you with a fast break points and they can efficiently knock down shots from the outside.
  13. We will share the ball
  14. -One of the Patriots biggest strengths is their balance on offense.  They have four starters averaging at least 10 or more points a game and have had 6 different leading scorers so far this season. They are 2nd in the CAA in assists and are 13-0 this season when they record 16 or more in a game.
  15. We will penetrate the defense
  16. -Here is a commitment that shows why most teams can't play zone against Mason. Long, Cornelius, and Hancock are just too good at either getting to the basket or getting to the foul line. Their ability to do this well creates open shots for their perimeter game as well (example: Vertrail Vaughns).
  17. We will create good shots both inside and outside
  18. -What sets this team apart from a lot of other teams around the country is their ability to establish both an inside and outside game.  Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison can draw in defenders and then kick out the ball to their perimeter shooters. It makes them difficult to prepare against because you don't always know where the offensive power is coming from.  Just when you think Ryan Pearson is heating up down low he will kick out to Vertrail Vaughns or Andre Cornelius for an open look three.
  19. We will attack the offensive boards
  20. -This is one commitment where some work can done.  Right now they are middle of the pack in this category in the CAA. It has not really doomed them in any games this season but it has definitely allowed some teams to keep games closer than they should have been.  Mike Morrison could be doing better in this area.


How George Mason made out at the CAA awards banquet last night

Here is a list of all the winners from the CAA awards banquet that was held last night in Richmond:

All-CAA 1st Team

Chaisson Allen, Northeastern

Denzel Bowles, James Madison

Frank Hassell, Old Dominion

Charles Jenkins, Hofstra

Cam Long, George Mason

All-CAA 2nd Team

Kent Bazemore, Old Dominion

Samme Givens, Drexel

Ryan Pearson, George Mason

Jamie Skeen, VCU

Chad Tomko, UNC Wilmington

All-CAA 3rd Team

Jawan Carter, Delaware

Chris Fouch, Drexel

Luke Hancock, George Mason

Quinn McDowell, William & Mary

Joey Rodriguez, VCU

2011 CAA Player of the Year – Charles Jenkins, Hofstra

2011 CAA Coach of the Year – Jim Larranaga, George Mason (this is his 2nd time winning this award, last time was 1999)

2011 CAA Rookie of the Year – Devon Saddler, Delaware

2011 CAA Defensive Player of the Year – Kent Bazemore, Old Dominion

A lot of Mason fans think Andre Cornelius got snubbed by not even being in the top 8 for voting for the All-Defensive team. It's a bit of a shock considering the Patriots are one of the best defensive teams in the CAA but let's remember how much of that success is based on a total team effort.  ODU's Kent Bazemore won defensive player of the year, probably because media members saw his steals per game statistic. It's all subjective especially when it comes to who is among the leagues best defenders and unless the voters watch every game closely it's very hard to choose.

Also an argument can made for Ryan Pearson on the 1st team and if he played the whole season like he played in February he would have been in discussion for player of the year as well.

Depsite a good night for the green and gold at the banquet, there is still a few other pieces of hardware I'm sure they are more interested in.

[Photo via GoMason]


Thursday, March 03, 2011

The viewing options for the CAA tournament are still pretty terrible

Despite the CAA growing a lot in recent years and now being recognized by most as a top 10 basketball conference in NCAA, their viewing options for this weekend's conference tournament remain pretty awful.  I feel bad for Mason fans that are not local because your options are slim to continue watching what has become the Patriots' most successful season ever. If the Mason makes it to the conference finals on Monday night, at least that will be on ESPN in glorious HD. 

However for the rest of this weekend's games some of you might need to head to watch party at a local bar in order to watch the game. Here are the viewing options posted on the website:
"The Comcast Network/WSKY/GMU-TV/CAA-TV"
Now you might see Comcast Network and get excited. But hold on a second because it's not the same Comcast you are thinking of where you have watched George Mason games earlier this year along with the  Capitals and Wizards.  The channel you are thinking of won't be broadcasting this game. The Comcast network they are talking about is actually TSN channel based in Philadelphia or some sort of CSN affiliate. I think some satellite subscribers might have that but I don't think I do on my Cox service.

Next you see "GMU-TV", which is a channel some people get as you can see from their website, but I'm really curious to see what the quality would look like on that channel.  Direct TV customers sure won't have this channel

You can pay a fee to watch the online stream that provides but I can tell you from experience it lags and the quality is awful.

However despite all this ESPN comes to the rescue in the end, for some at least. It looks like will be streaming the games too, which a few more of us have access to with FiOS and Cox cable. If you have Xbox Live hooked up the streaming through there has been pretty good in my experiences. No buffering and a very clear picture.  

I know TV deals are tough to come by for conferences like the CAA but come on now it's 2011 and there are advancements in technology. Would it kill the CAA to up their game on the video streaming and provide free streams to fans for at least the quarter and semifinal games?

At least all the NCAA tournament games can streamed to our iPhones and iPads for free...


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