Big League Clew continues the Mid-Major Conference Road Trip with a visit to a couple of typical “underdog” colleges, George Mason and Georgia State!
This week I hit the road to bring to you something from the “little engine that could” conference: The Colonial Athletic. This conference comes along with just a touch of “underdogary” in tow. My first stop is at a little known school named George Mason, where the Patriots make their home.
George Mason University Patriots, 6-3 (1-0)
Latest results: Lost to Virginia 68-48
Next game: @ Radford Highlanders 12/10
Here come the Patriots! These Bill Bellichick-less Patriots are the main inspiration for my discussion on contenders and pretenders. We all remember their epic run to the 2006 NCAA Final Four, when they upset #1 seeded UCONN in the Elite 8 (a loss that still stings in Huskies history). The 2011-2012 team similar to that 2005-2006 program because it too is talented, yet undersized and out manned. Can this team overcome the odds like they did six years ago? I mean shoot, that team had to beat Michigan State, North Carolina and UConn. Overall I think the 2011-2012 version falls short of being in that same category. So far this season, their play has not led to the wins they have been looking for. Three of the first four games George Mason played this year went to overtime, with the Patriots only winning one of those contests. They have won four straight now so momentum is on their side, but they still need to learn to finish games before they can match up against the thick of the CAA schedule (let alone big time programs). With teams like VCU, Old Dominion and red hot Georgia State to contend with in the conference, the Patriots will need to find a little magic to keep their winning ways going.
Contenders or Pretenders?
Can this team capture the magic they had in that 2006 Final Four run? Well, many people would call me crazy if I did say so, but how many people honestly picked the Patriots to make the final four back then? Im sure you can count them on one hand. Am I saying that they will make another deep run like that? Probably not…but don’t be surprised if they shake things up.
Key Player: F Ryan Pearson, 19.8ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.8 apg
Georgia State University Panthers, 6-3 (1-0 in the CAA)
The next team I visited a little school called Georgia State University. This small state university actually happens to be in the middle one of the longest winning streaks in school history. So I went down to the local Chik-fil-A and talked to the locals over some chicken and sweet tea about how they feel about this Georgia State program. Here’s what they said:
Latest Results: Beat William & Mary 66-34
Talk about a turn around from the beginning of the season! After starting 0-3, this team has gone on a tear, winning 6 in a row. It just so happens to be their longest winning streak since a seven-game streak way back during the 2003-04 season. They’ve also held their opponents to an average of 47 points during the streak. In fact, the 34 points scored by W&M were the second fewest ever by a Georgia State opponent (one more than the school record of 33 against Howard University in 2009). When these Panthers are hot, they know how to play tough defense. I have officially jumped on the Bandwagon! I believe that the key to winning in college is a good defense, no matter at what level.
Contenders or Pretenders?
These Panthers are just finding their winning ways, so more than likely they still need to develop as a team and get some good young athletes to help keep it going for many years. There is no way this team can even make the NCAA tournament, let alone contend with the likes of some of the major powerhouses. Since joining the CAA, they have never had a winning season, but if they play well enough this year they will probably get an NIT bid.
Key Players: G Jihad Ali (No I am not making that up) – 12.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, G Josh Micheaux – 7.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg.
Pearson image courtesy of: http://www.gomason.com/
Ali image courtesy of: http://www.fanbase.com/
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