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Team Profile: 2008 BracketBuster Preview: George Mason vs Ohio

by Jonathan Wall | February 21st, 2008

George Mason head coach Jim Larranaga isn’t one to shy away from big games. After all, this is the same head coach that willed his team to the Final Four in 2006 with a hope, a prayer and a Jai Lewis. For George Mason, the game against Ohio on Saturday (1pm ET, ESPN2) is the point in the season where the Patriots finally find their rhythm and go on another incredible wining streak, or fall once again on the road and see their season come crashing to a halt.

At 18-8 (10-5 in the CAA), the Patriots are starting to see their slim chances of making the Tournament disappear. After falling at the buzzer on Saturday to UNC Wilmington (a game that could have serious Tournament repercussions), the team looks to be hitting a rough patch in the season at the wrong time. With Virginia Commonwealth and UNC Wilmington both boasting better conference records, the best option for George Mason is to make winning their game on Saturday at Ohio and the conference tournament a priority.

Ohio, like George Mason, can ill-afford a loss at this point in the season. At 17-9 overall (8-5 in conference), the Bobcats are sitting in fourth in the Mid-American Conference standings and are in dire need of a big win against an opponent like George Mason. After failing to prove they can win on the road in conference, head coach Tim O’Shea needs to find a way to rally his team.

A BracketBuster matchup at home against the Patriots could be just the remedy Ohio needs to make a final push for a Tournament slot; either that or the Bobcats could be looking at their first home loss of the season and a possible tournament invite to the NIT. The choice is up to them.

Key Matchup: George Mason’s Will Thomas vs. Ohio’s Leon Williams
Its’ not hard to understand that as Will Thomas goes, so does the entire George Mason squad. Thomas, who was a staple on the 2005-06 GMU team that went to the Final Four, is once again the main down low for the Patriots. Thomas is currently averaging a team-best 16.2 points per game and 10 rebounds this season. Over the last eight games, Thomas has averaged a double-double in six.

Leon Williams should give Thomas all he can handle in the post. The Bobcat forward is shooting a stellar 60 percent from the field this season, while also posting a near double-double in points and rebounds with 15.6 points and 9.9 rebounds. Some have him tabbed as a potential MAC Player of the Year candidate this season. Like Thomas, Williams is a spectacular back-to-the-basket player that seems to thrive when he has a man on his hip.

Expect the two forwards to go toe-to-toe on Saturday afternoon.

Also the point guard battle between Folarin Campbell (George Mason) and Michael Allen (Ohio) should be another matchup to watch.

Key Stat: Field-Goal Percentage
The adage might sound old and outdated, but in a game where winning is everything, the term, “every shot counts,” brings on a whole new meaning. For both George Mason and Ohio that hasn’t been a problem this season. Each school finds itself in the top three in their respective conference in field-goal percentage (Ohio 45.4 percent/ George Mason 46.7 percent) and can attribute a lot of the success to having starting fives that are led by juniors and seniors that have been there before.

Don’t expect either team to give the ball away easily in the critical moments of the game. With go-to guards like Folarin Campbell and Michael Allen at the point position, you can to see a lot of high percentage shots being taken the entire game.

Prediction
For Ohio, the chance of playing in the Convocation Center (“The Convo” for short) for their BracketBuster matchup couldn’t come at a better time. The Bobcats know that anything short of perfection won’t do this late in the season, and getting the chance to play George Mason on the Convocation Center floor should be something every player on the team should relish. Boasting a 10-0 record at home this season, the Bobcat’s are a formidable team on their home court. Add in the rowdy student section aptly called the, “O Zone”, and you make George Mason’s task of winning on the road that much more difficult.

GMU is a run-and-gun team that seems to thrive when they score. This season the Patriots have posted a 7-1 record when they score over 80 points in a game, and judging by the way Ohio likes to slow the game down to setup their offense, Mason had better be prepared to maintain a frenetic pace if they want to have a chance of knocking down the Bobcats at home.

Both teams know that winning is the only option, and judging by the fact that George Mason is only 5-5 on the road this season, playing at “The Convo” isn’t the best place to cure their road woes.

Ohio 72, George Mason 69

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4 Responses to “2008 BracketBuster Preview: George Mason vs Ohio”  

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  1. Robert Says:

    it is the MID-AMERICAN Conference! And people in the media wonder why the mid-major conferences bristle about the coverage they get in the media?

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  2. Jonathan Wall Says:

    @ Robert:
    Good catch. Don’t think the error was due to anything more than a lapse in proofreading on my part. I know the conference, so please don’t think that respect for the MAC is down in the media. Good luck on Saturday.

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  3. John Says:

    @ Jonathan Wall. This is a tricky game to call. I think George Mason is the better team, but playing in Athens is very difficult(as you pointed out by Ohio’s undefeated record at home.) Both teams have marquee neutral site or true road non-conference wins(George Mason vs Kansas State at the Old Spice Classic and Ohio at Maryland.), but the better team usually wins. However, where the score is at halftime will be a key. If it’s in the mid 30-s to low 40-s, expect George Mason to win. If it’s in the high 20′s to mid 30′s, expect Ohio to win. This is really a tough one to predict, but in the end I think the better team(George Mason) will win(although outside of my beloved Mighty Gators, I do have a great appreciation for the MAC, so this is a hard pick for me.) Will Thomas shows why he is the best player on the floor. George Mason 80, Ohio 72.

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  4. Jonathan Wall Says:

    @John:
    That’s some pretty solid analysis. I would totally agree with what you’re saying, especially the mention to the halftime score. As I said in the article, Mason is 7-1 when they score over 80 points, but what I find really interesting is that Ohio has only allowed teams to score more than 60 points on four occasions this season when playing at home. Maybe it’s the home court advantage, but I think Ohio has a way of slowing teams down and throwing them off their game at home. Regardless of the outcome, it should be one hell of a game.

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