VIDEO: VCU UPENDS GEORGE MASON 71-57

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FROM THE TELLY

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FROM THE MEDIA ROOM

A WHOLE LOT OF AWESOME…AND A BASKETBALL GAME

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Thursday night, VCU welcomed George Mason to the Atlantic 10 Conference essentially the same way the Rams said farewell (although they didn’t know it at the time) to them in the CAA in 2012: with a Havoc-heavy double-digit win. In front of a raucous, “Check the Stu” legion of VCU fans – the 43rd straight sellout at the Siegel Center – VCU beat the Patriots 71-57.

It was a night where I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the bouillabaisse of terrific happenings on and off the court. First and foremost, the “Check the Stu” promotion. Much like last year’s “Stripe the Stu”, this was outstanding. Frankly, it’s intimidating to look up in the stands and see 7,700 black and gold shirts bearing down on you. Love how big-time that looks on TV too.

As if that wasn’t enough, the game featured possibly the best Briante Weber steal you’ll ever see, a thunderous Terrance Shannon tip dunk, a Shaka Smart chestbump (of Shannon) and a space kitten. Let’s recap!

#CHECKTHESTU
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This picture doesn't necessarily do it justice, but it's the only arena shot at have right now.

This picture doesn’t necessarily do it justice, but it’s the only arena shot at have right now.

#BRIFENSE
With about 47 seconds left in the game and VCU up double-digits, George Mason attempted to roll the ball in – an attempt to advance the ball without running clock. Bad idea. Briante Weber, who just flat-out never downshifts, came sliding in for one of the best steals you’ll see. Ever. Seriously.

EDIT: Slide gif now available.
weberslide

Weber finished with 12 points and added a total of five steals to move into sole possession of second place one the program’s career list.

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GEORGE MASON PRIMERS

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Oh, and we will be "Checking" the Stu Thursday, as well.

Oh, and we will be “Checking” the Stu Thursday, as well.

Welcome folks, no time to spare! Let’s whip around the I-95 corridor and catch up with some of the scuttlebutt surrounding the VCU-George Mason contest Thursday evening.

First, we’ll check in with VCU’s own radio color analyst and Stella Artois enthusiast, Mike Litos, who offers his breakdown of the Patriots’ personnel.

We can overanalyze this game to death, but it’s pretty simple: style of play. VCU leads the country in turnover percentage, assuming command of the ball on 28.1% of opponents’ possessions. George Mason turns it over on 21.6% of its possessions, good for 308th nationally. So there’s that.

I continue to enjoy the work of RVA News, which has really stepped up its VCU coverage the last couple of years. Reporter Aaron Williams is cut from a bit from the SABRmetric cloth, and that’s a good thing. You can click here for the full preview.

In addition to having an underwhelming season, this is a terrible matchup for George Mason. The Rams can and should win. KenPom picks VCU to win 74-61 with a 91% chance of victory.

Time Pearrell of the Times-Dispatch was also around to offer some scribbles on VCU and George Mason resuming a rivalry that dates back to 1981.

“It’s a great rivalry for the fans,” VCU coach Shaka Smart said. “They’re a good team, they’re a good program. They’re right up the street. . . . There were some great games and a lot of back and forth in the CAA.

VCU’s Voice of The Rams and I also offered our thoughts in “What’s at Steak” (spelling is intentional). That and the polar vortex also gave me an opportunity to dig out a sweater from my closet for the first time in about two years.

MEETING MASON…HISTORY FIRST

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VCU and George Mason will meet for the 50th time Thursday. The Rams lead the all-time series 31-18.

VCU and George Mason will meet for the 50th time Thursday. The Rams lead the all-time series 31-18.

For all that VCU gained in its move to the Atlantic 10 Conference in 2012, the Rams did forfeit a couple of compelling in-state rivalries. Sure, the Rams still play Old Dominion, but without a conference race at stake – not to mention the Monarchs’ recent struggles – the series has lost momentum. The other realignment casualty was VCU’s series with George Mason. When VCU packed up for the A-10, I didn’t lose any sleep over the possible end to games with James Madison and William & Mary, but the Mason rivalry has had some incredible moments. When the Patriots made the jump to the A-10 this summer, I was happy that the Rams would have another in-state rival playing for similar stakes.

Until 2012-13, the last season in which VCU and George Mason did not meet was 1983-84. So there’s some history, here. VCU leads the all-time series 31-18, and in the last 8-10 years, the rivalry really hit its stride. Both were CAA contenders essentially every year, they were two hours apart (depending on that NOVA traffic) and each enjoyed postseason success, including a Final Four.

But the Rams were also 6-0 against the Patriots in the CAA Tournament. VCU actually ended the Patriots’ conference title hopes the last four years they were in the CAA together and five of the last six. It’s at this moment that I wonder if George Mason actually suggested that the Rams join the A-10. They may have helped pack VCU’s bags.

While Mason isn’t likely to shake off those stinging losses, which include two CAA Championship games (we’ll get to that), the Patriots have earned some notable wins over the Rams in recent years. At the top of the list is Sherrod Wright’s 30-foot buzzer-beater that spoiled Valentine’s Day in 2012, and the 71-51 hammer the Patriots dropped on VCU at the Siegel Center in 2011, just prior to the Rams morphing into the Lakers (well, the old Lakers).

All-in-all, it’s been a fun rivalry, one fans should welcome back on both sides. Here’s a quick look at some recent memorable contests between George Mason and VCU.

THE (VCU) GOOD

Tournament MVP Eric Maynor celebrates VCU 2007 CAA Championship over George Mason.

Tournament MVP Eric Maynor celebrates VCU 2007 CAA Championship over George Mason.

March 5, 2007 – VCU 65, George Mason 59 – CAA Championship GameBox Score
Before there was “The Dagger”, there was this. Eric Maynor may have made his name by crushing Duke in the 2007 NCAA Tournament, but it wouldn’t have been possible without his incredible performance – highlighted by back-to-back steals – to stun George Mason.

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AND THEN THERE WERE 14 (AGAIN)

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Davidson_Combo_LogoRICHMOND, Va. – The tectonic shifting of Division I realignment has rumbled again, and this time it shook out favorably for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

The league trumpeted the addition of Davidson Wednesday for the 2014-15 season, just weeks after George Mason announced it would leave the CAA and would also join the A-10.

“Davidson is an ideal fit for the Atlantic 10 – as a nationally recognized academic Institution complimented by excellence in a broad-based athletic program — the Wildcats will be competitive immediately. Their success in men’s basketball is important, bringing another nationally recognized brand into the league,” A-10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade said Wednesday in a prepared release.

George Mason will become an A-10 member this summer, restoring a strong in-state rivalry with VCU. It also means the league will operate with 13 full members in 2013-14 and then – presumably – 14 in 2014-15.

In the short and long term, this is a boon for the Newport News, Va.-based Atlantic 10. The A-10 will lose four members this summer, Temple (All-American), Charlotte (Conference USA), Butler (Big East) and Xavier (Big East), but McGlade wasted little time shoring up the league.

From a men’s basketball perspective, which, realistically, is the driver in all this, the additions of George Mason and Davidson should be well-received. Given the landscape of college athletics these days, you could make a strong argument that these were the two most attractive and realistic targets for the A-10. Actually, that’s exactly the argument I’m making. The league adds two strong basketball programs with strong history in attractive TV markets; two schools which have each established themselves on the national scene at different points in the last eight years.

It would be impossible to completely replace programs like Xavier, Temple and Butler in a single year, but these are good moves nonetheless. If you count Davidson, seven of the A-10’s 14 schools finished in the top 100 in RPI last year.

Here’s a comparison of what the A-10 will gain the next two years to the schools that will depart (click to enlarge):

A-10-realignRPIa10-realign-measurables

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