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
March 5, 2007 – VCU 65, George Mason 59 – CAA Championship Game – Box 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.
March 9, 2009 – VCU 71, George Mason 50 – CAA Championship Game – Box Score
You want to know what it looks like to have two NBA first round draft picks playing at their game? Watch this video and understand. This was Maynor and Larry Sanders – a sophomore at the time – playing at a different level than everybody else. Maynor was his typical brilliant self (25 points, 8 assists), but this was the moment when people really began to understand Sanders’ inherent abilities. He finished with 18 points, 20 rebounds and seven blocked shots. Hands down, probably one of the three best individual performances by a Ram in my nine seasons.
March 4, 2012 – VCU 74, George Mason 64 – CAA Semifinals – Box Score
The Run. Just nine days prior, VCU and Bradford Burgess laid a whipping on the Patriots at the Siegel Center. George Mason obviously wanted to come out and answer the Rams with a swift, direct counterpunch.
They did not.
Instead, VCU opened the game on an incredible 32-4 blitz. The Patriots, give them credit, actually cut the lead to six in the second half, but that early 28-point crater was just too much to overcome.
Feb. 25, 2012 – VCU 89, George Mason 77 – Box Score
Bradford Burgess has his “Charles Jefferson” moment. If you don’t know the name – and it’s been mentioned before on this blog – Charles Jefferson was played by Forest Whitaker in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”. Convinced the rival high school has destroyed his prized Camaro, Jefferson, a linebacker on Ridgemont High’s football team, proceeds to obliterate his rival on the football field that Friday night.
On this night, Mason ruffled feathers when they came out to warm up on the floor during Burgess’ senior night ceremony. Bad move. Make Brad mad. Burgess responded with a career-high 31 points.
March 6, 2011 – VCU 79, George Mason 63 – CAA Semifinals – Box Score
This one was a stunner. Just 19 days earlier, the Patriots embarrassed VCU on the Siegel Center floor by 20. George Mason was the top seed in the CAA Tournament, ranked in the Coaches Poll, and would earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, where the Patriots would advance to the second round. The Rams had pretty much been written off at this point. Instead of rolling over, the Rams shot 52 percent and hit nine first half 3-pointers on the way to a 14-point lead. The Patriots never recovered.
If you don’t like recalling losses, you can stop reading here.
Feb. 14, 2012 – George Mason 62, VCU 61 – Box Score
Sherrod Wright kills Valentine’s Day. Like, pretty much punted Cupid. When VCU took a five-point lead with 43 seconds left, this one looked basically over. But Mason kept hitting threes. First, Ryan Pearson, then Vertrail Vaughns and finally, a 28-foot dagger by Wright at the buzzer. When I got home, my wife rolled over in bed and said to me, “I gave up Valentine’s Day for that?” Thanks for the support, babe.
Feb. 15, 2011 – George Mason 71, VCU 51 – Box Score
Thankfully, I couldn’t readily locate a video of this debacle. I assume the tapes have been burned or stashed in the same underground bunker they use to hide the archives of Magic Johnson’s talk show. There’s not much to say about it from a VCU perspective, other than that most VCU fans have tucked this memory into a far away, dark corner of their minds, like that awkward seventh grade dance and Jams shorts. This loss also came three days after a similar defeat at the hands of Old Dominion. That was a tough week. Six weeks later, the Rams were in the Final Four. I like to think this game served as inspiration.