GMU Basketball: How Good Are the Patriots?

Mike ArrowsmithCorrespondent IJanuary 23, 2008

If there’s one word that described the 2006-07 George Mason men’s basketball season, it would be inconsistency. 

Just one season removed from their magical Final Four run, the Patriots seemed to struggle with own identity until the very end of the season. 

The Patriots alternated wins and losses for much of the season, and headed into CAA tournament with a less than spectacular 15-14 (9-9 CAA) record. 

Then, came tournament time.  George Mason opened the tournament as the conference’s fifth seed and  pulled out a 73-62 win over CAA cellar dweller James Madison (7-23, 4-14).  This was a feel-good win, but nothing to really turn the heads of the NCAA tournament committee. 

George Mason then caught fire. 

First, they pulled out a nail biting 64-61 win over fourth seed Hofstra (22-10). 

Next, they beat NCAA Tournament at-large bid Old Dominion (24-9) 79-63.  This win propelled the Patriots into the CAA Championship game against number-one seed Virginia Commonwealth (28-7). 

George Mason found themselves one win away from an automatic bid in the NCAA tournament.  The Patriots played their hearts out, but came up short in the final minutes, losing 65-59 and consequently ending their season at 18-15. 

However, the impressive end to their season brought hope to the Patriots for 2007-08.               

After returning four of their starters, George Mason opened up the season with four straight wins—including an impressive victory over #20 Kansas State (12-4). 

It seemed the Patriots were back to NCAA tournament form and looked to be legitimate contenders for the CAA title.  George Mason dropped their next game over #19 Villanova by eight points, but rebounded with  a nice 69-68 win over 9-8 South Carolina. 

The Patriots were convincing the country that they were legitimate competitors and a force to be reckoned with.  However, one question still remained. 

How would the Patriots hold up in CAA competition?   George Mason opened up conference play with an impressive 85-38 win over Drexel.  The Patriots seemed to be firing on all cylinders.  Not only were they beating the teams they were supposed to, but they were winning games that weren’t favored to win.  The Patriots defense was dominant, and the offense was sparking behind the efforts of  Will Thomas and John Vaughan—who are currently putting up 16.4 and 14.1 points per game, respectively. 

However, the Patriots' newfound dominance would soon be brought into question at the BB&T Classic.               

The Patriots came into the Verizon Center expecting to blow the lowly East Carolina Pirates (7-9) out of the water.  Surprisingly, East Carolina pulled off a stunning 68-65 upset.  Fans began to wonder whether George Mason was for real. 

The Patriots rebounded with a with a win over MEAC front runner Hampton (10-6) 57-54, but were overpowered by Kent State (14-4) in a 73-55 loss. 

After that, the Patriots seemed to return to form—until losing to CAA cellar dwellers Delaware and Georgia State.  Most recently, the Patriots earned a convincing 96-75 road win over tough division opponent James Madison (10-8). 

That victory brings Mason to (13-5, 5-2) on the year. 

The Patriots have also yet to loose a game at home this season.  Their record puts them just one win out of first behind CAA front runner Virginia Commonwealth. 

The much-anticipated rematch of these two teams will ultimately help to decide just how good George Mason is come March.