Is George Mason this year's George Mason? Well, no. But only because so many people already know how good the George Mason Patriots are, so no one will be surprised if they go far this year in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. The players are all gone from that 2006 Final Four team, but the memories aren't, and neither is Coach Jim Larranaga, now in his 14th season with the program.
The Patriots know how to get it done offensively. They rank 16th in the nation in efficiency, and 14th in points per possession. Opponents will need to be rather careful to limit GMU's chances, as the Patriots shoot 39.7 percent from three-point range.
Record: 26-6, 17-3
Key wins: The problem with George Mason's resume is that they haven't really beaten anybody. Other than an inspiring blowout home victory over Old Dominion on Feb. 5, the Patriots don't have a single win against participants in the NCAA Tournament. Their record sure looks nice though.
Key losses: The Patriots' loss in the CAA semifinals to Virginia Commonwealth could have cost them a higher seed in the Big Dance. It was a surprisingly lopsided 79-63 loss, but it also happened to be George Mason's first loss since Jan. 8, ending a 16-game winning streak that was the best in the nation at the time. Losses to Wofford and North Carolina State in the ESPN Charleston Classic back in November seem like the distant past.
Players to watch: The Patriots are led by senior guard Cam Long and junior forward Ryan Pearson. Long's 15.1 points per game leads the team, but Pearson has really come on lately, and averages14.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. But even if teams find a way to limit Long and Pearson, the Patriots will just keep bringing in more shooters. They have six players currently shooting better than 33 percent from three-point land.
-- Martin Shatzer of SB Nation DC
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