Coach Jim Larranaga didn’t waste much time celebrating George Mason’s victory over first-place Northeastern on Saturday. As soon as he could, he found a television and quickly went from coach to couch potato.
“One of the nice things about playing at noon is you get a chance to follow the other [CAA] teams, and they’re all on TV,” he said. “As a coach, of course you’re focused on your team. But as a college basketball fan, you love following it and being able to see it, not just hear about it, but see it with your own eyes. And the games are tremendous, and the race, I think, is great.”
The Patriots are right in the thick of the CAA race, but then again, so is just about every other team. After the top two teams lost on Saturday, the race became even more muddled. Only two games separate first place from seventh place. With just three CAA games remaining on the schedule, any of the seven teams could wind up with one of the CAA tournament’s four first-round byes. The Patriots (17-8, 10-5) are tied for third place with Drexel (14-10, 10-5) entering Wednesday’s game against the Dragons at Patriot Center.
“The interesting thing to me is of the seven teams right now battling for those four spots there’s only one team that hasn’t lost a game to the bottom five,” Larranaga said.
That team is fifth-place Hofstra (17-9, 9-6). Unlike VCU, which dropped games to Delaware (5-10, 11-16) and UNC Wilmington (6-21, 3-12), and Northeastern, which lost to William & Mary (8-17, 3-12), the Pride has so far avoided slip-ups against the lower-rung teams. (George Mason’s only bottom-five loss was at Delaware.) These unexpected results are likely to make for an interesting finish as well as an unpredictable conference tournament.
“No one can take it easy because everybody has lost to a team that in the standings is considerably behind them in terms of what their records are,” Larranaga said.
George Mason certainly won’t have it easy, given its challenging schedule. The Patriots host Drexel, one of the hottest teams in the league, on Wednesday before traveling to Omaha, Neb., for Saturday’s BracketBuster game. Then on Feb. 25, they are off to UNC Wilmington where they’ll try to win their first CAA road game since Jan. 14. George Mason ends the regular season on Feb. 28 with a home game against Towson.
“To me, it’s all about playing well,” Larranaga said. “If your team is really, really playing well, then you’ve got a chance to beat anybody.”
February 17, 2009; 5:57 AM ET
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