Virginia Commonwealth (22-5, 13-2 CAA) AT George Mason (21-6, 13-2 CAA)
Time: 9 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Location: Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va.
VCU 87 (No. 2)
George Mason 101 (No. 3)
Line: Even (O/U 130)
VCU Players to Watch: F Bradford Burgess, 6-6 Sr. (13 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.5 apg); F Javonte Reddic, 6-9 So. (10.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.2 bpg); G Darius Theus, 6-3 Jr. (8.6 ppg, 4.7 apg, 1.5 spg). Burgess is the reigning Colonial Player of the Week after averaging 23 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 2.5 steals during last week’s wins over Towson and Old Dominion. With five more starts, Burgess will be college basketball’s all-time leader with 143.
George Mason Players to Watch: F Ryan Pearson, 6-6 Sr. (17.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 51.2% FG); F Mike Morrison, 6-9 Sr. (9.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 58.6% FG); G Byron Allen, 6-3 So. (7.7 ppg, 3.6 apg, 3.3 rpg). Pearson has scored in double-figures in 24 of the Patriots’ 28 games this season and is the only player in the Colonial in the top-5 in scoring and rebounding.
Storylines: VCU and GMU enter Tuesday’s contest tied with Drexel on top of the Colonial Athletic Association standings at 13-2. The Rams have won 11 in a row (the 7th-longest winning streak in the nation and the program’s longest since 1984-85), and the Patriots have won nine of 10. This game could have NCAA Tournament implications. Although VCU, George Mason and Drexel all belong in the tournament discussion, it’s far from guaranteed all three will get invites in March.
Keys: George Mason has one of the deepest and most balanced teams in the CAA with six players averaging at least 6.5 per game. All six of them have led the team in scoring at least once this season. The Patriots lead the conference at 70.4 points a night and at 45.9 percent from the field, and they surrender just 60.7 in their 21 wins (71.3 in their six losses). Virginia Commonwealth is second in the CAA in scoring defense, allowing just 58.6 points per game. The Rams made 10 3-pointers in Saturday’s win over ODU. It is the 17th time this season they have made at least seven. They are 15-2 in those 17 games. VCU has outscored its opponents by over nine points per game during its winning streak. The Rams lead the league in turnover margin, forcing 17.6 errors, including 10.5 steals, and turning it over just 12 times themselves. GMU has turned the ball over 396 times to 402 takeaways this season. VCU is 9-2 in true road games this season, including wins in five straight games away from home. George Mason is 13-1 at the Patriot Center. Its only loss at home came on Dec. 21 against Duquesne, 75-64. The two teams will meet again in the regular-season finale in Richmond. VCU leads the all-time series 29-17 and it has won seven of the last 10 meetings. Both programs have been in a Final 4 in the past five seasons; GMU in 2006 and VCU last season.
The Bottom Line: VCU appears to be the hotter team, but George Mason has the CAA’s most talent. Throw in the homecourt advantage and the Patriots should get a huge win.
The Pick: George Mason 70, VCU 64
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 63-40