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PATRIOTS RELEGATED TO BUBBLE
CAA Tournament semifinals

 George Mason's Cam Long (left) defends against VCU's Rob Brandenberg.
SCOTT K. BROWN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 3/7/2011

By RICH CAMPBELL

BY RICH CAMPBELL

RICHMOND

--George Mason had hoped to avoid this specific indignity this weekend at the CAA tournament. The Patriots' regular-season championship, their 16-game winning streak entering yesterday's semifinal against VCU and, perhaps most importantly, their No. 24 ranking in the Ratings Percentage Index make a self-explanatory, strong case for an NCAA tournament at-large bid.

However, they weren't enough to prevent a round of uncomfortable questions after VCU dismantled George Mason in a 79-63 victory at Richmond Coliseum.

Patriots coach Jim Larranaga and leading scorer Cam Long had to defend their team's NCAA resume after appearing worthy of a lesser reward in a game that was never close in the second half.

"The bubble is a hot-air balloon now," Larranaga said. "On TV, [analysts'] bubble goes down to, like, 86 in the RPI. If those teams are on the bubble and our RPI is in the 20s, I think we're sitting in pretty good shape."

The Patriots (26-6), however, could have erased all doubt by winning this tournament.

"I don't sit in that room," Larranaga said. "I don't know what the [tournament selection] committee is thinking right now."

George Mason need not worry about its bid, though. Its seeding is probably all that will suffer after yesterday's loss. But the Patriots will have a week to wonder while VCU could secure its berth by winning tonight's final against Old Dominion.

The fourth-seeded Rams made 11 3-pointers and effectively played a variety of defenses to snap the nation's longest active winning streak. Unlike George Mason, their NCAA hopes depend on winning this tournament--and they played like it.

"We've got to turn the page quickly," VCU coach Shaka Smart said. "We've got one more game to get to where we want to go."


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CAA TOURNAMENTAt Richmond Coliseum Yesterday' semifinals

VCU 79, George Mason 63

Old Dominion 77, Hofstra 69

Tonight's championship

VCU vs. Old Dominion, 7 p.m. (ESPN)