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CAA Tournament semifinals
George Mason's Cam Long (left) defends against VCU's Rob Brandenberg.
SCOTT K. BROWN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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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."
Old Dominion 77,
VCU vs. Old Dominion,