When the George Mason Patriots take the court at the Patriot Center tonight, head coach Paul Hewitt and company may perhaps play their last game as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association — a conference they helped found back in 1979.
Tonight, Mason will welcome the Western Michigan Broncos to their home court for the semifinals of the 2013 CBI Tournament, essentially the Final Four of the tournament. The game comes two days after GMU announced they will be leaving the CAA for the Atlantic 10 for all sports, effective July 1, and after their victory over Houston in the tournament’s quarterfinals.
Mason (20-14, 10-8), who finished fourth in the CAA during the regular season, has put together a triumphant run through the NCAA’s third tournament.
With the Patriot’s entire starting lineup returning next season, this tournament has proven to be a valuable growing experience for Mason as a collective unit. While Sherrod Wright and Bryon Allen have continued to be stable performers for Hewitt, the entire Patriots roster has shown vast improvement in the postseason.
In the team’s opening round victory over College of Charleston, all five of Mason’s starters scored in double figures. Then, in Mason’s quarterfinal victory over Houston, Allen put up a near double-double, Wright poured in 29 points and six players scored seven or more points in total.
This Patriots team that has been powering through the CBI is a different team that was competing in the CAA during the regular season. Back during conference play, Mason could only rely on Wright to be a truly consistent offensive producer. Now, Hewitt can go into games comfortably knowing that he will have five or six players that can put up double-digit points.
Mason will need to continue that consistently well-rounded effort when they take on the Broncos this evening. Western Michigan brings a truly dynamic offensive attack into Fairfax, VA of their own and, while GMU is a talented defensive club, Mason will need to be able to score at a similar rate to stay in this game. We saw the Patriots were able to do that on Monday, as they hung 88 on Houston in overtime, but will they be able to repeat that performance?