January 29, 2008 1:26 pm ET by Kyle Whelliston
Virginia Commonwealth at George Mason (CAA)
Patriot Center - Fairfax, VA
7:00 PM EST
Tonight, we have a rematch of a CAA title game that was so hot, John Feinstein handed an NCAA bid to the 18-15 Patriots after they lost. (Logic somehow prevailed.) Bally had both these teams going to the 2008 NCAA's back in November, and this stands as the only remaining, semi-realistic CAA two-bid scenario going. ESPN2 will televise it, so no excuse! You're watching this! Without your pants on!
What you'll see is a VCU team that's risen steadily to the No. 2 spot in our index behind Drake. The Rams are 15-4 overall and 8-1 in the conference, and are on the same kind of seven-game win streak they were on this time last year. Only difference is that this team plays a whole lot of defense. The point we've been hammering on all month bears repeating. Last year's 3-point defense: 35.8 percent allowed, 10th in the CAA, 230th in the country. This year's: 25.5 percent, best in the nation, and perhaps the worrrrld. Head coach Anthony Grant's zen quote on the subject: "We guard the perimeter better becacuse our interior defense is much better." Last year's team beat Duke and stuff. What could this year's version do?
And what of the Patriots (14-6, 6-3), those green and gold legacy-builders and 2006 wall-smashers? They sure looked like a team poised to go all kinds of New England on the CAA back in November (especially after this opening statement), and we hold fast to the theory that a Dec. 2 loss to East Carolina, in which they walked through the first half and expected to win anyway, was a psychological blow that took five weeks to completely reverse. And they're coming off a three-point loss to UNCW where they only got four free throws. But lately, they've shown themselves to be an efficient offense that refuses to turn the ball over, headed up by Final Four hero Will Thomas. And oh yeah, they're undefeated at home with a 9-0 record at the Patriot Center coming into tonight. Where was the game again?
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