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From the Other Side: GMUHoops.com

Creighton hits the road again this Saturday. They travel this time to Fairfax, Virginia, to take on the George Mason Patriots. This is a return game from last season’s BracketBuster matchup between the schools at the Qwest Center, when Booker Woodfox lit up the Patriots for 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting (including 5 3-pointers). There is no Booker Woodfox this season, but the trip to Virginia will be a bit of a homecoming for Justin Carter who grew up just up the road from Fairfax. Friends and family are excited for this game, as Carter told us before the season started.

Here is something to familiarize you with the recent success George Mason has had in the world of college basketball:

Let’s take some time to learn a bit more about this year’s George Mason squad. Patriots hoops specialist, Ryan from GMUHoops.com, was nice enough to give us a little insight about what Creighton fans can expect coming into this game. You can bet with a heartbreaking loss to Dayton Tuesday night that the Bluejays will be facing a hungry team.  When you are done, checkout Ryan’s Q & A with us.

White & Blue Review: Who has been the Patriots’ most consistent player so far this season? Does this differ from fans’ expectations coming into the year? Is this team loaded with upper classman or young players?

GMUHoops.com: Really, there has not been much consistency from this team, but I’d say junior point guard Cam Long would be the best answer. Long is the leader of this young team, which features 7 freshmen and 1 senior. The freshmen class was highly touted and ranked one of the best in the nation among Non-BCS schools by ESPN. Fans have high hopes but expect growing pains. The lack of upper classmen leadership will hurt this team, but they have to talent to contend in the CAA.

WBR: How beloved is Jim Larranaga among GMU fans? What would have to happen
for his grace period following the Final Four appearance to come to an end? Overall, what are fans’ expectations, generally, for Larranaga’s program?

GMUHoops.com: Coach Larranaga is widely loved by Mason and is viewed as the ambassador of the school by most. Generally, fans expect to be in the hunt for the CAA title each season with him at the helm. He already had his chance to coach at a bigger conference and turned them all down, so it would take a lot of seasons in the CAA basement for the school to look in another direction for a head coach. He’s more than just the head basketball coach to the University.

WBR: This summer, it was rumored that Creighton was looking to schedule a home game against Georgetown with the hopes that George Mason would put off the Bracketbuster return game in Fairfax for next season, but coach Larranaga said no. With the schedule George Mason already had for this season with the trip to Puerto Rico with games against Villanova, Georgia Tech, and Indiana and the home game against Dayton, could they have realistically put this game off or how important was it having the Creighton game this season?

GMUHoops.com: I didn’t hear this rumor and I’m not on the coaching staff so I can’t really comment on what goes into the decision making for scheduling games. As a fan I do know that it is very difficult for mid-major teams like ours to get quality programs to face us at home, especially after 2006. With that in mind I don’t see why the coaching staff would be interested in taking away one of their best non-conference opponents from their home schedule.

WBR: Creighton seems to play George Mason and Fresno State more than any
other non-conference opponents. How do GMU fans regard Creighton’s program?

GMUHoops.com: I don’t think the Mason fans have too much to say about a team we have only played 3 times in our history but they do value a chance to play another quality mid-major program, especially one from the MVC. Most fans of the CAA had hoped the conference would be at the level the MVC is after they got a few at-large bids in recent years but they aren’t quite there yet. With that in mind, I think a MVC vs. CAA challenge would be a great event, although I doubt ESPN would think so.

WBR: Booker Woodfox tore George Mason up in the Bracketbuster game last season. This season, there are more people for Creighton that might look to score. What will George Mason do to defend against Creighton that they didn’t do last year?

GMUHoops.com: Boy am I glad Woodfox is gone; I still have nightmares about that game last season. Perimeter defense was an issue last season and it’s been a little better this season. They have been experimenting on and off with full court pressure, something Coach Larranaga loves to the run but in the last two games have played mostly man-to-man because of the limited success. I would expect to see mostly man-to-man and less trapping on Saturday.

WBR: Does Mason have a rival? What team/school/coach do Patriots fans most despise?

GMUHoops.com: Difficult to say in our school’s short history. Within the conference I can tell you Mason fans hate ODU and VCU because our recent battles with them for conference supremacy. James Madison is another rival because our history, close proximity, and the fact that a lot of alumni that live in the Northern VA area make those games almost always a near sell-out.

WBR: With Dayton coming in Tuesday night and ending an 18-game home winning
streak for the Patriots, what kind of home environment will Creighton face? How has George Mason been historically at home?

GMUHoops.com: With that loss to Dayton the Patriots have only 2 losses in their past 31 home games, and historically the team has only lost more than 3 games at home all season once in the last 10 years. It will be a good crowd as it’s the first Saturday day-time game of the year. It’s not the loudest stadium but the students will be in full force.

WBR: What needs to happen for the Bluejays to leave Fairfax with a win? What needs to happen for the Patriots to defend the home court? Final predictions?

GMUHoops.com: The Bluejays need to create turnovers and turn them into points off the Patriots. That’s been the Achilles Heel for Mason in every single one of the team’s losses this season. A faster tempo would favor the Patriots at home, so the Bluejays would be wise to slow things down and feed the ball to Kenny Lawson Jr., which could lead to early foul trouble for some guys. I know Creighton loves to shoot the from behind the arc but I wouldn’t doubt defending the three would be a point of emphasis for the coaching staff in their pre-game meetings.

The Patriots would need to do a better job protecting the ball and rebounding in order to defend their home court Saturday. Offensive rebounds were scarce against Dayton and they can’t pass up second chance opportunities. I would expect them to come out with more energy coming off a loss like that but at the same time need to be making better shot selections. They will need to make sure their front court guys stay out of foul trouble. I don’t think they have faced a team yet this season that has as many quality outside shooters as Creighton, so perimeter defense will be very important and they cannot let themselves get down early again.

Ryan’s Prediction: George Mason 65 Creighton 60

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