No one can deny that the Atlantic 10 hasn’t been impressive in the non-conference portion of this season. Let’s be honest, it’s been pretty bad. Teams are dropping buy games left and right. Seemingly, no one can snag a big win, and highly-contested games against solid Power 5 teams have tended to tilt in the direction of the opponent.
November 30th, 2016 was exhibit A. Richmond went on the road and lost 73-68 to Bucknell, leaving the Spiders just 4-3 on the young season. Fordham blew a late lead and lost a bad game to a bad Sacred Heart team 71-70. Duquesne lost 81-72 to UMBC (I had to google it to find out that’s Maryland-Baltimore). Saint Joseph’s lost at home to a tough Temple team, but this was another one of those games that the A-10 should win every now and then, but it seemingly hasn’t won any this season. St. Bonaventure, La Salle, and Massachusetts got past Siena, Lehigh, and Wagner by single digit margins. This whole night was, well, disappointing.
But there was a diamond in the rough. George Mason, a team that’s looked pretty terrible to start the season, went on the road as a huge underdog against an on-the-rise Northern Iowa team. Kenpom gave the Patriots just a 14% chance of winning this game, and after taking an early first half lead, George Mason duked it out with the Panthers in the second half and ended up getting an enormous victory. Nobody saw this one coming, and maybe, just maybe, this win was enough to make up for the brutal night the rest of the league had.
Though the Patriots went just 36.0% from the floor and 20.0% from three, they held the Panthers to just 25.9% from the field and 25.0% from long range. Klint Carlson was held to just 6 points by George Mason. The Patriots had an enormous margin on the glass, controlling the battle for the boards 53-30. Marquise Moore had 9 points and 13 rebounds. There were 4 players with at least 6 boards for the Patriots on Wednesday night. Jaire Grayer led George Mason with 14 points, but this was a collective effort to get a win. Freshman Justin Kier went 7/9 from the line and added 8 boards. Otis Livingston II had 12 points and 6 boards.
What was this win for the league? It seemed like a glimmer of hope. In a November of ending up on the wrong side of tight games and some head-scratching close losses, this conference will take what it can get. George Mason will not make the NCAA Tournament this year, nor will it finish in the top half of the conference, but it’s nice to see this kind of a win for a program that’s struggled a lot the last couple seasons. Give Dave Paulsen some credit for this one, as his team is actually starting to pick things up and play with some toughness.