George Mason will have quite the interesting opening weekend when the 2017-18 basketball season finally rolls around. After a home game against Lafayette on November 10th, the Patriots will travel to Kentucky to face Louisville. While the Patriots are undoubtedly going to be enormous underdogs, even with the recent troubles the program has faced, I’d be ecstatic to face the Cardinals if I’m George Mason. There are a couple of reasons.
For one, the national attention surrounding Louisville at the start of the season is going to be enormous. Rick Pitino is gone, and David Padgett is reportedly going to step onto the scene as interim head coach. So it’s all eyes on Louisville as it starts the regular season; can the Cards put recent troubles behind them and play like the very talented program they still are? That’s what we’re all waiting to see. Bottom line: a lot of national attention could be focused around a game like this, especially if the Patriots keep things close in the early going.
If you’re Dave Paulsen, this is a chance to kick your opponent when he’s down. Now, the 3rd year head coach gets to go up against David Padgett instead of Rick Pitino. The intimidation factor alone goes down tenfold. The Patriots should be fired up about this game. A mid-major program gets a chance to show up a team that was heavily involved in a national recruiting scandal. And at the beginning of the season, Louisville is more beatable. Don’t get me wrong, the Cardinals are still dangerous and still have plenty of weapons (though many 2018 recruits have since decommitted). But, with the recent news fresh in the minds of college basketball fans, coaches, and players, you can’t help but think Louisville could be a little rusty out the gates.
So this is the opportunity of a lifetime for George Mason in its 2017-18 season. Take advantage of the program’s woes, which might have the Cards a bit shook at the start of the year, and pull off the upset needed to jumpstart a surprise season in the A-10. A win in the early-going would look a lot better at the end of the season, as I can imagine Louisville will get sharper as these allegations start to become old news. But bottom line, George Mason has a chance to strike when the iron is hot, and if I’m on this roster, I’m giving everything I have when I visit the Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center on November 12th.