With one game remaining in the regular season, George Mason, of all teams, is in position to control their own destiny and wrap-up the 4-seed in the A-10 Tournament. Yes, you read that right. The Patriot’s have seemingly come out of nowhere to become one of the hottest teams in the conference. Mason is coming off of three consecutive buzzer-beater wins courtesy of Ian Boyd. But more on him later. The idea of GMU finishing in the top-four seemed so far fetched, that a week and a half ago, I wrote an article highlighting the teams in the race for the final double-bye in Washington D.C., and I did not even have the Patriots on the list.
This is a George Mason team that just defies all the odds. They get leads and cannot hang onto them. They dig holes that they somehow find ways to crawl out of. There is simply just something so incredibly special about this team right now.
Let’s rewind to February 21st: the Patriots are coming off a pretty bad loss, having dropped an 69-62 decision at La Salle. They sit middle of the pack in the A-10 standings are hover three games below .500 overall for the season. Mason lead by as many as 14 points with nine minutes remaining on the road at Hagan Arena. Everything has been going Mason’s way today, and Saint Joseph’s simply cannot score consistently.
But suddenly, the Hawks go on a 19-8 spurt to pull within four points with 1:05 remaining in regulation. The game goes back and forth, and Shavar Newkirk finally is about to tie the game with just 5.6 seconds remaining. This has been an incredible comeback by the Hawks, everything is going their way. Even George Mason’s last gasp full-court play is falling apart, as Otis Livingston II loses control of the ball just above the top of key with 2.0 seconds on the clock. But up walks Ian Boyd, and OH NO!
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 22, 2018
So George Mason survives and steals a road win. Good them them, eh? It’s not been their best season this year, and they deserve a fun win every now and then. And that Ian Boyd kid? Yeah, I’m sure we wont hear from him again. Total fluke. Moving on…
Or not. Skip ahead to the Patriots’ next game on February 24th at home against UMass. Mason had a hot first 20 minutes of this one, and has come out of halftime looking like they haven’t missed a beat. In the first minute of the second half, Gonar Mar lays in a bucket to give Mason a 16 point lead, tying for their largest lead of the afternoon. But over the course of the final 19 minutes of regulation, the Minutemen are able to claw their way back into the game, and are able to force overtime despite their best player, Luwane Pipkins, being out with a concussion.
This game is really not trending in the right direction for George Mason. They have blown a double-digit lead for the second time in as many games. Not to mention, they have blown a four point lead with 36 seconds left in OT, and now are tied at 76-76 with 5.8 left, thanks to CJ Anderson’s jumper. But unlike the SJU game, this is at home to a team seven games below .500 and in the bottom tier of the A-10. This is really going to be a bad loss for the Patriots. Otis Livinston II quickly grabs the inbound pass and runs the length of the floor at a break-neck pace. Surely he’s out of control, rushing this final possession. Double overtime seems imminent at this point. Otis drive right to the free throw line, and draws the defender to him. Surely he’s out of options now: Otis may not even get a shot off, as there’s only 1.8 seconds left. But then…the back-door pass the rest is history…
— Atlantic 10 MBB (@A10MBB) February 25, 2018
Man, what has George Mason been putting in their Gatorade in these past two games? This is just nuts! This team isn’t even that good, right guys? Two fluke wins in a row, and this is at home against a team they should’ve easily beaten. Surely, this team can’t be that good, right? Just wait until they get to the Siegel Center, where all team’s hopes and dreams go to die.
And now rewind to Wednesday night: the Patriots have had two cute little wins in a row at the buzzer. People are starting to take notice of Ian Boyd, and should this game go down to the wire, there’s no way he’ll be in the right place at the right time again. The game begins, and George Mason just cannot miss from three. They drain six first half threes, and lead by as many as 12 points in the first half. But the VCU closes the half on a 12-4 run and Mason’s lead has been trimmed to just four at the half. Order has seemingly been restored to the universe, and surely, VCU will close this one out at home. Look, with 5:15 left in regulation, the Rams have opened up a 75-64 lead over the Patriots. This one is definitely over, no doubt about it.
But somehow, this quirky little George Mason team has found another gear. They have somehow trimmed the deficit all the way down to just one point, courtesy of two Otis Livingston II free throws with 21 seconds remaining. But it’s VCU ball coming out of the timeout. Mason is going to have to foul, but that never really works anyways, right? And VCU knows how to close a game out at home, for sure. But then, Sean Mobley turns the ball over. The Patriots are going to have the ball with 17.4 to play in regulation. Everyone and their mother knows that the play GMU is going to draw up with involve Otis Livinston II and Ian Boyd. It’s just so obvious.
IAN BOYD TIME??? https://t.co/aQrv8pPzYV
— A10 Talk (@A10Talk) March 1, 2018
I mean hell, if I’m live-tweeting the game and I know the ball will be in Boyd’s hands, surely the VCU defense will know this too. But here was go, and Otis is going to try to win this game on an isolation play, and he gets a decent look, but the ball bounces around the rim, and doesn’t drop. Oh well, it was a good run for George Mason, eh? What a cute feel good story. Justin Tillman, a senior and VCU’s best player is just going to grab the rebound and that’ll do it…WHAT? ARE YOU SERIOUS???
— Atlantic 10 MBB (@A10MBB) March 1, 2018
YOU. CANNOT. BE. SERIOUS. RIGHT. NOW.
This is a team that was picked to finish 10th in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll. Just a week or so ago, we were talking about Mason having to play on Wednesday in D.C. as a possible 11-seed in the A-10 Tournament. Now? The George Mason Patriots control their own destiny to locking up the 4-seed, and securing a double-bye to the A-10 Quarterfinals. Oh yeah, there’s also that little nugget that three of the last four Atlantic 10 Tournament Champions have been the 4-seed, including each of the last two seasons.
All that stands between George Mason and a one-way ticket to Friday is Richmond, a team that they have already beaten on the road this season. The Patriots won a 79-75 decision back on February 3rd, behind 22 points from Otis Livingston II.
Prior to last season, the Patriots had never even won a game in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. This year, they’re a legit contender to possibly even win the whole thing. And the scariest part for the rest of the A-10? The only senior on this roster is a walk-on. The entire core of this team are freshmen and sophomores, with Otis Livingston II being the only junior. This is no longer a “cute little team” that the rest of the conference looks down on: this team has the potential to be very good for a very long time. That said I don’t think anyone in Fairfax is even remotely looking past this season, let alone Saturday. The future is now for George Mason, and remember: if you need a clutch shooter to come out of nowhere to win you a game, you know who to call:
"Mr. Steal-Yo-Game" pic.twitter.com/m185QguBpj
— A10 Talk (@A10Talk) March 1, 2018