Dayton Preview, and a look at history

Posted In News - By Alan Kelly On Saturday, February 6th, 2016 With 0 Comments

Radio: GoMason Digital
Stream: A10 Network

George Mason (8-14, 2-7 A10) returns home tonight at 6 pm to face the #24 Dayton Flyers (18-3, 8-1) in the annual Green Game. Dayton is led by James Madison transfer and junior guard Charles Cooke, with 15.7 points and 6.3 boards per game, while shooting 44.7% from behind the arc. Senior forward Dyshawn Pierre, returned from a fall semester suspension, adds 13.7 points and a team-high 7.4 boards, while junior Kendall Pollard is worth 11.2 and 5.2.

With the Flyers ranked 15th in defensive efficiency by KenPom, the Patriots’ limited offense will need to continue to grow and to share the ball in search of open shots. 6’11” Flyers freshman center Steve McElvene, who averages over 20 minutes per game, will certainly tasked with slowing down Shevon Thompson, as no other Dayton regular has the necessary height.

The Flyers, winners of six in a row, lost their only A10 game of the season on January 9 at La Salle, 61-57. Archie Miller’s squad also owns wins over Alabama, Iowa, Monmouth, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas. They are currently ranked 11th in the RPI, one of five A10 teams in the top 50 in RPI.

The Patriots will look to continue to build momentum after a promising two-game stretch that saw them take George Washington to the wire on Sunday in a 76-70 home loss, and hold off Richmond on the road Wednesday night for an impressive 78-74 victory. A good showing against Dayton would put a bow on a positive week for first-year head coach Dave Paulsen and his rebuilding team.

George Mason has a memorable history with the Flyers, going back to the wildly entertaining home-and-home series the programs played out of conference from 2007 to 2010. In November 2007, the Patriots defeated Dayton 76-56 in Fairfax, in what would be the only loss among the Flyers’ scorching 14-1 start to the season. A year later, December 2008, the Green and Gold would fall in Dayton, 66-62. December 2009 brought Dayton back to Fairfax, where Mason’s furious comeback attempt fell short, 56-55. Once more in Dayton in December 2010, the Flyers got their largest victory of the series, 73-67.

Since joining the Atlantic 10, the Flyers have bested the Patriots twice more, 84-67 in Fairfax on February 5, 2014, and 76-63 a season ago in Dayton on February 25. Tonight will be the third meeting between the two schools as conference rivals, and their only regular season match-up for 2015-16.

A visit by any ranked team to EagleBank Arena (or the Patriot Center) has been a rare occurrence over the years. Since the building opened, it has only happened eight times, and tonight will be the ninth. Here is a look at the eight previous visits of ranked teams:

1985-86 season

George Mason moved into the shiny, new Patriot Center in November 1985, and was able to parlay the beautiful new facility into home games against local foes Georgetown and Maryland. The 17th-ranked Terrapins came first, on November 26 in Mason’s home opener, defeating the Patriots in heartbreaking fashion, 81-80. A week later on December 3, the 6th-ranked Hoyas took their turn, winning 75-63.

The opening of the CAA’s newest and largest arena also ushered the 1986 CAA Tournament to Fairfax for the only time in history. The Patriots would lose the championship game, 72-61, to David Robinson-led and 19th-ranked Navy, as the Midshipmen claimed their second of three consecutive league titles and rolled to the 1986 Elite Eight. The Patriot Center would remain the northern-most host of the CAA Tournament until 2014, when it moved to Baltimore.

1986-87 season

Senior David Robinson and Navy returned to the Patriot Center on January 12, ranked 15th, and again the Patriots fell just short, losing 59-57. The Midshipmen would repeat as CAA championships two months later, and Robinson would be the #1 pick in the NBA draft.

1990-91 season

24th-ranked East Tennessee State, then in the Southern Conference, visited the Patriot Center on December 15 and took home a 96-86 victory over the Patriots. ETSU would finish 28-5 that season, winning their league and earning a 10 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Strangely, George Mason would go the entire rest of their CAA existence, including the entire Jim Larranaga era, without hosting another nationally ranked team. By the late 1990s, the Patriots were no longer cupcakes, but rather Fairfax became quite a dangerous place for visiting teams to play. It took an upgrade in conferences in 2013 to bring another ranked team to town.

2013-14 season

George Mason’s inaugural Atlantic 10 season meant a whole new set of conference opponents, and two of those foes were ranked when they came to town. On January 15 against #16 UMass, the Patriots blew a lead in the final seconds and lost, 88-87. The disaster repeated itself on February 19 with #10 Saint Louis, 89-85 in overtime.

2014-15 season

Despite their many appearances in the national rankings during the current decade, VCU had never been nationally ranked during the week of their visit to Fairfax — until February 4, 2015, when the 18th-ranked Rams came to Fairfax and took a 72-60 win over Mason.

The Patriots were 0-8 all-time against ranked opponents at the Patriot Center, but the games were all close, with four games decided by 10-12 points and the other four decided by 4 points or fewer. With a new name on the building, and a new coach, perhaps tonight is the night all of that changes.

About - Alan Kelly is a 2010 and 2013 graduate of George Mason University and a former member of the Patriot Platoon. He had the memorable experience of being in the middle of the college decision process as George Mason's Final Four run unfolded. He currently resides in Northern Virginia.

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