Losing to VCU in the A10 tournament and failing to make the NIT are definitely both disappointing outcomes to Mason’s best season since 2013. However, there are plenty of reasons Mason fans should be excited to support their team in the College Basketball Invitational tonight. Here’s five of them:
1. Springboard for NCAA tournament appearances
In recent years, CBI tournament success has helped teams build toward continued success and an NCAA tournament berth the following season. The 2016 examples include CBI semifinalist Vermont (won 2017 America East regular season and tournament titles, claimed #13 seed in NCAA tournament) and CBI champion Nevada (won 2017 Mountain West regular season and tournament titles, claimed #12 seed). In the more distant past, VCU’s 2010 CBI championship helped propel them to the 2011 Final Four.
2. Marquise Moore and Jalen Jenkins
Mason’s senior leaders have given this team everything they had on the basketball court, and more importantly, have been great ambassadors for the University. Moore in particular is a unique brand of player that we will likely never see again in Green and Gold (his 360 rebounds this season have already broken Will Thomas’s program record of 354 from 2008), and both players have been crucial to Coach Paulsen’s effort to build a new winning culture at George Mason. These seniors (not to mention senior walk-on Myles Tate) deserve to be supported and thanked for their contributions as they wrap up their playing careers for the Patriots.
3. Growth of the Underclassmen
This is the time of year when freshmen start to turn into sophomores, and sophomores start to turn into juniors. With a youth-laden roster, there is a lot of room for growth in the coming days (and weeks, if Mason’s run continues). The first flashes of next season’s breakout performances may be on display during the upcoming game(s). Mason fans should get an early taste of next season’s team during the CBI.
4. The Green Machine
The best pep band in the NCAA is worth the price of admission all on their own. Period.
5. Winning Basketball is Back at Mason
What better way for fans to show their appreciation for the turnaround at Mason than to show that they will attend even a minor postseason game because they have faith in the head coach and will follow Paulsen wherever he takes the Mason program? Playing in the CBI may not feel glamorous, but it sure beats losing 20 games in a season. Unlike past years, when I couldn’t wait for the season to end, I want this one to continue.