VCU's tournament resume takes a hit after George Mason loss originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
VCU was sitting atop the Atlantic 10 conference and in pretty good shape for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Of all the upper-tier teams in the league, the Rams were the lone program that had not suffered a loss that could do significant damage to their tournament resume.
That is until they ran into their long-time rival George Mason on Saturday afternoon.
The Patriots went into the Siegel Center and went toe-to-toe with the conference-leading Rams. Both teams forced a combined 39 turnovers in a defensive-focused contest that was not determined until overtime.
In the final five-minute period - and VCU without A-10 Player of the Year contender Bones Hyland who left the game with a right ankle injury - the Patriots weathered the storm to upset the Rams 79-76. Josh Oduro feasted in the paint, with VCU having no answer for the sophomore. His 27 points off the bench led all scorers.
It was a huge win for George Mason (10-8, 6-6) who had only played two games the three previous weeks. Hovering around .500 all season long with a mixed bag of results, this was clearly their best victory of the season.
But the damage has been done to the Rams. While their resume was not impressive (0-3 in Quadrant 1 of the NET), they had limited bad losses to one coming into the game. They were 6-0 in Q2 and 10-1 in Q3 and Q4. This year that was good enough to have the Rams solidly in the NCAA Tournament field.
Entering today most bracketologists, including ESPN's Joe Lunardi, had the Rams either on the No. 9 or No. 10 seed line. Now - with a Q3 loss to George Mason on their home floor - VCU has officially moved to the bubble in Lunardi's eyes.
The Rams are far from being doomed (who started the day No. 31 in the NET). They're still in the tournament and their remaining games against Saint Louis and Davidson will go a long way to potentially help their tournament hopes.
But of their final two games, they need at least one win to be comfortable on Selection Sunday. Their two Q3 losses are going to hurt.
This is not the first time George Mason (No. 154 in the NET) has gone into Richmond to knock off the Rams. The former CAA rivals have played each other every season except for one dating back to the 1995 season. VCU has dominated the series, which has led to more success, but they've always had heated contests.
Last season the Rams were 17-6, in the tournament conversation once again when the Patriots came into their house for a February matchup. Mason won then, prompting a 1-7 stretch for the Rams to finish the season. VCU was never the same and had the NCAA Tournament not been canceled, they were going to miss March Madness for only the second time in nine seasons.
Of course, an automatic bid by winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament is still an option. But in this league, nothing is guaranteed and George Mason made it a lot more interesting.