A couple of years ago, the George Mason Patriots made a run all the way to the NCAA Final Four. In the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament, the top-ranked team in all the land will attempt to prevent them from experiencing a similar scenario. The Ohio State Buckeyes, the top seed in the East Regional, will battle the Patriots this afternoon in Cleveland for the right to move on to the Sweet 16.
Ohio State got here by throttling the Roadrunners of Texas-San Antonio in the opening round by a score of 75-46, while George Mason survived a tough battle with the Villanova Wildcats to claim a 61-57 victory. The winner of this one will face the Kentucky Wildcats in the Sweet 16, as the Wildcats defeated the West Virginia Mountaineers yesterday to advance in the tournament.
SB Nation's Ohio State blog, Along the Olentangy, is not taking the Patriots lightly by any stretch.
George Mason is one of the most unique teams Ohio State will have faced this season. They shoot extremely well, but they aren't a team full of pure shooters like Michigan who run an offense that incorporates the 3-point shot as an integral facet. They certainly aren't a team that emphasizes offensive rebounding as a strategy. The Patriots only rank 158th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and 122nd in free throw rate, one of the Four Factors that is often paired with offensive rebounding percentage because of style correlations. Big teams that like to drive to the basket and play physical will generally rack up both a large number of rebounds and fouls.
If there's a team that mirrors George Mason on Ohio State's schedule, it's the Purdue Boilermakers. Like Purdue, George Mason is a forward-heavy roster that shoots well and doesn't turn the ball over.The Patriots are 23rd in the country in effective field goal percentage and 14th in turnover percentage, while Purdue ranks 91st and 7th in the respective categories. It's an imperfect comparison-- George Mason shoots significantly better than the Boilermakers-- but a very apt one stylistically. Even the coaches share an affinity for man-to-man defense and similar use of the bench.
If you accept the comparison, it's a little concerning with Purdue being one of the two teams to defeat the Buckeyes this season. Ohio State will have a veritable home-court advantage with the game in Cleveland, however, and they won't be facing any player as singularly talented as either JaJuan Johnson or E'Twaun Moore. Purdue is a better defensive team than George Mason, as well, ranking 35 places higher in Ken Pomeroy's defensive efficiency measure.
The tip-off for this one will take place at 4:15 PM Central time, and you'll be able to watch all the action on your local CBS affiliate.