Mason Cracks Top 25 For First Time
Feb. 20, 2006
One small step for a basketball team, one giant leap for the George Mason Patriots.
For the first time in school history, the George Mason men's basketball team finds itself ranked in one of the nation's two major polls as the Patriots are No. 25 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll after defeating its toughest opponent of the year.
Mason is fresh off a win over Wichita State, a team it led for nearly the entire game on Saturday before a frenetic second-half comeback led to a Tony Skinn game-winning 3-pointer with 10.8 seconds to play. Wichita State had been 13-1 at home on the season prior to the game and entered the contest first in the highly-respected Missouri Valley Conference and 17th in the RPI. It also helped that Mason was playing on national television as the game was played on ESPN2 as part of the BracketBusters.
"This is a great accomplishment for our George Mason men's basketball program, our universtiy and our conference" said head coach Jim Larranaga. "To know that the coaches around the country recognize our team as one of the Top 25 in the nation is a great thrill. We still have a lot more basketball ahead of us and will continue to focus our energies on the CAA regular season and Tournament."
Mason has been doing plenty to put itself on the national scene this season. Mason is 21-5 for the seventh 20-win season in school history. It is, however, just the second time Mason has gotten to 20 wins in the regular season. The Patriots entered last week sixth in the nation in field-goal percentage defense and they have kept 23 straight opponents to fewer than 70 points, second-longest active streak in the nation.
Those lofty numbers, along with a 21-5 record, had given Mason enough votes in last week's ESPN/USA Today poll to sit in a position commensurate with 27th in the nation. So the move in the polls was one of just two positions, but it means so much more for a 40-year old program that is currently in uncharted territory.
The Patriots will play their first game as a ranked team on Thursday, when they have the enormous task of trying to snap Hofstra's 18-game home winning streak, the second-longest active streak in the nation.
Mason's ranking in the ESPN/USA Today poll is the first such appearance by a CAA team in that poll. The last time a CAA team was ranked was Jan. 20, 1987 when Navy was #18 in the Associated Press poll. Mason is currently unranked in that poll with 74 votes, which puts them in 27th place, just two votes behind Northern Iowa and Nevada, which are tied at 25th.