The George Mason Patriots have a chance to do two things this afternoon. First, they can play for a shot in the finals of the Charleston Classic, meaning a likely date with Georgetown. But more importantly, they can pick up a key non-conference win to help their potential NCAA Tournament resume.
This afternoon, the Patriots get a chance to do both of those things when they take on North Carolina State. The Wolfpack are a strong club, picked to finish fourth in a deep ACC this year, so this is a tough test. However, they are playing without leading scorer and rebounder Tracy Smith, who suffered a knee injury in the Wolfpack's first-round win over East Carolina. Smith is an all-ACC first-team preseason selection, so that's a big loss.
GMU Hoops scouts North Carolina State and still believes rebounding is an issue, even without Smith.
The team has a lot of athletic wing type forwards but not a whole lot of muscle on the bench. A strong effort on the boards from Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson might be a long way in this one. I would look for Mason to go strong to the basket as they did last night against Charlotte and continue to feed their post players. The Wolfpack will rely heavily on forwards Richard Howell, DeShawn Painter, and Jordan Vandenberg in the front court, none of whom are stellar rebounders or have logged many minutes in their careers. Freshman forward C.J. Leslie is very versatile and could create match-up problems for the Patriots, so that is something to keep an eye on.
The game will be at 5 p.m. on ESPNU.