#8 seed GEORGE MASON PATRIOTS (27-6)
vs. #1 seed OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (33-2)
NCAA Tournament – Third Round
Tip-off: Sunday, 5:15 p.m. EDT – Cleveland, OH
Line: Ohio State -11.5, Total: 135
Before the western hemisphere gets swept up in March Madness memory mania when the topic of George Mason and its Cinderella history comes up, and as we ponder the question of whether the school can make another run to the Final Four, let’s remember a couple of things. Number one, before Friday afternoon, that 2006 run represented the last time that George Mason had even won a tournament game. Secondly, when Mason advanced to the Final Four, they did so by winning a regional final played in an arena just 45 minutes from its campus. Sunday afternoon, those tables will be turned in a big way. Ohio State will be the opponent, the number one seed in the tournament and the number one team in the country. Ohio State will be playing in Cleveland, its home state. The Buckeyes playing in Cleveland is sort of like the Globetrotters playing anywhere in the lower 48: they will always be the favorites, and they will always pack the house with their fans. The home court shoe will be on the other foot this time around for George Mason, as Jim Larranaga’s squad will be anything but the favorite son like it was in 2006. Sunday, the Patriots are simply hoping that this time around Cinderella’s glass slipper does not crack under the decibel level of a pro-Buckeye crowd.
The Buckeyes advanced to Sunday’s third-round game with a 75-46 victory over UT-San Antonio in a game which pretty much amounted to an NCAA sanctioned scrimmage as Ohio State raced to a 16-point halftime lead and kept building from there. William Buford scored 18 points and Jared Sullinger added 11 before taking an early rest for the day once the game was well in hand. UTSA head coach Brooks Thompson had a quote that became an early nominee for understatement of the year when asked to comment about Ohio State after the game: "Wow, they're good." Ohio State shot nearly 56% from the field and made exactly half of its three-point attempts. Sullinger only played 28 minutes, as head coach Thad Matta took the liberty of the blowout to give extra rest to his star freshman and other starters. The Buckeyes played in front of a sellout crowd in Quicken Loans Arena that included an estimated 15,000 Ohio State fans, many of whom made the two-hour trip from Columbus. The performance by the victors was enough to make some observers bring up the “U” word. "Well, I don't know about unbeatable," David Lighty (8 points, 5 assists) said. "But it's awful hard to beat us when the offensive weapons that we have are all clicking at the same time." Ohio State set a tournament record with 26 assists, a stat that underscores the unselfish nature of a well-balanced team that carries itself like a champion.
Mason advanced to Sunday’s matchup with a 61-57 come-from-behind victory against a Villanova team that wrapped up its season losing six straight and eight of its last 10. Luke Hancock led the winners with 18 points, as his three-pointer with 0:21 left put the Patriots back in the lead for good. Mike Morrison added 10 points and 11 rebounds. Constantly being compared to the ‘06 team, and carrying around the Cinderella moniker, seems to have given this year’s Mason team a bit of a chip, and with that chip has come a added motivation. "Lots of people disrespect us, say we're going to lose and stuff," said George Mason guard Andre Cornelius. "I don't care about being the underdog. I just want to make a statement. I just want to come out there and beat them and shut everybody up." The Patriots have won 17 of their past 18 games, and save for a stumble in their conference tournament, might be the hottest team in America. Besides 2006, there is some other history that George Mason can feel good about from an omen standpoint. Four of the past six teams to defeat Villanova in the NCAA Tournament (‘05 and ‘09 North Carolina, ‘06 Florida, and ‘08 Kansas) have gone on to win the National Championship. History is a powerful thing, but Larranaga knows that history cannot out-muscle Jared Sullinger, stop Jon Diebler from nailing a three-pointer, or pull down a rebound in crunch time. "They're going to score some points," Larranaga said "We've got to figure out a way to match them in that category. Our defense needs to be at its very best on first shots. We've got to limit second shots. But the biggest thing is, we really gotta encourage our guys to understand that we're going to have to put the ball in the basket.”
Ohio State is only 17-15 ATS this season, but is 7-4 ATS (64%) in non-conference games, 9-6 ATS (60%) after an ATS win and 7-5 ATS (58%) as a favorite away from home. George Mason is a whopping 23-8 ATS (74%) overall, but only 3-3 ATS in neutral-site games, and 2-5 ATS with less than two days of rest. The pick here is Ohio State to win big. The FoxSheets give two more reasons to pick the Buckeyes.
OHIO STATE is 10-1 ATS (90.9%, +8.9 Units) when playing with one or less days rest over the last 3 seasons. The average score was OHIO STATE 78.9, OPPONENT 65.0 - (Rating = 2*).
Matta is 48-25 ATS (65.8%, +20.5 Units) versus excellent teams - shooting >=45% with a defense of <=42% as the coach of OHIO STATE. The average score was OHIO STATE 69.9, OPPONENT 65.4 - (Rating = 2*).
This highly-rated FoxSheets trend sides with the Over.
Thad Matta is 30-12 OVER (71.4%, +16.8 Units) after leading in their previous game by 15 or more points at the half as the coach of OHIO STATE. The average score was OHIO STATE 77.9, OPPONENT 65.4 - (Rating = 3*).