Sunday, March 04, 2007

VCU out-toughs Drexel; Mason sinks ODU

VCU used a swarming defense and a gutsy 31-minute performance by senior swingman Jesse Pellot-Rosa -- who played hurt (right foot) and scored 16 points -- to get past a gritty Drexel team, which puts the Rams in the championship game tomorrow (Monday) night: VCU 63, Drexel 56.

Michael Anderson, the Rams junior forward, picked a good afternoon to play the game of his life. He, too, scored 16 points, plus he grabbed eight rebounds. His work on defense against the Drexel big men was huge.

In the nightcap George Mason provided the Richmond Coliseum crowd with a second upset in as many nights: Mason 79, ODU 63.

The Patriots never let the Monarchs into the second semi-final, as ODU played a remarkably weak game with all the marbles on the line. In a run reminiscent of last year’s charmed Final Four-performance Mason has won three consecutive games on the Coliseum floor.

Tomorrow night’s championship game will feature a rematch of the schools that met in the 2004 CAA championship final; on Mar. 8, of that year, VCU defeated Mason by a score of 55-54. The margin of victory was a free throw by Pellot-Rosa, then a freshman.

At this writing, the Realtime RPI site has revivified CAA regular season winner VCU (26-6) perched at No. 48, while resurgent George Mason (18-14) is at No. 115. Ironically, today’s losers are both still seen as stronger on the RPI scale, at least they are right now. Sagging ODU (24-8) is checking in at No. 36, and Drexel (22-8) is sitting at No. 46.

By comparison, Va. Tech (20-10) is No. 31 on the same RPI scale and Virginia (20-9) is No. 43. Both are widely seen as locks to receive bids to the NCAAs.

With Mason Nation descending on Downtown Richmond as you read this, the old Coliseum should be rocking tomorrow night. The 7:30 p.m. title tilt, good for an automatic bid in the NCAA tournament, will be carried nationally by ESPN.

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