In what figures to be one of the most even matchups of the first round, Villanova takes on George Mason at 2:15pm today. George Mason enters the game as just a one point favorite as the Patriots embark on their sixth ever NCAA tournament. Their most famous run came in 2006, when they made a cinderella run to the Final Four, knocking off traditional powers like UNC, UConn & Michigan St in the process.
Villanova makes its 32nd appearance in the big dance having won the tournament in 1995. This is their seventh straight appearance, which ties a school record. Just two years ago they were in the Final Four. Had someone told you Jay Wright's squad be a #9 seed and an underdog to George Mason back in January, you probably would have called them crazy. At the time the Wildcats were the #7 team in the nation, undefeated in the Big East and looked primed for a serious run in March. However, February would not be so kind to the Cats as they'd finish just 9-9 in the conference, lose in the first round of the Big East tourney to lowly USF and finish the season on a five game losing streak.
Villanova has never lost in four meetings with the Patriots, including a 69-68 victory in 2009. They'll get back a major piece in Mouphtaou Yarou, who was injured in the first half of the opening game of the Big East tournament. After Yarou went down in that game, Nova was dominated on the boards and blew a 16 point halftime lead.
Injuries certainly played a part in the Villanova's nightmare end to the season, with Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher both missing time. However, the two Coreys and Yarou are all playing today, which bodes well for the Wildcats.