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December 8, 2006This year's George Mason team has a different look than last year's Final Four squad, but just because many key contributors from that team are gone doesn't mean the Patriots aren't dangerous again this year.
Saturday's matchup with Duke could shape up as another defensive struggle for the Blue Devils, as both teams are giving up less than 60 points per game.
The Patriots will provide a stern test for Duke's struggling offense, which is ranked last in the ACC in both scoring and turnover ratio.
Devils Illustrated provides the first look at George Mason.
GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY
Location: Fairfax, Va.
Conference: Colonial Athletic Association
Head Coach: Jim Larranaga (10th season)
Avg Pts: 62.86
Avg Pts Allowed: 58.43
Projected Starting lineup
G 6-3 John Vaughn (14.7 PPG, 2.6 RPG)
G 6-0 Jordan Carter (2.6 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.0 APG)
G 6-4 Folarin Campbell (16.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.7 APG)
F 6-7 Jesus Urbina (2.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG)
F 6-7 Will Thomas (13.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG)
Everybody knows that George Mason's amazing run to the Final Four last season made the Patriots the first 11 seed to make the Final Four since LSU in 1986. But perhaps more impressive is that George Mason became the first team to defeat each of the previous two national champions in the same NCAA Tournament. The Patriots beat both North Carolina and Connecticut.
This matchup could very well continue Duke's recent string of defense oriented games. The Blue Devils are allowing just 51.4 points per game, but George Mason is surrendering only 58.4. Over the past five games, the Patriots are giving up just 52.6 points per game.
The Patriots have had some bad luck so far this year in tight ballgames. All three of their losses have come by six points or less, with two of them being decided by a single possession. With the exception of a 26 point win over Florida International, George Mason's games have been decided by an average of less than five points.
This will be Duke's eighth home game so far this season. The Blue Devils will play 19 home games for the year, a school record.
To find the biggest problem for Duke's offense so far this season, look no further than turnovers. The Blue Devils rank last in the ACC in scoring offense, largely due to the fact they also rank last in turnover margin (0.69:1). Duke has finished the year with more turnovers than assists only five times in the Mike Krzyzewski era.
Historically, George Mason has been terrific when holding opponents to less than 70 points under Jim Larranaga. In that time span, the Patriots are 137-43 when allowing less than 70. Considering Duke has scored less than 70 points in four of the last five games, the trend will be one to keep an eye on.
George Mason was voted number two in the CAA preseason media poll. The Patriots trailed only Hofstra in the poll.
George Mason has used four different starting lineups in the first seven games.
Duke's four man freshman class is averaging 29.0 points per game, with Jon Scheyer's 9.0 average leading the group.
Mike Krzyzewski won his 761st career game with Duke's victory over Holy Cross Wednesday night.
Krzyzewski is 12 wins away from reaching 700 victories at Duke, which would make him just the seventh coach to record 700 or more wins at one school.