The only undefeated team in Atlantic-10 play meets up with the only winless team in the conference tomorrow. First-place Saint Louis will host 0-6 George Mason in an afternoon matchup that appears pretty lop-sided on paper. The Patriots still seek their first A-10 win ever after moving over from the Colonial this season. Oddsmakers have set the line at 15 at Chaifetz Arena.
George Mason hasn’t won a conference game. But it doesn’t dispel its competitiveness six games into the A-10 schedule. The Patriots have covered three of the six and failed to cover the other three by a combined eight points. In fact, Mason hasn’t had a bad loss in the conference yet. It lost two heartbreakers at home against St. Joe’s and UMass and then followed it up with two close losses on the road. Its only questionably bad loss was a 14-point road defeat to VCU in a game the Rams were 17-point favorites. With a full week of preparation and the chance to earn a statement victory against the best team in the conference, expect Mason to come out inspired to compete with a team that has a tendency to play close games more often than not.
After losses at Wisconsin and vs. Wichita State kept Saint Louis out of the top-25 for a while to start the season, the Billikens are rightfully in the rankings now – all the way up at #19. SLU has either played teams very close or absolutely blown out opponents, in the case of when both Fordham and Richmond came to Chaifetz. The Billikens are about as stingy a defensive team as their is in the country but the offense comes into question occasionally. Kwamain Mitchell and Cody Ellis – although replaceable – were probably the team’s best two offensive weapons last season. Both gone, it’s been Dwayne Evans and Jordair Jett that have carried the load for Saint Louis. While Evans is a forward and Jett a guard, both are somewhat similar in the way they go about scoring points. Neither is incredibly fluid on offense nor beautiful to watch. They are both incredibly physical and strong with the ball, though. And can use their strength to get close to the basket and either finish or get to the line with pretty good efficiency. When one or the other is going well, the SLU role players get more and more involved and the team becomes a well-oiled, unselfish offensive club. Mason will hope to force jumpers from the Billikens, which could come as a challenge given the physical mismatch.
Saint Louis will win this game but getting Mason at +15 is a bargain in this spot. Look for the Patriots to force Saint Louis to shoot over the defense. If they stick to that formula, SLU shouldn’t be able to score quite enough to cover such a large number.
Free Pick: George Mason +15