Editor’s Note: The George Mason vs. Wisconsin game was called off around 03:00 PM EST due to COVID protocols in the Badger program, as per both schools.
Wisconsin gets to unwrap a pre-holiday surprise, two days before Christmas. The Badgers had been preparing to play Morgan State, who is mired among the worst 40-50 teams in college basketball, according to most analytic ratings.
That tuneup non-conference game won’t take place, however, because the wave of COVID sweeping the nation swamped the Bears team. They dropped out of the game, leaving the Badgers scrambling to find a replacement opponent.
At about the same time, George Mason’s game with Coppin State got called off after their opponent also shut down operations due to COVID. So Wisconsin’s cupcake game turned into a matchup with one of the top 100 teams in basketball and a foe who already has beaten a Big Ten team this season.
George Mason Patriots vs. Wisconsin Badgers
Thursday, December 23, 2021 – 07:00 PM EST at Kohl Center
Up and Down Year
George Mason is living the basketball adage that it’s a game of runs. It’s been of a season of streaks for the Patriots. They opened with four straight wins, including original Wisconsin opponent Morgan State. The run ended with a 71-66 upset win on the road at a ranked Maryland team.
Starting mid-November, George Mason hit a cold stretch, losing five straight, including one road game and three neutral sites.
Things have settled down again, and Mason has won its last three, notching another Power Conference win, 80-67 at Georgia. It’s the first time in program history that George Mason has beaten two Power Conference teams on the road. The Patriots played on Tuesday night, beating the American Eagles while waiting for word from Wisconsin on Thursday’s game.
Mason is led by Josh Oduro, who scores 17.4 points with 6.8 rebounds. He’s had double-doubles in two of his last three games and topped 20 points six times this year. He also had six blocked shots his last time out.
The Patriots have three other double-digit scorers in D’Shawn Schwartz (14.6 ppg), DeVon Cooper (13.2) and Davonte Gaines (10.9). All four players are either juniors or seniors, as are the top six players in the experienced George Mason rotation.
Mason plays a slow tempo, gets—and makes—good shots and controls the boards, which could present a problem for Wisconsin. The Patriots are the No. 38 team in the country in effective shooting and hit 36 percent from three, to go with its 55 percent from two, both among the national leaders.
Wisconsin plays an even slower tempo and grinds out wins with a strong defense. The Badgers are second in the Big Ten in scoring defense at 61.2 ppg. They’re No. 24 in the country in defensive efficiency and have allowed more than one point per possession just three times this season. The Badgers protect the ball on offense, ranking No. 4 in ball security.
Their big weakness has been shooting. Wisconsin is one of the worst teams in the nation behind the arc and only slightly better inside of it. The Badgers have topped 50 percent shooting on two-pointers in their last two home games, after missing more than half their attempts in the first four.
Wisconsin is led by sophomore Johnny Davis, who averages 17.4 ppg, and senior Brad Davison, who is at 15.2. The Badgers have lost at home to Providence and on the road at Ohio State. They boast wins over Texas A&M, Houston, Georgia Tech, Marquette and Indiana.
Wisconsin is giving up more than 10 points. While the Badgers should be favored to win this game, there are several factors working against a blowout. The team hasn’t played in eight days and didn’t have an opponent until less than 48 hours before tipoff.
Mason is used to facing tough crowds and talented foes and won’t be intimidated. Plus, the Patriots have been active. Look for the game to be extremely low-scoring and close and take George Mason for your NCAAB pick.
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