Men’s basketball: Bonnies hope to bounce back against revitalized George Mason

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By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

The early part of the 2016-17 St. Bonaventure men’s basketball Atlantic 10 schedule is starting to look very similar to year’s past.

Bona’s conference opener in two of the last three seasons was a date at UMass; the Bonnies prevailed over the Minutemen by double digits in both. In two of the last three years, the next game was a dubious league home opener, a double-digit defeat at the hands of the Dayton Flyers in a tame, virtually student-free environment.

On Jan. 6 of last season, SBU played at George Mason in what was only the second game of the league slate. On Saturday, Jan. 7 at 5 p.m., it will host the Patriots in the third.

In 2016, the Bonnies blew Mason out by 19 points to earn their 10th overall win. The only question at the end of the game was where forward Denzel Gregg’s no-look reverse dunk would land on that night’s Sportscenter Top 10 countdown (it placed sixth in a big night for highlights across college basketball and the NBA).

If Bonaventure grabs another victory against GMU this time around, it will once again record its 10th victory. However, this matchup figures to be tougher than the one in Fairfax, Va. 367 days ago.

The Patriots had six wins to their name the last time the teams met, and ended 2015-16 with just 11. They’ve already won 11 of their 15 games this season.

When Mason fired coach Paul Hewitt after the 2014-15 season, Dave Paulsen was a smart choice to replace him. Paulsen won four Patriot League regular season titles and made two NCAA Tournament appearances at Bucknell.

Despite the 52-year-old’s success at his first coaching stop, not many foresaw the green and gold’s return to respectability occurring this early in his tenure. And while the Patriots’ victories include Division III Lebanon Valley and two sub-300 teams in the KenPom rankings, they do have a win over Penn St., which is No. 93 on KenPom, higher than any opponent Bona has defeated.

The in-state battle with perennial powerhouse VCU wasn’t the dusting it used to be, either; Mason trailed by a point at the half and was down five with 3:42 to play before eventually falling by nine.

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