Michigan State Spartans (22-11) vs. George Mason Patriots (23-7).
When: Friday, 7:10 p.m.
Where: Dayton, Ohio.
1. They ve Got The Family On Their Side. Michigan State has its fair share of notable alumni, but perhaps none has the cool quotient of James Caan. (Not even Bubba Smith — and he played Moses Hightower.) And yes, we re basing that simply on the theory that anyone involved in The Godfather has a cool quotient that is off the charts. Sure, Caan eventually transferred to Hofstra after spending a couple years in East Lansing studying economics and walking onto the football team, but a little detail like that isn t going to stop the Spartans from claiming the man who played Sonny Coreleone as one of their own. Besides, if anyone can relate to what it feels like to be mercilessly ambushed and gunned down, it s a Spartan football fan.
2. Hannibal In The House. Yes, that's Matt Trannon peering out from behind that freakish mask. Trannon, who suffered a broken jaw in the waning minutes of MSU's home win over Michigan, looked imposing long before he ever donned the plastic face-guard, which appears to be inspired in equal part by Jason Voorhees, Bill Laimbeer and Hannibal Lector. With it, he s absolutely terrifying — much to the pleasure of the Izzone, which has dubbed the popular two-sport star "Trannibal Lector." We re not sure we buy the comparison. Trannon can be a monster on the glass, but Hannibal had a way better jumper.
3. They ve Got Mo Beats. Not only is senior guard Maurice Ager a second-team All-Big Ten performer and MSU's leading scorer, sporting a 19 PPG average, he s also pretty handy in a recording studio, with a passion for dropping beats known, rather creatively, as Mo Ager Beats. Unfortunately, Ager s Soundclick Artist page is no longer active, but never fear; not only can Mo throw down beats of his own, he s branched out into production for other artists. Mo Ager—MSU s very own Master P. — Rob Visconti
1. Exercising David s Demons. Mason cracked the Top 25 on February 20 for the first time in school history after winning at Wichita State. It marked the first time a CAA team has been ranked since a 1987 David Robinson-led Navy team was No. 18 in the polls, and a Beastie Boys-led "Licence to Ill" album was No. 1 in the charts. Mason s NCAA Tourney birth is also the CAA s first at-large bid since, well, 1987.
2. Jai Lives. Several NFL teams have sent scouts to watch Mason forward Jai Lewis in action with the hopes of finding the next Antonio Gates. Lewis is Mason s best player and at 6'7", 275 lbs, he is three inches taller and 15 pounds heavier than Gates (I have a class with him; he barely fits in the desks). Lewis also has "great hands and athleticism" and possesses Mel Kiper s most important non-descript NFL draft day asset: terrific upside.
3. The Squirrel Master. GMU s top guard Tony Skinn has adopted this nickname because of his uncontrollable attraction to nuts. In Mason s semi-final CAA Tourney game against Hofstra, Skinn punched Hofstra s Loren Stokes right in the babymakers. As a result, Skinn will serve a one-game suspension, miss the Patriots first round game and give Mason fans their own (metaphorical) punch in the balls. — Chris Mottram