MACON, Ga. – The Mercer men's basketball team is set to put the nation's longest win streak on the line Friday, meeting George Mason in the opening round of the 2012 Paradise Jam. Mercer's opening round matchup with the Patriots is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. EST at the University of the Virgin Islands, signifying the official start of the tournament.
Mercer and George Mason will battle for rights to advance in the winners bracket to a meeting with the victor of Friday's game between New Mexico and Illinois-Chicago, set for a 5 p.m. tip-off. The winner of Mercer/George Mason and New Mexico/Illinois-Chicago will play on Sunday at 7 p.m., while the losers of those games will play Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
In order to capture the Paradise Jam Championship, the winning team will have to win three games in four days. The other side of the bracket includes Wake Forest, Connecticut, Quinnipiac and Iona.
SCOUTING GEORGE MASON
George Mason returns two starters and nine letterwinners from last year's team that went 24-9 and lost to VCU in the third round of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. The Patriots come into Friday's opening round matchup at 1-1 on the year after suffering a 61-56 loss to Bucknell on November 13.
George Mason was picked to finish second in the CAA in a preseason poll of the league's coaches, media relations directors and media. Senior forward Ryan Pearson was voted to the preseason all-conference first time in the same poll.
Through two games this year, Sherrod Wright paces the Patriots offense with an average of 15.5 points per game. Byron Allen is also averaging double-figure scoring with 22 points in two games.
Mercer is tied with Stanford for the longest winning streak in the country. The Cardinal won five games en route to the NIT Championship last season and have started the 2012-13 season 2-0. Mercer won its final five games last year as a part of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament before starting this season 2-0.
The Bears are aiming for their first 3-0 start since the 2008-09 season. That season, then first-year head coach Bob Hoffman led the Bears to wins over Piedmont, Alabama and Auburn to start the season.
Friday's game marks the first all-time meeting between Mercer and George Mason on the hardwood. Last year, Mercer beat CAA members Georgia State and Old Dominion in the CIT tournament.