By John Powell, Asst. Sports Editor

So here, in the last column for this season, I will write about the men’s basketball team in retrospect.

The first issue I will address: I was right. It turns out that the terrible Colonial Athletic Association’s postseason tournament performance was the last dagger in the season.

Going to the Postseason Tournament was not the expected end to the Patriots’ season, especially with a lose in the first round after being the headliner.

Everyone knows that the Mecca of college basketball is the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s 65-team (yes, I count the play-in game) tournament.

But going to the National Invitational Tournament is respectable, and the level of competition is where the mid-major teams flourish.

If anything, the CIT and the College Basketball Invitational are where the strong mid-major schools should rule. I would think that the CAA’s top teams that were snubbed on selection Sunday — Northeastern, William & Mary, VCU and Mason, in that order — would do well in the tournaments they were placed in.

Old Dominion was the only CAA team that did better than expected in their tournament. The first game saw ODU upset the sixth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who fell victim to the normal over-seeding problem.

I sat in ODU home territory, eating shrimp and barbeque in Virginia Beach’s Sea Side Raw Bar, while I watched the team take the game to the wire.

They erased a 14-point deficit from the first few minutes, and eventually found their way, based on strong second-half defense and a big run, into the lead.

Unfortunately, they fell apart at the end and allowed the third-seeded Baylor to go on a late run reminiscent of the run VCU utilized to beat Mason in the second round of the CAA Tournament.

The effort that pushed them to the second round earned my respect for the well-balanced team, but made me wonder why no other CAA school could put anything together for a national postseason win.

Northeastern played on ESPN2 and took the higher-ranked Connecticut Huskies to the wire, but fell by two points. William & Mary was easily beaten, because of their reliance on the 3-pointer, by the higher-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels on ESPN.

The Tar Heels fell apart after gaining a one-seed in last year’s tournament, dropping out of the NCAA Tournament all together. But that is a discussion for another day.

Hofstra lost in the first round of the CBI by 14 points to the IUPUI Jaguars.

VCU was, and is, a team stronger than most in the CBI, and they should have been given a bid to the NIT because of their balanced level of play.

Their last loss of the season — to ODU in the semifinals of the CAA Tournament — was a tight game. Their postseason stock should not have gone down in value only by losing to the CAA regular season and postseason champions. This big-time snub really surprised me.

And finally, most important to those reading this article, Mason lost a 27-point lead with 16 minutes left, and dropped their CIT tournament game to the Fairfield Scags in overtime.

Fans of the CAA now have to rely on VCU to make a big statement in their game against the Charleston Cougars tonight to salvage what respect is left of the conference. There were a few stipulations for Mason’s loss though:
Louis Birdsong, who was Mason’s lone senior, has exhausted his eligibility, but not before taking third place for most games played in school history, and reaching 100 career blocks.

Kevin Foster decided, before the game, to transfer from Mason. After sitting out last season with a non-medical redshirt, the former rookie of the week only had one start this season.

In that game, Foster accrued 13 points and 10 rebounds for his lone career double-double.

Cam Long “was suspended for the game for not meeting team responsibilities,” according to Mason Sports Information Department. No further information was gathered in regard to the nature of said responsibilities.

Barring whatever circumstances cause his suspension, Long still could not help Mason win a game after going on his midseason tear.

He earned an award just a few days ago, gaining a spot on the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ First Team All-District 10. I think he should be at the bottom of the list though.

He somehow found a spot on the first team, but his inability to finish the season should have bumped him to the second team.

Long had the power to change games in the middle of the season. The inability to rely on his shooting, as he went near a mere 25 percent field goal shooting over the end of the season, cost Mason a spot in the easier half of the CAA postseason bracket and cost them the chance of a win over VCU in the tournament.
He did not even play in the last game, when his team tallied the 27-point lead, and I do not think he would have had an impact, positive or negative.

So now basketball is over, and spring sports have sprung.