The Washington Times - March 11, 2011, 05:36PM

George Mason doesn’t have an NCAA tournament automatic bid to fall back upon as Selection Sunday approaches.

It might not matter. Indeed, it probably doesn’t matter, given how well the Patriots played for much of the season.

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And while Mason coach Jim Larranaga didn’t completely tip his hand on how he believes his team will be treated in 48 hours this week, he left no doubt about his feelings about his team’s season.

“I feel good now about our body of work,” Larranaga said.

As he probably should.

The Patriots (26-6) won 16 consecutive games before falling to Virginia Commonwealth in the CAA semifinals. They were 12-6 away from Fairfax, 8-4 against the top 100 and suffered only two losses to teams outside the top 100 – Southern Conference champ Wofford (No. 109) and N.C. State (No. 120).

With a 68-team field (three more than last season) and a well-rounded profile, Mason is probably safely in the tournament and potentially in the range of a No. 8 or No. 9 seed.

“Based on my own view of the things that are important, I’m very excited about the year we had,” Larranaga said. “I think we’re 26th in the RPI today, which I think is a great RPI. We have 10 road wins, which I think is really good. We’re also the regular season champion, which is important because our league was one of the top 10 leagues.”

George Mason doesn’t appear to have much anxiety about its situation. The school has scheduled a public viewing party for Sunday’s selection show in the Johnson Center, Mason’s student union. Larranaga said he deferred to athletic director Tom O’Connor on where the Patriots would watch the selection show.

Mason invited fans to watch the selection show at the Johnson Center in 2008, when it last won the CAA tournament. In 2006, when the Patriots earned an at-large berth and eventually made a Final Four run, the team congregated at Larranaga’s home. Mason’s inclusion was far from a sure thing that season.

Larranaga gave his players two days off this week while his staff went on the road to recruit. They returned to practice Wednesday to prepare for whatever their postseason destination proves to be.

“I think the guys are excited and feel very good about what we’re doing,” Larranaga said.

Patrick Stevens