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Mid-Major Game of the Week: Northern Iowa vs George Mason

This week's Mid-Major Madness Game of the Week features round 3 of an ongoing series between George Mason and Northern Iowa.

Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sports

Northern Iowa Panthers (1-1) vs George Mason Patriots (2-0)

When: November 16, 4PM
Where: Patriot Center- Fairfax, Virginia
All-Time Series Record: 1-1

Last Meeting: December 8, 2012- UNI 82 vs GMU 77

George Mason and Northern Iowa will get together in Fairfax this weekend for round three of an ongoing series. Both teams have won on the road over the past two years and now it's time to settle things.

Paul Hewitt's Patriots are coming of wins over American and Lamar. While Sherrod Wright was the preseason story for GMU, fellow senior Bryon Allen is leading the Patriots with 14 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds on the season.

Northern Iowa is looking to get back on track after an opening night loss at Ohio, although the Panthers did beat up on non-Division I Coe earlier this week. Chip Rank has been leading the Panthers with 16 points per game thus far.

Many of UNI's key contributors from a year ago are gone, but Mason's Sherrod Wright did drop 20 points on the Panthers in that December loss.

Ben Miraski's HOOPWAR's Take:

As we move into the first couple of games of the year, it is still too early to draw any conclusions from this season's HOOPWAR numbers. The only exception would be if a newcomer for a team was playing some significant role and we had to determine if that was "important" despite the small sample size.

But that is not the case this week. Northern Iowa and George Mason are doing it this year with mostly the same cast of characters that took to the floor last year.

And when you look at those players, the most important player belongs to Northern Iowa. Seth Tuttle not only put together the best defensive numbers (stopping 15.8 points for every 100 minutes he is on the floor) but he combined that with strong offensive production. He finished with a 5.9 HW30 score, putting his as the best of the returning players for either team.

Even though he isn't the Panthers' leading scorer so far this season, his overall contribution makes him the player to watch out on the floor.

But one player can't always win it all and Mason certainly has the depth numbers on its side when it comes to value, starting with Sherrod Wright. Wright scored 4.3 on the HW30 scale, and was backed up by Jonathan Arledge (2.0) and Bryon Allen (1.75).

The issue for Mason could really be the health of Arledge who had a back injury during the preseason, and looked ineffective in the Patriots' opener against American. They are also without center Erik Copes who is suspended for the first six games of the year (and he could have made a nice HOOPWAR jump this season).

So really the advantage may swing back to Northern Iowa even though the numbers are as impressive. Deon Mitchell added 1.75 HW30 provides the biggest bump while Chip Rank had a nice opening game for the Panthers.

If you go by total value, you would have to lean toward Mason, but the health of Arledge is just too much in question, and he could be less than the player he showed last year because of that. In this case, you have to look at Northern Iowa as the team to beat because of Tuttle, Mitchell and Rank.

The Expert's Take with Jake Fischer

The George Mason Patriots (2-0) are off to a nice start to their inaugural season in the Atlantic 10. Mason likely would have been a top contender for the CAA crown if they stood pat in their former conference, as Paul Hewitt returned eight of his top nine scorers from last season. That returning core is also comprised of four seniors and two juniors, featuring Sherrod Wright and Bryon Allen.

Through GMU's first two games of year, Allen and Wright have averaged 14.0 and 13.0 points per game, respectively. Hewitt has also gotten solid contributions from sophomore Marko Gujanicic, who's totaled 24 points and 15 rebounds thus far.

In order for the Mason to remain undefeated on Saturday when they welcome the Northern Iowa to the Patriot Center, Hewitt will need to receive a more well-rounded effort from his team. Sophomore guard Patrick Holloway, the team's best deep-threat, needs to build off of his 13-point performance on Wednesday and strong play from junior forward Vaughn Gray could make a big difference as well if he can help combat the Panthers' size.

The Expert's Take with Dan Bogle

Northern Iowa lost their season opener against a tough road game against Ohio, but the Panthers shouldn't start overacting. Quite simply, UNI is in a position where five of their first six games are on the road against teams that should test them. For their first test they had some troubles on offense with poor shots and some ugly turnovers, but displayed that they still know how to play defense and bring it down on the rebound. I fully expect that UNI will be able to bounce back and go into Fairfax swinging.

The key for UNI will be to take the ball into the paint and go for the high percentage shots. This may sound like common sense, but there are two reasons. Not only does UNI need to actually make the shots they take (having hit just .388 against Ohio), but in George Mason's squeaker against American, only two of the seven Patriots who went to the line made more than half of their free throws. When it comes down to it, the rule of thumb should be "foul anybody not named Bryon Allen." I also suspect that they will find Tuttle and Friedman outmuscling Arledge and Gujanicic at both ends of the court.

Parks' Pick

I'm riding with Sherrod Wright and the Patriots to take the Round 3 on their home court Saturday evening. George Mason-83, Northern Iowa- 72