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Game Preview: George Mason looks to knock off Virginia in Charleston Classic final

The Charleston Classic final will have a commonwealth feel as two teams from the state of Virginia face off in the Holy City.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Well this was unexpected... The George Mason Patriots are in the Charleston Classic finals and they'll square off with in-state rival #6 Virginia 9:30 Sunday night on ESPN2. Sure everyone expected the Wahoos to be hanging around for the late game Sunday in Charleston but no one expected the Patriots.

After losing to Colgate and Mercer at home by a combined margin of 22 points to start the season, Patriot fans were settling in for a long first season under Dave Paulsen.  Something woke the Patriots up in Charleston though as the first knocked off Ole Miss and then followed that up with a 71-68 upset of Oklahoma State in overtime on Friday.

Shevon Thompson has been a beast in Chucktown averaging 19.5 points, 16.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in GMU's two games. Thompson is not the story though, that rather rest on the shoulders of freshmen Otis Livingston II and Jaire Grayer, both of whom have busted onto the scene in Charleston.

Gayer had a productive 15 point day against Ole Miss and followed that up Friday with 23 points against Oklahoma State. He previously only average 9.5 points against Colgate and Mercer. Livingston's numbers aren't as shiny but his combined 19 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds have come at key times for the Patriots. Both guards are helping to nicely supplement the loss of Patrick Holloway, who is currently serving a six game suspension.

While Ole Miss and Oklahoma State are nice wins, the competition with stiffen Sunday night with #6 Virginia. Since 1980 the Patriots are 7-1 against the Cavaliers but won the most recent match up 63-59 on opening night in 2012. GMU may be able to pull a little confidence from UVa losing to fellow Atlantic 10 member George Washington 73-68, but the Wahoos have pounced on teams in Charleston winning their two games by a combined 60 points.

Can Mason give Virginia a battle Sunday night or will the Cavaliers continue to plow through the Charleston field? It's an interesting question and one we'll have to wait to see play out. Thompson will be busy with Mike Tobey in the paint and the young Mason backcourt will be facing their toughest challenge yet in veteran guards Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes.