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McKENZIE LANGE/The Daily Sentinel

Jared Small is one of only three Colorado Mesa players who are back from the team that beat Colorado Mines in the RMAC title game last season. After two postponed games, the Mavs and Orediggers finally meet Saturday.

Mike DeGeorge is hoping for a three-game series between the Colorado Mesa and Colorado Mines men’s basketball teams.

It’s taken three tries to get the two top-10 teams together this season because of COVID-19 issues within the Orediggers’ program, first postponing the Jan. 22 game in Grand Junction, and then the rescheduled game on Feb. 8.

Saturday night’s game is actually the return game, with No. 7 Colorado Mesa (14-1) playing at No. 1 Colorado Mines (12-0) in Golden. With only one week left in the regular season after this weekend, it’s unlikely the teams will find a date for the twice-postponed first meeting at Brownson Arena.

“My goal is we get to play them three times,” DeGeorge said. “Obviously this first one will put somebody in the driver’s seat to win the regular season, and ... if we do a great job against everybody else, we’re going to get to play them maybe again in the conference tournament and if we do a great job in the conference tournament maybe then in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament, we get to play them again.”

The teams seemed destined to battle it out for the RMAC regular-season title ever since last season, when the Orediggers won the lone regular-season meeting and the Mavericks avenged that with a 69-61 victory in the RMAC Tournament championship game.

Although Mines returned its roster virtually intact this season, the Mavericks are a much different team. Only three returned from that championship game, guard Georgie Dancer and forwards Jared Small and Ethan Menzies.

The season numbers are similar, from basically playing nine-man rotations to the points each team puts up every game.

The Orediggers score 78.3 points a game, the Mavericks 77.1, and they’re two of the top three defensive teams in the RMAC. Colorado Mines allows a conference-low 62 points a game, CMU is third at 69.4. Both teams shoot the ball well, with Mines slightly over 50% and the Mavs slightly under, and both allow opponents to shoot roughly 40% from the field. The Mavericks have the rebounding edge by two per game.

Beyond sheer numbers, both teams attack matchups. Mines prefers a two-post motion offense with 6-foot-8 Austin Means and 6-7 Michael Glen, with CMU’s ball-screen offense running with one big man. Menzies is a natural forward, but the 6-7 sophomore became the primary post when Ethan Richardson opted out of the season.

Mac Riniker, a 6-5 redshirt freshman forward, has gone against bigger players all season and is second on the team in rebounds behind Menzies. Small gives CMU a different look off the bench at that spot with his long 6-7 frame.

“I do think that that’s going to end up being a key matchup, does their physicality or our quickness kind of win the day at that four spot,” DeGeorge said.

Brendan Sullivan, a 6-6 guard, averages 19.9 points a game for the Orediggers and Kobi Betts, a 6-3 guard, scores 12.2 a night. Ben Boone, a 6-5 guard, and Glen add another 10 points each.

Menzies leads CMU at 15.5 points a game, Dancer is at 13.7, and freshman guards Reece Johnson and Blaise Threatt score 10 each off the bench.

“It’s a real mental challenge, with Mines coming up the following day, to stay focused on what we can control (against Regis on Friday),” DeGeorge said. “We told the team, we think a win Friday probably puts us in the NCAA tournament, and then a win Saturday puts us in the driver’s seat for hosting the conference tournament.”