The George Mason Patriots have not lost a basketball game in more than a month. They share first place in the Colonial Athletic Association with two weeks left in the regular season and have won 20 games quicker than any George Mason squad since 1984.

They are collecting top 25 votes, mingling with exclusive company in NCAA tournament projections and attracting national media attention.

Patriot Center, these days, is the happiest place on a giddy campus.

Enthusiasm is so ramped up, sophomore swingman Luke Hancock received a text message requesting NCAA tournament tickets.

"It said something like, 'Can me and my boyfriend get tickets to March Madness?' " said junior forward Mike Morrison, Hancock's roommate. "We're like: 'March Madness? What are you talking about?' It's February. You want NCAA tickets? That's crazy."

Perhaps. But given the Patriots' prosperous winter - and the fresh memories of their implausible Final Four run five years ago - the growing fervor is understandable.

A full house is expected for Saturday's game against James Madison, the second consecutive home sellout of 9,840.

With a victory, the Patriots (20-5, 12-2) would equal the longest winning streak in program history (11) and continue building momentum before Tuesday's showdown against CAA co-leader Virginia Commonwealth in Richmond.

While most observers expect the CAA to receive two NCAA tournament berths, Mason players and coaches have refrained from discussing the team's tournament chances, uniformly offering one-game-at-a-time responses.

In the broader context, the Patriots do seem in fine standing. They are No. 24 in the Ratings Percentage Index, the mathematical formula used by the NCAA selection committee to measure a team's overall strength.

Their current surge has elevated them to favorites to win the CAA tournament and the automatic NCAA tournament berth that goes with it. But to stay in the running for one of the 37 at-large bids, they'll also need to avoid stumbling against JMU, Northeastern and Georgia State and win at VCU or Northern Iowa.

"The NCAAs, that's the goal, and when people mention it, you think about it, but we are more worried about winning the conference and playing well in the games we have left," Hancock said. "Guys are just realizing how good we can be."

During the winning streak, the Patriots have had one anxious finish - a 75-73 decision at James Madison three weeks ago in which they trailed by eight in the second half. In the other nine victories, the average margin has been almost 20 points.

This season, Mason has 17 double-digit victories; only four teams have more. The Patriots rank No. 20 in scoring margin (12.7) and No. 16 in both field goal percentage (48.1) and three-point accuracy (39.6).

Beyond the numbers, the Patriots are a team in rhythm, sharing the ball to create fast-break opportunities and open jumpers. Their rebounding and defense have improved steadily and they've committed more than 10 turnovers just once in six games.

"It went from wanting to be good to wanting to be great," senior guard Isaiah Tate said. "We're pushing the bar up for ourselves, and with every win, we're staying humble but getting excited to play hard and keep it going."

With success comes a brighter spotlight and inevitable comparisons to the 2006 team that enjoyed a similar surge late in the regular season.

Morrison planned to address the situation in a team meeting "to make sure everyone understands and doesn't get distracted," he said. "I don't think it's a danger. Everyone is on the same page, but I want to make that clear. We have to focus on the goal."

Last year, with an immature squad, Coach Jim Larranaga watched the Patriots unravel in the final month and settle for an invitation to an obscure postseason tournament. This year, everything has fallen into place.

"I'm enjoying being around the players because they are enjoying themselves," he said. "I'm enjoying it because they are following instructions and executing very well. I'm enjoying it because the younger guys are working so hard and becoming better.

"We've been good, but good is relative. There's always more to do."