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George Mason Basketball

George Mason Basketball: December 2006

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Patriots need to slay the Dragons

There have been a lot of ups and downs in this young season so far. The Patriots have started to show some consistency of late and it could not have come at a better time. The team will travel to Philadelphia on Thursday to take on Drexel who have been knocking over big name schools. The Dragons are on a six game winning streak in which they have beaten two Big East schools, Syracuse and Villanova, on the road. In November they beat a strong Vermont team by 13 points in a game where none of their starters scored in double digits. Drexel is very balanced, much like last years Mason squad; and they are beating more talented teams by playing better as a team. Their RPI is up to #7 right now, making this conference game very important to Mason. Mason's RPI is #103 and beating Drexel on the road would lower that number a lot.

Can Mason slay the Dragons or are they too hot right now? Although Drexel has been playing well as of late theres nothing like having your first conference game to bring you back to reality. Syracuse and Villnova overlooked the Dragons and didn't show them much respect. The Patriots play Drexel to the wire annually and know that they have to contain guys like Bashir Mason and Frank Elegar. I'm not trying to say Mason is a better team than Drexel because they aren't right now. But I will say that Drexel looked like this last season when they gave Duke a huge scare and lost to UCLA by a point in the pre-season NIT. And look what happened, they finished with a losing record and won only eight conference games. My point is the best time for your team to come together is at the end of the season during conference play not in the beginning when your hot streak could cool off after some rivalry games.

Mason matches up with Drexel pretty well except they do not have as much depth. The important match-up to watch will be Will Thomas against Frank Elegar. Thomas has struggled with double teams this year and managed only three points against Holy Cross. Look for Thomas to bounce back and for Coach L to get him more involved in the offense. The Dragons have been playing good defense and kept their opponents shooting percentage under .400. Mason's defense has been improving but they will need to step it up to win this game. Turnovers have been a problem for the Patriots and they will have to protect the ball against the Dragons who currently have a turnover margin of +2.9. Mason will also need strong play from their bench; Birdsong and Smith have been playing well lately with their increased minutes, they need to keep this up. If the Patriots play like they did as against Holy Cross I think they will have a chance to knock Drexel off its high horse and jump start their season.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Patriots Take Down Holy Cross

Its always good to see more wins before the conference play gets into gear, but scoring less than 60 points and turning over the ball 19 times to Holy Cross is not good to see. And Will Thomas had three points in 36 minutes? But there were a lot of positives that came out of this game such as Louis Birdsong pulling down a game high 11 rebounds. Birdsong should be starting from here on out, hes improved every week while Urbina and Monroe have been struggling and inconsistent. Another positive from this game was that the team played well on defense for a change. And they will definitely need to play defense like that again if they want to have a chance against Drexel. Drexel is best team left on our schedule after they took down Villanova, Syracuse, and Temple. They currently have a very high RPI that our team could greatly benefit from if they can pull off the upset. I'm still not convinced that this team is starting to come together but they are getting close and have showed improvement in some problem areas.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Whats wrong with the Patriots?

Since my last post the Patriots have lost to Bucknell, defeated Radford by two, and got man handled by one of Duke's worst teams in years. The fact that we are losing these games shouldn't really be a cause for concern but its how we are losing that is really frustrating. I know I know, we were a Final Four team and are not a Final Four program, but come on everyone expected more than this. And maybe saying that is unfair to them but nevertheless the team looks in a disarray on offense and just plain pathetic on defense. Add that to the inconsistent production from the bench players, that is when there actually is production from any of them. During the Radford game Dre Smith scored the first basket, Urbina scored the last, and no one else besides Vaughan, Campbell, or Thomas scored. The big three can't be expected to carry the team every night, the bench players have got to give more support. Heres what I think are the most glaring problems the team is currently having:

Perimeter Defense: Been noticing that every team Mason plays seems to drain three pointers with ease? Well I have and I can't understand it. It was even noticeable early in the season against Wichita State, players just seem like they are always wide open. Bucknell shot 50% and Duke shot 45% from behind the arc, thats just ridiculous.

Team Unity: Last years team was the poster child for how a team should play as one cohesive unit. This years squad is doing almost the opposite. The lack of movement on offense and certain players going for one-on-ones constantly is not working. Players are holding onto the ball too long and then forcing up terrible passes that often result in turnovers. I mean this is basic fundamental basketball stuff I am referring to here not some hybrid offense scheme. Coach L mentioned this in the halftime interview on Saturday, why aren't the players getting it?

Starting Lineup in flux: The Patriots have already used four different starting lineups and different substitution patterns almost every game. The team needs to find out who the starters are and it needs to happen soon. Campbell, Vaughan, and Thomas aren't going anywhere but who else will be consistently starting? Urbina and Carter have struggled with the role and I don't think they will be starting by the end of the season. I did not think Monroe would be out of the starting lineup at this point in the season but he has been playing terribly lately. Dre Smith has showed flashes of his talents, but then he has a three point game at Radford and a two point game at Duke after getting clutch steals against Bucknell and going 3-4 from the three point line. Also Birdsong had a solid game on Saturday and could be the answer to this starting lineup problem and he could definitely free up Thomas from those double teams if he keeps this up.

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