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George Mason Basketball

George Mason Basketball: December 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Patriots pick up first road victory

Nothing like playing Florida International to get Dre Smith and the Patriot offense going. Last season Dre Smith had his first big game with Patriots in Fairfax against FIU and this year the location was different but the result was the same. Smith led the Patriots to a 86-68 road victory by scoring 21 including 5 three-pointers. If only we could play FIU more often to keep Dre's shooting touch up to par. Folarin Campbell showed success at the point in the absence of Jordan Carter who missed the game with an ankle injury. Louis Birdsong had a strong performance grabbing 9 rebounds while Thomas only managed 2 despite his 20 points. All five Mason starters finished in double figures so things seem to be back on track for the moment on offense. Campbell did a fairly good job protecting the ball but will he stay the point even after Carter returns? Cam Long was the only bench player to score in a game where the Patriots used only 8 players for the first time this season (I'm not counting Tate's few seconds of action). I don't really have much else to say about this game, it was a road victory that should have came easy to us and I am glad the boys are starting to gel.


On another note freshman Jay Threatt has decided to transfer and is no longer a member of the team. I think I can speak for most Mason fans when I say good riddance. After a summer that saw Threatt in legal trouble most of us were uneasy about the character of a guy like him coming to the squad. Not to mention I was never thrilled of the idea of using our last scholarship on an under 6-foot point guard to join a team full of guards. The good news is that we now have another scholarship spot open for next season, the bad news is we have missed out on some guys who have already signed. Still, this is a chance for Coach L to bring in other forward (hopefully with some size). Here is list from that shows all the 2008 recruits Mason has been in contact with, including the ones they have already signed.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Patriots head to Miami

Exams are over and now Coach L and his boys head to Miami to take on FIU Friday night looking for their first road win of the season. I gotta admit I love seeing the headline "Men’s Basketball Hosts Nationally-Recognized George Mason" on any opposing school's website. Last season against Florida International Dre Smith had his coming out party scoring 20 points and showcasing his quickness. This matchup is an interesting one with the Golden Panthers being led by 7-0 250 pound, Pepperdine transfer Russell Hicks. The Patriots smaller lineup could run up the score with their quickness and athletic advantages, but I hate to jinx the squad predicting they will blow out anyone after the ECU debacle. The Patriots could get into trouble if Hicks size and strength causes foul trouble for the front court, but the team should be well disciplined after the long break. Another thing to focus on in this game is Folarin Campbell, who is rumored to be moving back to the point. A move I am not sure will make a whole lot of difference in the offense but I think a change in the lineup like this could be good for the team and shake things up. Frankly Jordan Carter is not impressing me this season and I would really like to see more of Cam Long at the point, who by the way is shooting over 57% from the field. Also, I am curious to see the play of Louis Birdsong, who now does not have to worry about losing his starting position with Monroe permanently sidelined for the year. Look for Mason to finally start off strong and hopefully remind us of the team we saw destroy Drexel.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Monroe Redshirts

Well I can't say that I did not see this one coming. Monroe, who has yet to play this year, is taking a medical redshirt and will be eligible for the '08-'09 season. I have mixed feelings about it and unsure of the impact not having Monroe for this season will have on the Patriots down the stretch. On the one hand we have experienced post player for next year after Thomas leaves but we also will have less depth in the front court this season. His redshirting kills off our last scholarship for 2008 but that only means that we will have a four person class in 2009. Another way to look at it is that we will have another senior next season, a valuable commodity for mid-majors.

Monroe had surgery on October 9th to discover the source of the discomfort in his toe. He obviously feels that he is not 100% and this is the right decision to make but I just hate the lack of depth it leaves the Patriots front court with. In the last couple of games we have seen the Patriots lack of depth at forward exposed and taken advantage of. Will Thomas has only really been in foul trouble once this season but the same can't be said for Birdsong or big Vlad. Chris Fleming really hasn't done much besides looking confused and has trouble guarding more athletic forwards. The problem is that Thomas is the only low post player on the team now with Monroe permanently on the sidelines. Birdsong plays his best when he's away from the basket and can use his athleticism to beat a bigger forward off the dribble. Not to say he can't step in there and rebound but he doesn't like to box out. Vlad is a typical European style big man who loves to step out and shoot. Unfortunately for him the shots have not been falling but he has shown at times that he can play some defense in the low post. If Vlad can start taking some smarter shots from the outside and connecting he could really open things up for the Patriots and create serious mismatches. At 6'10" he has a height advantage over almost anyone that will be guarding him in the CAA.

I really felt that Monroe coming back could give this time a boost after some rough play lately but now they have to move forward without the big man. This team already relies so much on Will Thomas that it would have great to see him rest a few more minutes each game if Monroe was back. It will also be interesting to see if Vlad and Birdsong can capitalize off Thomas' double teams like Monroe eventually did at the end of last season. If they can't they will be putting tremendous pressure on the guards, who besides Vaughan have been very inconsistent so far. The good news in all this is that the best teams in the CAA do not have huge threats at the low post, so I still feel like we have the advantage in that area.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

College basketball dead week

Final exam week is never fun for anyone but it's not only the students that suffer it's also fans of college basketball. Our friends over at Storming the Floor share a great perspective on this dreaded week. But hey at least there's football on Thursdays now! I will try my best to provide links and reading material during this week along with Mason analysis.

On another note I have been participating in the Blogpoll Top 25 over at NCAA Today, each week I rank the top teams in college hoops along with my fellow blogger nerds, and no I don't rank Mason #1 every week. But I do think I should be invited to the Local Hoops Poll over at the DC Sports Bog at the Washington Post.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

It Kent be true

When the schedule for this season was released I looked at this game as a possible first loss. Mostly because it was our first road game and I did think playing teams like ECU and Hampton right before would do us any good. The Patriots started off with some hot shooting but failed to take care of the ball in the 2nd half that eventually led to a 73-55 loss. John Vaughan was the only Patriot who was actually playing like he should. JV led Mason with 17 points while none of the other guards had a strong shooting night. Will Thomas was able to add 12 points but managed only 2 rebounds. Yes that's right, 2. Cam Long and Jordan Carter combined for 3 assists, aren't they supposed to be running the offense? The turnovers are largely based on teams just sitting in the post waiting for Mason players to pass the ball in to Thomas. Sometimes it is ridiculous to watch because everyone in the stadium knows your trying to go to him and yet the lazy pass is made and picked off. This is something that has been happening way too much this year when we get behind. I have never questioned Larranaga's coaching but I just don't understand how he lets his guards telegraph passes in to Thomas. Mason has a break until Dec. 21 due to finals, this probably couldn't have come at a better time.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Grinding it out

Coming into this game it was uncertain what role Folarin Campbell was going to have after being benched for all but two seconds in the second half of the ECU. Coach Larranaga started Campbell last night in Fairfax and as a result he contributed 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, including a three pointer with 1:57 to go that all but sealed the victory for Mason. The Patriots shot the ball well (48%) but still had their struggles getting to the free throw and line (60%) and connecting. At times it looked like the Patriots were shredding the Pirate's zone defense but then they would creep back in the game. Hampton's defensive play was able to force the Patriots to turnover the ball 11 times in the first half and yet they were still able to lead at by 8 at halftime. Hampton would not go away in the 2nd half and got a lot of second chance opportunities that help to keep them in the game. Will Thomas who failed to score double digits for the first time this season, seems to be the only forward we have that can rebound. Speaking of which, the Washington Post reports that Darryl Monroe might not return this season and could be redshirted, yikes. Forward Louis Birdsong, despite his nice scoring touch of late, is picking up more fouls than rebounds and failed to finish the game again last night fouling out when the Patriots needed his defense. It was also another night where Dre Smith did not see a shot opportunity he didn't like, shooting 1 for 6 from the field and 1 for 5 from the three point stripe. I really feel Smith's erratic shooting throws the Patriots off balance at times late in the game. You ever play NBA Live on Xbox or Playstation and create yourself in the game and then only use yourself to take every shot? Well that is what it is sometimes like to watch Dre Smith play and the difference is in real life you can't max out all your attributes to 99% if you have a bad shooting first half.

It was a less than impressive victory for the Patriots but it was a victory none the less against a team that did beat VCU. True it was not the Hampton Pirates of old but after an embarrassing loss on Sunday you would have thought that this game would have gotten ugly as the Patriots took out there aggressions at home. We did see improved defensive play but still way too many turnovers at key moments in the game. Luckily at half-time we got to forget for a few minutes about Mason's turnovers as the Doc Nix lookalike contest winner was announced. Pictured to the left you can see why I was not impressed with the kid's outfit but I do like the matching cane he pulled out. But seriously Mason, how about a "create a better mascot" promotional event, that would fill some seats.

Pictures from the

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wednesday Bullets ranks Will Thomas one of nation's best power forwards and Coach L gets some love too

-I am really sad that the '05-'06 Patriots squad is not on this list as a "classic" team in March Madness '08, I was really looking forward to seeing digital Jai Lewis in HD

-Ever wonder what Larranaga looked like with flowing hair during his playing days at Providence?

-Dick Weiss of the NY Daily News gives our 2008 recruit Ryan Pearson some praise

-Mason ranked #5 in the mid-major poll and also ESPN's Top 10 mid-majors ranks Mason #7 in the "High-Major Power Rankings", which consists of the A10, CAA, CUSA, MVC, MWC, and WAC conferences

-Students at ECU camp out in line for tickets after the Mason victory

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Previewing Hampton

The Patriots will try to bounce back tomorrow night in Fairfax as they face off against another team nicknamed the Pirates. How fitting. Last time they played Hampton in Fairfax it was a blowout to say the least. But this is in no way a similar squad, as they have already taken down VCU on their current three game winning streak and lost to Maryland by only six. Hampton is lead by senior guard Rashad West (pictured to the left) who is averaging 17 points and was able to drop 23 on the Terrapins. They play a similar style of play to the Patriots and are not strong from the three point or foul line. They were 1 for 12 on three pointers in their game against VCU but did force the Rams to turnover the ball 21 times. The Pirates do not have much talent up front but then again niether did ECU. Can Mason take advantage and get Thomas and Birdsong involved early? I think that will be the key to this game considering the shooting roles of the guards for Mason has been way too inconsistent. Dre Smith and John Vaughan will light it up at times but then fade away when they are needed. In other words, the Patriots will have to get back to their bread and butter, which is feeding Thomas in the low post. Thomas, who should have been able to beat ECU by himself, will hopefully be able to stay out of foul trouble in this one. Watching him on the bench for that long on Sunday night was painful.

An interesting story coming into this game is Folarin Campbell and his recent benching by Coach L. Will he start tomorrow or is he still in the dog house? I kind of get the impression something happened during halftime in the locker room Sunday that led to his lack of play in the second half despite his poor first half performance. The team could not need him more at this point and it is unfortunate to watch a guy like Campbell struggle with all he has done in the past. But if he again gets less than 20 minutes will guys like Cam Long and Dre Smith be able to produce in his absence? This could really open the door wide open for a guy like Long, who I am liking more and more each game.

Monday, December 03, 2007

DC Meltdown

I had wait til today to write this post because I had hoped that maybe I would wake up this morning and realize last night's BB&T disaster was only a dream. Unfortunately that was not the case and today I have been mulling over how to write this post without rage and numerous expletives. A sad realization to have to deal with after dismantling a much more talented Drexel team a few nights ago. Let's break down this debacle.

Most people try not to look too far ahead in the season, but I am not one of them. I am always looking past opponents like ECU and apparently Mason did the same thing last night. I am always thinking of the strong possibility that we might not win the conference and get the automatic bid to the dance. If that is the case, every game counts. This is so much more emphasized this season as our out of conference schedule is weak. This game right now is considering a "bad loss" as the bracketologist would say. I am not sure what a good loss is but I guess that's why I don't work for ESPN. But it's the kind of thing that can be the difference between the playing in the NIT or the NCAA tournament. Our RPI went from the top 10 to the mid 50s. Mason fans can only hope ECU can pull off some more upsets to get their RPI to a respectable number.

The Patriots started off this game slow, big surprise, and almost seemed like they were not interested. Once again there were struggles from the three point line and the foul line. The shooting woes were a big problem but it was not the only one. I don't think I've ever seen Folarin Campbell and Will Thomas on the bench that long since before the '05-'06 season. Thomas uncharacteristically got into early foul trouble and Campbell struggling shooting and also getting beat on defense. Thomas, who usually averages about 32 minutes a game, played only 24 and Campbell only checked in for 13. Campbell's inconsistency is really starting to become puzzling considering he in his senior year. Louis Birdsong played the most he has all season and ended up with 12 points and 8 rebounds but in no way does he have the ability to take over a game like Thomas can. This was not the same team we saw play Drexel, where was the intensity? Where was the killer instinct?

I know I sound like the sky is falling and although the loss is devastating it's not the end of the world. It is better that this happen now in December rather then in February. Sometimes teams like Mason need to be knocked down a peg. Maybe they were reading too much into the media hype, I am guilty of that myself. We can only hope that this loss can serve as a slap in the face and a wake up call to the Patriots.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

East Carolina Preview

Ah the annual BB&T Classic is tomorrow and like every year I am less than excited for our match-up. In the past I always hated how we would play teams like Maryland (when they were good) and get waxed. Now in a year where we are on fire we get to play the mighty Pirates of East Carolina. Check out this preview from their conferences website. Here's my favorite quote from the article:
The Pirates are yet to win a game against Division I competition this season. Their victories came against Division II Limestone and Division III N.C. Wesleyan. ECU has one win in its last 28 games versus Division I opponents and has currently lost seven straight.
Yes, they are that bad. Their leading scorer is currently lighting it up as he is the only player on the team averaging double digits (10.8). In a season where this Mason squad could really do some out of conference damage, I hate to see teams like this on our schedule. It's a game where we only have something to lose and nothing to gain. Thus the life of a mid-major.

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