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George Mason Basketball

George Mason Basketball: November 2007

Friday, November 30, 2007


I am almost speechless. I knew Drexel was not going to be the same squad that took down Syracuse, Villanova, and St. Joe's last season but I did not think they would end up on the wrong side of the biggest blow out in CAA history. Watching this game was like watching a father beat his son; offensive at first but yet you can't look away. Saying Mason was on fire last night is a serious understatement. Every Patriot scored at least 5 points except for Jay Threatt, even big Chris Fleming had 10 points. With Dre Smith knocking down three pointers, Will Thomas was barely needed in this one. Let's just think about this for a second, Mason won by 47 points, shot over 50% from the field and their best shooter (percentage wise), Will Thomas, attempted only 7 shots. Mason is becoming the definition of "depth" in the NCAA as I would think it difficult to find a squad that plays better as a team then these guys are right now. The half court offense never looked so swift as the Patriots were able to pass the ball between the low post and perimeter keeping Drexel off balance. The intensity on defense was really the difference in the game as Mason was able to force the Dragons into shots they did not want to take. Frank Elegar, the all-CAA guy I who I highlighted in my last post was held scoreless and attempted one field goal. It was hard not to feel bad for the dazed Dragons as the last 8 or so minutes of the game was basically them playing an AAU squad as Mason lineup consisted of 4 freshmen and Chris Fleming; and yet the Dragons couldn't even get the margin down to 40. Conference play is definitely going to be interesting this year. Oh and by the way, VCU lost to Hampton?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Previewing Drexel

After a holiday weekend in Disney and some national attention, the Patriots play their first conference game Thursday against Drexel. The key matchup in this game is of course Will Thomas against Frank Elegar. Both are all-CAA material and have been putting up similar numbers thus far in scoring and rebounding. Elegar returns as the team's leading scorer from last season but the Dragons lost Bashir Mason (11.2 ppg, 3.4 apg, 2.7 rpg), Chaz Crawford (6.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.3 bpg), Dominick Mejia (11.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg). I am especially glad to see Crawford (last seasons CAA defensive player of the year) gone as he played superb defense against the Patriots last season in Philadelphia. Despite losing some key three point shooters from last season the Dragons have seemed to fill the shoes thus far in that area. As a team they are shooting over 42% from behind the arc as true freshmen point guard Gerald Colds has made 19 of 34 attempts. Interesting to note that as strong as a three point shooting team they are, they are have shot terrible from the foul line (56.9%). The Dragons do not have much size on the perimeter and boast a three guard lineup whose speed could give Mason problems like South Carolina did. Fiery head coach Bruiser Flint likes to operate a half-court offense and keep the game low-scoring. Last year Flint's defense only allowed opponents to shoot around 40%, this season they have only allowed an average of 38%. I know they really haven't played anyone yet besides UVA but Drexel might be the toughest defense team the Patriots will face so far.


A lot of people have been asking me about Mason getting snubbed in the polls. Normally I don't pay attention because they are always mindblogging if you look at them closely. Even though the panel failed to wait til after Sundays games to vote it still makes no sense that Mason received no votes in the Coaches poll and Kansas State received 50. In the AP poll Mason received 34 votes but K-State is ranked #25? Take my advice and don't even look at the polls, they only thing worse is the BCS system in football.


One last side, Will Thomas was named CAA player of the week for the second straight time, shooting 55.6% from the floor and going 14-17 from the foul line. 14-17? Who are you and what have you done with the real Will Thomas. Imagine what he will be able to do when sidekick Monroe and his excellent low-post passing skills return.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mason finishes third in classic

Mason was able to squeak by South Carolina Sunday night to take third place in the Old Spice Classic, in a game where they missed their first 12 shots and shot under 50% from the free throw line. The Patriots were down 14-2 to start as the Gamecocks were able to contain Will Thomas. It was difficult to watch a guy who as only 5'9" (Devan Downey) drive to the lane against the Patriots almost every play and make something happen. Downey is arguably one of the fastest players in college basketball and was disruptive all night. Mason was able to bounce back in the second half with strong play from Will Thomas, freshmen Cam Long, and Louis Birdsong. Birdsong must have eaten something different for breakfast on Sunday or maybe he got a boost riding the Tea Cups at Disney World because it was like watching a different player out there. He ended being named the player of the game and had the winning tip-in. Will Thomas was named to the All-Tournament team and Cam Long poured on 13 points, 5 assists, and 3 steals. He had some no look passes that I think even faked out the camera guy. His strong play kept Jordan Carter on the bench for the longest time this season, I think Carter will definitely have to fight to get playing time if Long can keep this up. Carter has the experience on his side but Long was pulling off some pretty ridiculous moves and looked like a cool veteran running the point. Although Dre and Campbell did not have great shooting nights John Vaughan was able to add some excellent long range shooting late. Vlad the Impaler was held to only 5 minutes mostly due to more athletic front court of the Gamecocks, but like I said before, he will be fine, don't worry.

All in all it was a great weekend for Mason despite falling short of the championship game. The Patriots were able to play against some major conference opponents and get valuable experience for their freshmen. It was also a chance for them to showcase their talent on national television, which gave the world the chance to see Will Thomas hit his first career three pointer, hopefully his last. We saw the Patriots play their best ball of the season so far with a much improved defense. And don't forget Monroe will be back before you know it. Oh and apparently we are "back".

Saturday, November 24, 2007

First cut is the deepest

Well the Patriots were unable to pull off consecutive "upsets" as they fell to Big East power Villanova yesterday. The loss is disappointing from the standpoint that if Mason played as sharp as they did against Kansas State they probably could have easily taken this one. But Mason fans should not feel down about this loss, for starters it was the the second game in less than 24 hours against a nationally ranked team. Scottie Reynolds was held in check by the Patriots in the first half but then took over in the second. Mason shot well from the field and from the three point stripe but 'Nova just shot better. They boasted a lineup that often featured Reynolds and two other point guards, all of whom could hit threes from anywhere on the court. An offense like that is very difficult to defend, especially when they are shooting over 40% from long range. Will Thomas and Folarin Campbell were again able to carry the offense, but Vaughan and Carter were held to unproductive games. Dre Smith picked up the slack early and was deadly from three point land but was unable to be a factor late in the game. Carter managed only 1 assist after dishing out 8 against Kansas State. Cam Long had his best game as a Patriot scoring 7 points and made some great plays on offense and defense as well. His three point play early in the game showed he is going be a playmaker this year once he gets more minutes. Fellow freshmen Vlad Moldoveanu (which for some reason announcers have an easier time pronouncing then Folarin) got the start again and didn't play as well as he did the previous night but was able to get some solid experience against a serious opponent. Larranaga was not afraid to use him, Long, and Tate in this game, which will pay dividends later in the season during conference play.

Next up is South Carolina on Sunday at 4:30, who might not be the cream of the crop in the SEC but are a squad that gave a very good NC State team a run for it's money. It's hard to imagine but Mason actually has a small size advantage over this team. Will Thomas should be able to get back on track and dominate in this game. The Gamecocks are a very proficient three point shooting team and the Patriots will have to play some better perimeter defense then they did last night.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Taking'em to school

Oh how sweet it is to see Mason's experience take down another talent heavy but young squad. I figured I had to start this post with a sentence containing the word "experience" because the ESPN2 announcers probably said about 2345 times last night. It got to the point were my brother and I started to play a drinking game about it. I also love how every time Mason plays on ESPN some announcer has to say what "Folarin" means in Nigerian. But they were right, Kansas State's inexperience really showed in this game as the Patriots looked calm and cool throughout the whole game. Also I don't think it hurt that was some extra motivation involved here after Michael Beasley's name was being mentioned every five seconds. The Patriots are off to a 4-0 start for the first time in school history as Folarin Campbell, Will Thomas, and John Vaughan all had sensational games. That being said I can't anything away from that Beasley kid who despite having only six points at halftime, finished with 30 and 10. At times he was able to score at will, too bad no one else on that squad could score until it was too late.

Mason was able to shoot the ball very well and even went 8 for 17 from the three point line. The Patriots have not shot the ball this well all season and Vaughan seemed to be in the zone all night. Jordan Carter posted 10 points, 8 assists, and 9 rebounds and was able to set up a lot of three point chances for his fellow Patriots. Freshman Vlad Moldoveanu got his second start did a descent job guarding Beasley at certain points. Vlad is a star in the making, just you wait and see. I was also pleased the play of Cam Long, he has been handling the ball well and looks like a veteran out there. I had mentioned that long range shooting and getting to the foul line would be keys to this game but it was really Mason's defensive presence that took over the game. The Patriots had their share of miscues and sloppy play but unlike the Wildcats everyone on the floor for Mason was an offensive threat. It was a true test of veteran depth versus young talent. At many times during the game Beasley would simply just rely on his talents to score from anywhere on the floor and Mason could do nothing to stop him. But that didn't matter because Mason played better as a team, got everyone involved and played solid defensive. Sure it's not fun to watch at times but it's how Larranaga has been winning games for years.

Up next is Villanova, who had a little bit of trouble against UCF yesterday. I like our chances in this game but Scottie Reynolds could cause some problems. They are a much more polished team then Kansas State and have more experience. If Mason can play like they did last night they will be advancing to the championship game on Sunday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Previewing Kansas State

On Thanksgiving night the Patriots will most likely face their toughest regular season opponent, Kansas State in the Old Spice Classic on ESPN2. The wildcats boast a young but powerful and high octane lineup which includes Michael Beasley; who so far seems to have the makings of the next Kevin Durant. Despite it still being very early in the season, Beasley seems to arguably be the best player in college basketball right now as he is averaging 30 points and 20 rebounds through his first 3 games (and no that's not a typo). I don't care who he was playing, those are ridiculous numbers. Beasley and his fellow top 2007 recruit Bill Walker create serious mismatches for the Patriots. Both will have more size and athleticism than anyone who will be guarding them tomorrow night. Even if Monroe was in the lineup, Mason would still be greatly out-manned in the lost post. What will Mason have to do to upset the wildcats?

Kansas State brings a lot of athleticism and speed to the floor but their guard play and lack of a strong long range shooter could open the door for the Patriots. They are a young team and have played sloppy and inconsistent in their three games this season. They barely got by Division II Pittsburgh State allowing them to go on a 15-0 run in the second half and needed Beasley to explode late in the game to beat Western Illinois. If Mason can play their historically tough defense and keep the game low scoring the wildcats could be forced to play a type of game they are not used to. The wildcats want a fast paced up and down the court game, a game in which Beasley and Walker will dominate. Mason will have to rely good three point shooting and getting to the foul line, like they did against Dayton. Will Thomas will have his hands full all night and mostly won't be able to carry the team like he's been doing. That being said Louis Birdsong and Chris Fleming are going to have to show up and help out Thomas in a low blocks. Guard play will be very important for Mason to pull off this upset, another strong night from Folarin Campbell and Jordan Carter is imperative. Let's hope Mason can play their game and pull this one off and not make their fans hope that the ESPN2 audience passed out during the second half due to turkey and wine.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Big Week for Big Willie Style

Well I think most Mason fans saw this one coming, Will Thomas is the CAA's player of the week. In this first week of action Thomas has been putting up some very impressive numbers and even improved his free throw shooting percent recently. I do believe his rebounding numbers are a little inflated due to the fact that Monroe is still out, but nonetheless it's an impressive stat line. I think the real question this poses to Mason fans is can he keep this up against Kansas State and will that even be enough? Thomas will need at least 20 and 15 to help Mason pull this off on turkey day and that might not even be enough if the team doesn't connect on it's three pointers. Now if only Folarin Campbell could show the same consistency Thomas brings every night...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Record setting night

Now that is more like it. The Patriots were able to take down the Dayton Flyers last night in Fairfax, going 21 for 21 from the free throw line despite struggling from there in the previous contests. Mason is 3-0 to start the season for the first time in almost 30 years. Folarin Campbell was able to find his shooting touch and Will Thomas again was able to dominate on the boards. Jordan Carter also had a great night running the point and picked up three steals to go along with his 15 points. Big Vlad got his first career start but was held scoreless despite having a few open looks. His time will come, I'm not worried. Dre Smith seemed a little bit more like himself in the this game but still was 0-5 from three point land. The best thing to take away from this game was Campbell and Thomas really leading the way and setting the tone in a game that would have been a blow out without Dayton's Brian Roberts pouring on the points late. The only real downside in this game was Mason's poor perimeter shooting that is really starting to become painful to watch.

The guard play was much improved as Mason able to capitalize on Dayton double and triple teaming Thomas down low. Mason was able to adjust at half time and open things up more for Thomas who was uncharacteristically amazing from the foul line. This could really be a monster season for him if this keeps up. Having said that, the other forwards will have to step up their play for Mason to have any chance against Mike Beasley and Kansas State. Birdsong and Fleming have not shown much this season in Monroe's absence.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

It ain't pretty but it'll do

Sorry for the delay in posts, it's been a busy couple of weeks for me. Larranaga is off to a 2-0 start for the first time in his 11 seasons at GMU, although the wins have been less than stellar. Cleveland State and Vermont will not be going to the big dance this year without pulling off some miracles within their respected conferences, and yet Mason struggled at certain points in both games in Fairfax. Will Thomas and John Vaughan have been impressive but in both games the team looked a lot like last years squad and I'm not talking about the same squad that ran through the CAA tournament. Also, Darryl Monroe's absence might have more of an impact that I once thought. Let's look deeper into these games.


In a night that was filled with terrible shooting and Mason line-ups that were smaller than some area high school squads, we saw this squad come from behind in a late run that was help fueled by a freshman. Will Thomas saved the day with his career high 17 rebounds while Folarin Campbell's shooting woes, which we saw from time to time last season capped off a terrible shooting night from both the foul line and three point line. 1-17 from the three point line, are you serious? Does anyone else think Jordan Carter should shoot more, check the numbers, he has been the most consistent long range shooter but rarely takes enough shots. Although I did say the same thing about Dre Smith last season and he ends up with 2 points on 1 for 8 shooting. Where is the killer instinct he had last March? One can only hope to chalk this up to early season jitters but at least we saw that Vlad Moldoveanu can rebound and play some defense to go along with that scoring touch.

Cleveland State:

Another ugly game in which the Patriots were able to grind out a victory despite not putting up good numbers. Thomas and Vaughan again led the way in scoring while Campbell managed only 1 field goal for the 2nd straight game and committed 5 turnovers. No other Patriot managed more than one basket besides Thomas or Vaughan, wow. A better defensive team would have locked down the Patriots in the 2nd half with play like that. I would have thought to see some improvement in this game but hey a win is a win, right? The three point shooting did improve, but when are we going to see Isaiah Tate launching up some shots from behind the arch? Isn't this what he was brought in for? There were times in both this game and the Vermont game in which he services could have been used to provide a spark off the bench. Look for it soon if poor shooting from the field continues.

Monday, November 05, 2007

More Hype

Will Thomas and Folarin Campbell are ranked in the Top 10 CAA players on, here's the full list:
"1. Eric Maynor, G, VCU
2. Antoine Agudio, G, Hofstra
3. Frank Elegar, C, Drexel
4. Will Thomas, F, George Mason
5. TJ Carter, G, UNC-Wilmington
6. Matt Janning, G, Northeastern
7. Herb Courtney, F, Delaware
8. Folarin Campbell, G/F, George Mason
9. Abdulai Jalloh, G, James Madison
10. Vladimir Kuljanin, F, UNC-Wilmington"

Also, Mason is projected in Lunardi's famous bracketology as an 11th seed. I wonder what changed since June that would make Lunardi add Mason to the field now. CBS has Mason as a bubble team with VCU projected as the auto-bid winner. And lastly Mason gets some love from the Storming the Floor blog and from the Washington Post at the end of this article. Love from the Post? Yeah I am shocked too.

Friday, November 02, 2007

One Week Away

The season opener against Vermont is a week away, here's some more hype for Mason to get you in the mood:

-Mason season outlook by blue ribbon yearbook aka "basketball bible"

-Will Thomas was named a mid-major all-american

-Mason is #9 on the first mid-major Top 25 poll

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