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George Mason Basketball

George Mason Basketball: January 2008

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sell out crowd awaits Dukes

The GMU-JMU "rivalry" is one that I could never really understand while I was a student at Mason. Why are we rivals? Because we are both located in Virginia and named after dead guys? Most would consider ODU or VCU to be better suited as our official rivals because let's face it, the games are more fun to watch. But the GMU-JMU rivalry brings us back to the days when both schools were playing at the Division II level searching for identity and funding to one day be a Division I participant. This rivalry apparently means a lot to the alumni for both schools as this Saturday's afternoon delight is already sold out. Northern VA is home to many alumni for both universities so it comes to no surprise that this game never lacks good attendance. This year James Madison boasts of it's most talented lineups ever to come to the Patriot Center, but are coming into Saturday losers of 5 straight. After some early season success in their out of conference schedule the Dukes have hit a rut and their lack of experience might be catching up to them. Not to say this game doesn't have the potential to be a close one because it always does when these guys come to town and I'd be saying the same thing even if they were 0-20. Mason has the huge homecourt advantage though, which we saw them feed off late in the game against VCU on Tuesday. If we see similar fan support, this game could get ugly for James Madison.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Patriots take down Rams

The Patriots season has been one full of spurts, some really impressive victories and some very questionable losses. Last night in front of a packed house at the Patriot Center, and quite possibly one of the loudest crowds I've ever experienced there, they were able to take down their CAA nemesis VCU. The victory brings them one game behind the Rams for first place in the standings but more importantly they were able to avenge last year's loss in the CAA finals. Fanhouse says we have "built a better bubble". Larranaga used an interesting four guard lineup midway through the second half after Birdsong picked up his fourth foul and it ended up sparking a 20-4 run. Our friend Michael Litos has a great breakdown of this on his blog. Who needs another forward in there when Will Thomas is dominating the glass? Thomas had 15 rebounds and 21 points and basically stole the show late in the 2nd half when he was needed most. See what happens when you get him going early? Folarin Campbell has a very impressive shooting night and helped to keep the turnovers down. Interesting how Campbell was able to go 3 for 6 from three-point land against the team that defends the best in the country. You just never know which Campbell is going to show up. John Vaughan and Dre Smith played great defense all night guarding Ram's star Eric Maynor, who was held to only 3 points in the 2nd half. Jamal Shuler had a big night but couldn't get his teammates involved late, which hurt the Rams. With this victory Mason is 10-0 at home this season, but they will need to do some work on the road in the conference and in their bracketbuster game to keep their slim at-large hopes alive. This game could very well have been a preview of the CAA tournament finals coming in March.

Sidenote: You don't rush the court when you beat a conference opponent in January, only securing 2nd place in the conference, and your team was FAVORED to win. I hope Doug Gottlieb didn't rip us too bad for that. Oh wait I care about what he thinks almost as much as I would listening to Paris Hilton's view on our foreign policy.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Judgement Day

The day has finally arrived, a battle of two CAA powers on a national stage. One team trying to further distance themselves from the pack and the other just trying to stay in the race to be in the top of the standings. As usual, the Patriots have questions to be answered. Which Folarin Campbell will show up tonight? Is Jordan Carter going to play? Will Mason be able to get Will Thomas going on early? The Washington Post today points out that Dre Smith has gone 2 for 13 from behind the arch since his record breaking night against JMU. Tonight would really be an awesome time for him to bounce back, maybe the ESPN cameras could help out there. Both teams have experience playing in important televised games with Mason having a little bit of an edge in this. A loss for the Patriots could potentially knock them out of the running for the #1 seed in the CAA tournament. But with the way the conference play has been going, that might not really matter much in March. The Patriots are lucky only to have to face the Rams at home this year and they must take advantage of that.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Showdown in Fairfax

The VCU Rams come to town tomorrow night in what could possibly be the biggest game of the season for the Patriots. The game could end deciding who ends up first in the standings, as the Patriots are two games behind the Rams for first place. Mason's inconsistency this season has been an issue but the lone constant has been winning in Fairfax. The Patriots face their toughest opponents to come to the Patriot Center this season since the Dayton Flyers. The Rams are a roll lately and slowly separating themselves from the pack in the CAA. A key stat to that could doom the Patriots is that the Rams are leading the nation in three-point FG percentage defense. Considering there has been way too many times this season that Mason has lived off the three-point shot, they could find themselves in serious trouble if they don't establish the inside game. Will Thomas will have a hard time tomorrow night, he's never been able to go off against the Rams. Wil Fameni was able to hold Thomas to only 10 points and 4 rebounds in last season's CAA championship. Head coach Anthony Grant will have his boys prepared and I have no doubt that stopping Thomas is going to be the focus of the defense. This puts big pressure on the guards, they will have to make outside shots and get to the foul line, something they aren't great at. Speaking of getting to the foul line, Vlad needs to do that more, he rarely misses. But when you think of the Ram's you think of Eric Maynor (pictured above and flipping you off with teammate Jamal Shuler), the golden savior in last year's NCAA tournament game against Duke. He is clutch and difficult to contain. He won't drop 30 points on you like Hofstra's Agudio but he will make players around him better. He's a solid floor general and agruably one of the best pure point guards in the country, and along with every other Mason fan, I hate him. And speaking of Shuler, (pictured to the right gettin' his Goose on) he has been a large part of VCU's success thus far averaging 16 points a game. I am not even going to try to predict the outcome for this game because usually when I write something like that it dooms the Patriots but now this, it will be an exciting game, guaranteed.

ESPN Chat with Will Thomas

Join Will Thomas today at noon as he will answer your questions during this "Spirit Week" chat edition on Hmmm, I wonder how many questions will be about the '06 Final Four and not about the current season. Nevertheless, good to see ESPN giving tomorrow's game some hype.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Trouble at Trask

The Patriots suffered another disappointing but not surprising road loss to UNCW Saturday night. Mason was living off the three-point shot in the first half then it disappeared in the second. I don't understand the strategy they were going for on offense, especially when it alienates your biggest offensive weapon, Will Thomas. The barrage of three-pointers was nice at first when the Patriots made three in a row to start things off but it made Thomas a non-factor early. It would have been nice to at least get UNCW's Kuljana in foul trouble considering Thomas is ten times more athletic then him. Even though Mason out rebounded the Seahawks, Kuljana killed them on the boards in the 2nd half. This wasn't to stay Mason didn't play a good game because they shot the ball well again and kept pretty good care of the ball. UNCW is always tough at home as I stated in my last post and this game was no exception, they played great and never gave Mason an inch. As it stands now we are in a four-way tie for 2nd place with them, Delaware, and William and Mary. Never thought I would be saying that in late January. VCU still has a two game lead for 1st place and the face-off Tuesday in Fairfax hasn't lost any luster despite this recent loss. If UNCW blew out the Patriots Saturday I'd be a little worried but let's all be thankful this a home game.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Terrible Trask

The Raiford G. Trask Coliseum is the home of the UNCW Seahawks and is a place where Coach Larranaga has not won in four years. The UNCW faithful pack this small gym and you will see nothing but a sea of students in teal colored shirts. Not the prettiest thing to look at, so I can understand why it's hard to play there. The last time Larranaga won in Wilmington, sophomore Jai Lewis scored 21 points and the Patriots pulled it out in overtime. During Coach L's tenure the Patriots have scored an average of 56.6 points per game at the Trask, that is scary bad. But with the way this team has been playing defense and shooting the ball lately it might be time for some old habits to die hard. Depth will be important in the game as it is in any road conference match. A lot of bench players saw more action Wednesday night and that should provide some excellent preparation for tomorrow. UNCW in no way boasts a scary lineup this year but they are well coached and play great defense; your not gonna see any Mason player score over 20. Make no mistake though TJ Carter and Vlad Kuljanin can play but they recently seem to shy away in big games. The double overtime game at Hofstra was important because this game could very well end up just like that. Similar results will not come easy.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bracket Buster Update

ESPN's Bracket Buster has become important date in February for mid-major teams across the country. Mason used it in the 2005-2006 season as a stepping stone into the NCAA tournament with a road win at Wichita State. Since then mid-major have gotten more market coverage but this showcase of games has really turned into larger and more meaningful event. After our losses to ECU and Georgia State I was starting to think that this event would be meaningless to our schedule but now things are starting to look up. With Mason's current RPI around the 40's and 50's depending on which formula you use, a road game with an opponent of a similar standing could be another quality win for the resume. Mason still has work to be done in the conference but this game could still be a factor. The match-ups are announced February 3rd and here is a chart with all the teams participating and who they would possibly be matched up with, courtesy of our friends from the Looking at the chart, Illinois State and Ohio look like probable opponents if the announcements were made today. These might not be "sexy" teams but it's really a matter of numbers and rating scores. Cleveland State is ruled out because we already played them this season but Valparaiso and Oral Roberts are not. Either of those teams could be a tough match up for the Patriots. Truthfully I would love to see Butler as our opponent but I think they will mostly be matched up with Drake. Southern Illinois, despite having a disappointing season would still be an excellent test for the Patriots, you just never know with those Missouri Valley teams.

Home Sweet Home

The Patriots are looking better then ever and even with more confidence then we saw at the Old Spice Classic in November. They are undefeated at home this season and I don't even have to look up the average margin of victory to know it's down right impressive. Last night's massacre of the ODU Monarchs was a game in which Mason again shot the ball extremely well, and apparently handed ODU their worst loss in 12 years. The Patriots made their first 14 out of 25 shots and this time it wasn't the Dre Smith show, it was Folarin Campbell's night. Campbell was able to pour on 25 points, including 5 three-pointers. Vaughan added 17 and Thomas had 14 in a game that saw a lot of the freshman get minutes as well. Big Vlad even had 4 blocks, I couldn't believe my eyes. Now if he could only hit a three-pointer. Jordan Carter was limited to only 11 minutes but he seemed to be able to move around fine out there despite the ankle problem. Dre followed up his record breaking night in Harrisonburg with a 5 point showing and only going 1 for 6 from behind the arch. Oh well, at least we know what the guy is capable of now. Mason is finally starting to show that passion and fire in their game play and the results have been domination on the court. This could not have come at a better time with the VCU game and battle for first place on ESPN2 less than a week away.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Unsung Hero

Andy Katz, probably one of the only ESPN "writers" I don't hate, has a great write-up in his blog about Thuc Phan, George Mason's student manager for the men's basketball team. Apparently he went way beyond the call of duty at the Hofstra game last week and set the new standard for all student managers across the country. The funny thing is I am pretty sure this is a job that I once applied for and was denied during my freshman year. Looks like they made the right decision on who to hire. Here's an excerpt from Katz's blog entry today:

"The Patriots get two tapes of every game. One is a television version of the game. The other is dubbed down by Phan, who hooks his computer up with the television crew, to get a direct feed while the game is going on, which allows him to edit it during the game to speed up the process for the staff. George Mason was off to James Madison Saturday and had only Friday in between the Thursday game at Hofstra and JMU to watch the game.

But Hofstra couldn't accommodate Phan near the camera. That didn't deter him. He went out to the television truck and asked if he could hook up his computer directly to the truck. Larranaga said he was told he could but there was no room for him inside the truck. Once again, that didn't stop the senior engineering student.

He got an extension cord, ran his computer directly to the truck and sat out in the cold, driving rain with a small awning over his head to protect his computer.

The game went into overtime.

The game went into a second overtime.

Phan didn't budge. He sat there, logging the game, to ensure Larranaga's staff had the necessary breakdown of the game."

I mean wow, what dedication. It's the little things like that which people never see that can really make a difference in terms of a team's preparation. I think I can speak on behalf of many Mason fans out there when I say thank you for all the hard work you put in each season.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Dre Dre Dre

Wow, what a weekend for Mason and Dre Smith. Not only did Dre set an NCAA record, but he helped the Patriots blow out a CAA team, on the road no less. I mean 10 for 10 from three-point land, are you kidding me? I had hinted in some of recent posts of how Dre's potential was yet to be tapped but I never could have imagined him having a night like he did Saturday. It was also an usual night for the Patriots if you consider they scored 96 points and only 4 players were in double digits, not exactly Larranaga-ball. But how often to you get to see a Mason player on ESPN's top plays? Mid-majority has a great write-up on Dre's magnificent statistical night. What is lost in the Dre Smith show is the fact that Folarin Campbell (16 points) and Louis Birdsong (8 rebounds) also played well after less than stellar outings recently. JV and Will Thomas bought it as usual, no surprise there. If the rest of the supporting cast keeps playing like this first place in the CAA will not be far off. Mason currently sits in a three-way tie at 2nd behind only VCU. January 29th cannot come soon enough. This is the Mason team we had all expected for this season, leaving the CAA fawns behind and hunting for bigger game. Can they keep this up or will they have another relapse? The team chemisty seems much improved and they will need it against CAA powers ODU, UNCW, and VCU.

Friday, January 18, 2008

JV and Thomas Save the Day

Last the Patriots and Pride put on a show in Hempstead, with John Vaughan hitting a buzzer beating three-pointer to force overtime and eventually help secure a double OT road victory. Check out the video highlights here. Hofstra came to play and it wasn't just Agudio who was scoring, how has this team only won 3 games? Well any Mason fan can you tell you we seem to bring out the best in teams. The Patriots did a great job of containing Agudio, who only had 4 points in the first half. Which should not have come as a surprise considering he averages more points in the 2nd half than anyone else in the CAA does in a whole 40 minutes. Agudio really showed what an incredible player he is last night, the guy knew that Mason wasn't going to let him drop 30 so he distributed the ball all night. He was able to create great shots for his teammates all night, which almost helped the Pride steal this one away from the Patriots.

Will Thomas was the key reason for Mason's victory, scoring a career-high 29 points, see what happens when you keep feeding this guy the rock!?!?! I have been saying it all year, late in the game when it's close you gotta go to your bread and butter. I feel Mason has lost some games this year because they failed get Thomas enough touches in the closing minutes. Vaughan and Campbell also had great nights, scoring 18 and 20 respectfully. Although Campbell got most of his points at the end of game making free throws he still showed us he still has the clutch performance in him, despite driving to the basket and missing layups in the 2nd half.

It was another night where Dre Smith started off hot but cooled down in the second half, he needs to stop this, it's like he's afraid to shoot in the 2nd half or something. As a team the Patriots shot the ball well from everywhere, including the free throw line which they were actually able to get to for a change. Freshmen Cam Long and Vlad Moldoveanu got a lot of minutes in this game and it was great to see Vlad in there late in the OTs (he will hit those threes eventually, be patient). Another thing worth noting in this game is Jordan Carter coming in late in the 1st half threading the needle on a perfect pass to Vlad and then leaving shortly after. He must not be 100% yet because I don't see why he would not be in the game when Mason was struggling in the 2nd half.

The road victory is exactly what Mason needs to get momentum for Saturdays showdown with JMU in Harrisburg. It will be another tough game for the Patriots, but honestly which game hasn't been this season? JMU has talent and are well coached, I would not be surprised to see another nail-biter.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Gunston back in the News

Mason's furry green embarrassment of a mascot is in the papers again, this time the Washington Post has printed a story from a writer who is as biased towards Gunston as I am, if that was possible.
"The school is considering whether to spruce up Gunston, a friendly monsterish thing named after founding father George Mason's ancestral home, or get something . . . else. For an institution without many traditions -- it has changed dramatically in its 36 years, from an often-overlooked commuter school to an increasingly residential, diverse and competitive research university -- the choice of a mascot is another way to try to establish Mason's identity."
I've heard these rumors of change for awhile now and frankly I'll believe it when I see it. Maybe the picture above will move things along more quickly. Frequent readers of this blog know of my hatred towards Gunston, if not read it for yourself here. I am pretty sure this picture proves Gunston's methods of getting student support, it all makes sense now. You would think that after the Final Four run in 2006 the school would take the time and money to get a new mascot considering people outside of the DC area now know that GMU has a men's basketball team, but hey at least we got new uniforms last year.

On the road again

Mason is back on the road again tonight, traveling to New York to take on Antoine Agudio and 4 other guys. Whether it's in Disney or Atlanta, the Patriots have proved that almost anything can happen to their game while on the road, and basically big leads are meaningless until the other team starts to add full-court pressure. They have yet to win a CAA road game and tonight represents a good chance for them to notch one. Hofstra boasts one of the nations top guards in Antoine Agudio, pictured above, but more accurately represented here with fellow Long Islanders. He is fourth in the nation in scoring (25.1 ppg), first in average minutes (39.2) and has more career points at Hofstra than the rest of the team combined. Meanwhile for the Patriots Jordan Carter is expected to return to action tonight according to the Washington Post. The article also points out that the Patriots have made at least seven three-pointers in five of the past six games, but I think the key to this game is as usual going to be Will Thomas. His services were not really needed in the Northeastern game because of great play by the guards but I would not expect to see that same performance tonight, especially on the road. The Patriots need to have a good showing tonight to build confidence for Saturday when they are on the road again in Harrisburg to face JMU. I never thought before the season started that I would have to write that previous sentence but oh well.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Long named co-rookie of the week

Say what you want to about how the season has gone so far but I think despite what happens this season Mason fans are confident in the future of this team. Coach L's freshmen have been getting some valuable minutes so far this season, especially Cam Long, who was named CAA co-rookie of the week. Long played 22 minutes on the road in Delaware and 36 at home against Northeastern, were he scored 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting. And speaking of his shooting numbers, Long is second on the team in FG% behind only Will Thomas, who by the way is ranked 18th in the country in this category. From three point range Long is shooting over 46%, leading the team. Granted he has taken a lot less shots than guys like JV and Dre but these numbers are still very impressive for a freshmen. Long is a lot like Jordan Carter in the sense that he can be a little too unselfish at times passing up on shoots. The fact is the kid needs to shoot more, which I know is difficult with a lot of shoot first guards already on this team (cough Dre cough). You need unselfish guys like Long and Carter to run the offense but there are times when they need to step up, like when Dre or Folarin have bad shooting nights. I mean that never happens, right? If Long continues to get over 20 minutes a game I think it will serious pay dividends in February and March. Remember Dre Smith last season, he started off slow made a lot of newbie mistakes but his minutes kept increasing and by the CAA tournament he was starting and leading our team in scoring. Coach L is preparing for the long run, he knows what he is doing people.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Walk with Glory

On Saturday afternoon during a win over Northeastern Folarin Campbell became the first Patriot with 1,200 points, 400 rebounds, 300 assists, 100 3-pointers, 100 steals, and 50 blocks. You got all that? Campbell and I have had a love-hate relationship over the years, more recently it's been hate, but he is one of the most versatile players in team history. I've ripped Campbell on this site many times mostly because I feel that he tries to force things and doesn't slow things down and let the game come to him. Frankly I will never understand why he stopped driving to the basketball, watching him play in that UConn and watching games from last season is like watching two different players completely. Everyone expected huge things from after he led the team in scoring during the 2006 NCAA tournament. Folarin has struggled at times since then and most fans would say he has not lived up to his potential. Maybe that is not a fair statement to make because Coach L's teams have never really been carried by just one player or relied on talent alone. This is true for most mid-major teams across the country, team unity wins more out often then not. The fact remains that Campbell has always been a valuable guy to have on the court even if hes not lighting up the scoreboard. His energy and composure can never be questioned and could forget that smile? I have never written off Folarin though and I still believe hes got some more stellar performances awaiting.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Patriots Rout Huskies

It was a game for Mason that bought back some memories from their dominate play earlier in this season. The Patriots routed their second CAA opponent at home this year, scored 80 points, shot over 58%, won by 28, got it done from the free throw line and more importantly got a big lead and kept it through second half. What was interesting in this game but shouldn't be surprising is that leading scorer Will Thomas only had 6 points in this explosion of offense. John Vaughan continued being a leader on offense for the Patriots scoring 16 and Dre Smith had another impressive night from behind the arc. Smith's defense was also a huge factor in this game, in the first half he caused a frustration offensive foul on Huskie guard Chaisson Allen that really set the tempo for the rest of the game. But the real story was freshmen Cam Long starting in place for injured Jordan Carter (who should be back Thursday) and put up some impressive numbers. The Washington Post reported that Long was in the starting lineup over Dre Smith because of his lateness to a pregame meal. Discipline, I love it. After watching Long in the Old Spice Tournament early this year I really thought he would be taking away minutes from Carter more but recently it has only happened due to injury. This was another game that really showed his versatility and athleticism that he can bring each night. Now if only him and the rest of the Patriots could figure out how play like this for a whole 40 minutes on the road we might have reason to cheer in March.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Vaughan surrounded by Duke Nerds

Here is a great picture that can be found on a piece at talking about "homecourt advantages" around the country. I really don't understand why more schools don't build their student sections like they do at Cameron. Mason already has a great record at home season after season, now imagine if we could surround the bottom tier of the Patriot Center with our finest drunken frat boys and local skanks in body paint. And yes, this is the kind stuff I think about while not doing work at the office.

Moving on...

It is early January and the Patriots are 2-2 in CAA play, which can already be perceived as disappointing to most fans but at least they are not having the kind of trouble St. Louis experienced last night. Mason returns to the Patriot Center Saturday afternoon and face-off against the Matt Jannings, I mean Northeastern. Last year's CAA Rookie of the Year Matt Janning leds the Huskies who ripped Drexel on Wednesday night, is everyone gettin' a piece of the Dragons this year? Northeastern has lost some close games to good teams and Mason sure knows how to keep a game close no matter who they are playing. Coach L historically has a good track record following a CAA loss and I would expect to see some changes this Saturday. Not much can be changed in the lineup due to injury but I wouldn't be surprised if Cam Long get ssome more mintues until Folarin is out of the doghouse. Speaking of the guards, I expect Dre Smith to be back in full force and hoping not hesitating on his shot selection. I was not happy with Birdsong's play at the end of the game against Delaware, I mean for God's sake box and grab a rebound! I don't think Larranaga really has much of a choice anymore but to play Big Vlad. He might not play defense as well as Birdsong but I feel like its time to take off the training wheels and weather the growing pains now. Vlad's versatility and shooting touch can cause huge match-up problems for opposing CAA teams but it won't happen over night. Luckily the Patriots are at home where they have lately been playing slightly less worse than on the road. Mason always has done well against the CAA at home, minus last season against William and Mary, but this year it is becoming even more important that they take care of business in the Patriot Center. The road has been brutal to Mason, which to me really comes off as shocking when you think of the experience on this squad. What is working with Mason is the fact that pretty much every other team in the conference has pretty much been as inconsistent as they have to a degree, leaving the conference up for grabs. Although teams like Delaware and JMU are atop the standings do they have the experience to stay there? The next couple of weeks should be some great basketball and the log jam in the standings is not going to go away anytime soon.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Hen is mightier then the Patriot

Well they really almost had me this time. A 19 point lead made me think the Mason boys had their swagger back for at least one game. Then something happened: the second half. This is really starting to become an issue and I feel like I am writing the same post game comments every week. Who have thought Mason would blow a game to a team that actually shoots free throws worse then them. The Patriots play a great first half, shooting over 50% then follow it up with dumb fundamental errors that cause them to turnover the ball constantly. Why is it that Mason looked like they had never seen a full court press before? I've never seen a team get back into the game so easily. Many of Delaware's points during their run in the second half were basically gift wrapped by Mason ball handlers. Will Thomas seemed to have has way in the first half and then as usual was a none factor for a large portion of the second half, sound familiar? Delaware was not even double teaming Thomas much until late in the game. Adding more insult to injury was Dre Smith sparingly playing due to an ankle injury in practice, which forced guys like Campbell (8 turnovers) and Birdsong into more playing time despite playing poorly. Smith's hot hands from behind the arch really could have made a difference in the second half. Cam Long started in his place and made a little too many of those "freshman mistakes". At what point is Larranaga to blame for this? That's a question I don't want to answer, but 15 turnovers in the second half, where is the discipline?!? I will tell you one thing though Delaware has got a player in Marc Egerson, the guy was clutch and on all night. Watch the highlights here, if you dare. Get in the line kids because the roller coaster season of the CAA has only just begun.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Previewing Delaware

Mason is back on the road Wednesday as they face-off against Delaware for a possible share of first place in the CAA standings at stake. It would be nice to see some consistency and a full 40 minutes from the Patriots but I really don't know what to expect from these guys lately. Delaware on the other hand has been hot of late and which is largely due to their incoming transfers from a year ago becoming eligible on December 14th. The Blue Hen's have gone 4-2 since Marc Egerson (Georgetown) and Jim Ledsome (Nebraska) began suiting up. Egerson has been averaging nearly 13 points a game and helping take some of the scoring load off of All-CAA candidate Herb Courtney. Meanwhile Ledsome have given the Hens some flexibility and a shot blocking presence (he had 7 against Maryland).

This could be a tough match-up for the Patriots on the road and it doesn't help that Delaware is currently swelling with confidence. What makes the Blue Hen's a dangerous team this year is that they have already surpassed their win total from last season and everything after that is just gravy to them. Then you have a team like Mason where the expectations have been sky high since the summer, making every game a gritty battle lately. What really needs to start happening for the Patriots is continuing solid play from their bench, which we have not seen in oh I'd say about a month and a half. Will Thomas and Vaughan have been consistent enough with the scoring load to take pressure off guys like Campbell and Smith but occasionally it would be nice to see either one of these guys take over a game in the 2nd half as they have done in the past. I know Mason plays better when more guys are involved and scoring in double digits but every now and then I feel we are missing out on a 25 point night from Campbell or a 6 for 8 three-point shooting night from Dre. They have the potential, we have gotten a taste of it before but will it come out when they need it?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Patriots Bounce Back

After a perplexing loss to Georgia State, the Patriots were able to stay undefeated at home and grind out a win against Towson. A win is a win, right? Jordan Carter returned and only played 19 minutes, but it was good to see him running the point again. Will Thomas led the way with 20 points and 14 rebounds and JV added 19. The flow of the game was similar to that against GSU, where we saw Mason take control early and then allow the opponent to get back into the game during the second half. In fact, Mason held the Tigers without a field goal for over 8 minutes in the first half while on a 21-6 run. Without the aggressive offensive rebounding late in the game by Thomas and Vaughan, the Patriots could have easily dropped this one. Which begs the question, why does JV average more rebounds a game than Birdsong? Another scary fact is that Towson entered the game last in the CAA in three-point shooting and were able to go 12 for 26 to keep the game close in the 2nd half. Mason did respond late in the game with decent free throw shooting to close things out, but I still feel that the game should not have been this close in the first place. I was really hoping that at this point in the season would be seeing some meaningful minutes from Cam Long and Big Vlad, especially with the loss of Monroe for the season and the injury to Carter. Cam played one minute and Vlad and Tate didn't touch the court, how long can Coach L play multiple guys 35+ minutes with so many games left in the season? At times I feel as if the team is moving backwards progression wise then where they were in November. Despite the team's play they are still 2-1 in the conference and face Delaware on Wednesday in a battle for first place believe it or not.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Wow. Volume 2

The Mason boys suffered another devastating loss on Wednesday afternoon, losing to Georgia State after blowing a 13 point halftime lead. For the second straight game Mason started off strong but allowed a less talented team to creep back into the game in the second half. This first ever loss to the Panthers could have not come at a worse time for the Patriots who are struggling to compete with full intensity for a whole 40 minutes. Not what you want to see from your squad in beginning your slate of conference games. I don't even want to talk about how this could all but squash our potential at-large bid hopes for March because it's still way too early and the craziness of college basketball hasn't even begun yet. The real problem Mason fans should be worrying about is the fact that the team's depth, which was an area of strength in the beginning of the season, is now a glaring weakness. The absence of Jordan Carter due to his ankle injury has forced Folarin Campbell to move to the roll of floor general, which he isn't. As much as Coach L loves to put the ball in his control, it has become really obvious how different of a team they are without an experienced pass-first point guard. Campbell, Vaughan, and Smith all have great qualities but none of them are as unselfish as Carter. Smith and Campbell combined for 7 of the teams 11 turnovers, most of which came in the second half. Speaking of Dre Smith, where did him and Vaughan go in the second half? Together they scored 27 in the first half and were none factors in the second half scoring only 4 points. Amazingly this team found a way to lose while shooting over 50% from the field and the three-point line. They were terrible from the foul line, (shocking, I know) and at the end of the game it all but sealed their loss. Mason wasn't the only CAA upset last night as VCU lost to JMU, the roller coaster ride of the CAA conference is not over yet. Saturday February 2nd keeps looking like a more important match up each week.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Into the Fire

After more than a week between games the Patriots looked sluggish at times on Sunday night but in the end pulled off a victory against he Liberty Flames. Mason used a balance attack having all starters finish in double figures with Dre Smith knocking down 5 three-pointers. Folarin Campbell had another strong game at the point in the Jordan Carter's absence, dishing out 8 assists. All Mason's starters played at least 34 minutes, which begs the question of how long can this go on if Carter's injury prolongs. Keep in mind that the Patriots dressed only 9 players for this game, 3 of which were freshmen. Depth seemed like a huge asset but lately it has been an issue. Mason almost blew a large second half lead and allowed Liberty some easy shots as it was not the best defensive performance we have seen thus far. This game showed us again how important John Vaughan is the Patriots success as his shooting in the second half helped Mason pull away. Besides the obvious team MVP in Will Thomas, Vaughan is proving to be just as valuable with his consistent shooting. We have seen an up and down season from Campbell and Smith at the guard position but we have rarely seen Vaughan struggle for an entire 40 minutes in any game.

Mason is now 6-0 at home and today they face their first conference road game against Georgia State. For some reason this game starts at 3 p.m. but you can listen to it live here.

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