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Patriots search for answers

George Mason Basketball: Patriots search for answers

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Patriots search for answers

Many fans have been asking "what's wrong" during this recent six game stretch where the Patriots have gone 2-4, losing all four on the road. Sure many have been close (average margin of losses on the road is 3.3) and we have seen the these guys put on some impressive runs but they just can't seem to bring it all together for a full 40 minutes. Losing close games can really hurt the spirits of a young squad. And these are young when you really think about it. Vaughan is the only senior who has been under Coach L's teachings for 4, ok 5 years. Monroe has had only had one other season of playing time before this year. Dre Smith is in his third year here but when you see the difference some Mason players of the past made in their fourth year you will know what I'm talking about. Dre wasn't slowly brought on as a freshman, he was kinda thrown into things as a sophomore playing a Mason squad trying to live up to the post Final Four hype running through Fairfax. These aren't your typical Jai Lewis, Will Thomas, Folarin Campbell type seniors and I'm not saying that it's a difference in talent level. But this isn't the only thing causing Mason to be in this funk.

Many people have been saying to me that this Mason squad lacks a "clutch" or "go-to" player. That may be true in a sense but wouldn't you rather not be in that position late in the second half where the last few possession decide the game and a lucky hail mary shot can send you home? Wouldn't you rather have a lock-down defense that shuts down the other team and avoid that situation? Maybe that's just me but I feel like that's the kind of ball Larranaga likes to play. A balanced attack has always been his approach, on offense and on defense. Even with last year's squad featuring two of some of the best Patriot players ever you wouldn't really call just one guy THE go-to player. The downside to this is that if even one or two guys isn't pulling his weight the whole team suffers and that's what I think has been happening recently. Sure it's great to have a guy like Eric Maynor on your team but when the Rams play their worst it's been when the team fell back a little too much on his shoulders.

The Washington Post suggests that these Patriots lack a fiery leader. John Vaughan has admitted that he is not very vocal guy on the court and that may be hurting some of the younger guys. Over the last three seasons Mason has had some very vibrant characters who would constantly push guys. You can see at times this year that it's basically only Larranaga doing the pushing. Some players, especially freshmen, respond better to teammates trying to motivate them. Just another thing a basketball team can't fix overnight. But to say this season is a disappointment so far is little far fetched. If I had asked most of you what your expectations for this season were at the beginning I'd bet most of you would have been pretty happy with third place, a 1st round bye in the CAA tourney, and our freshmen showing good progression.

Interesting fact of the day: Did you know that Doyle Brunson, the man whose name is pretty much synonymous with the game of Texas hold’em, started his career as a basketball player? He was named one of the top five basketball players in the state of Texas, and received many college offers before a knee injury prevented him from further competitive play. After studying the poker rules, he noticed that he was making more money playing poker than he was on a regular job. And from that point he never looked back. If you want to give poker a go, you can find free play poker sites or you can give it a shot at the real money tables.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that a balanced attack and strong defense is great to have. I also agree that I had no expectations of this team being where they are today. But, these guys have shown what they can do and it is frustratingly clear that they are not achieving their potential on the road. To me, having strong leadership on the court would make up the 3.3 points.

9:44 PM  
Blogger C Hirsch said...

The fast start definitely raised my expectations. Putting it in perspective, you are right, before the season I would be very happy with where they are now.

Preview of tonight's game against Delaware can be found here:

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Growing pains we have, but the greatest thing we have going is the development of our freshmen. You might say it's too bad we don't have a team, say, with the following:

A senior point guard who can do it all and is a likely candidate for conference player of the year.

A backup point guard, a junior, who is the fastest player in the conference.

A sophomore shooting guard with awesome shooting mojo and good drive to the rim, and serves up great pressure D.

A senior shooting guard who has developed into a deadly 3 point marksman.

A junior forward with a Will Thomas-like hook and an Adam Morrison-like ability to shoot after getting fouled.

A junior strong forward ripped with strength and athleticism in the block, a monster on defense.

A sophomore forward with strength and soft scoring hands and the ability to step out and make jumpers.

A sophomore forward with great quickness and deadly 3 point accuracy.

And a freshman or two with tremendous blossoming potential.

Who's that team? That could be US in 2 years. In the same order as described:

R. Whack
J. Williams
L. Hancock

Next year we may have our share of growing pains as well, but the year after that we will have accumulated a lot of solid experience on this team. A team that could be another Mason sensation in March. Now I'm not giving up on our guys this year or the next, but I am thinking that, especially if we can get into the tourney once (twice??) in the next two years, and if the cars play out right ... two years from now we will be sitting pretty indeed.

6:02 PM  
Blogger C Hirsch said...

Forget what I said above. Before the year I would have expected we could beat freaking Delaware on the road.

What is it about the road? It's not like these are crazy hostile road environments we are losing at, there were 500 people at that lousy arena tonight.

Daryl was a beast on offense but his horrific foul shooting cost us. What is it about our team that we only recruit terrible free throw shooters?

Why couldn't we stop the one play Delaware had? They have no inside presence, we knew they would rely on their guards and would rely on three point shooting and we couldn't stop it. Sure we only give up 60 a game but we can never get a stop at the end of the game when we need it.

Northeastern loses, putting us in position to move past them with a win Saturday and now that's gone because we can't beat a dog crap team on the road.

9:01 PM  
Blogger mooky_l3d said...

Great foul shooting, taking care of the ball, and playing perimeter defense. This was a great game for Mason. I was so suprised at how well they did all of those things, that was a big turn around from the previous weeks. Oh, wait. I was dreaming and they suck on the road. Richmond will be a short trip for this team and will be a long weekend of golf for me.

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your optimism Anonymous. n a couple of years,this team could be Mason Sensation II. Let's just hope the players will stick around long enough to evolve.

12:05 AM  

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