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George Mason Basketball

George Mason Basketball: December 2009

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Radford's frontcourt dominates Mason to end year on low point

Despite the fact that Radford probably has the best frontcourt Mason will see this season, this road loss was still a pathetic effort. The final score was 80-53 and Mason shot 27% from the field while allowing RU to shot over 52%, yikes. The Patriots were manhandled in the paint, and that's putting it nicely. The scouting report the team was emphasizing all week had to focus on the Highlanders two power inside big men, Art Parakhouski and Joey Lynch-Flohr. Parakhouski, who had scouts from the Detroit Pistons watching from the stands last night, finished with 34 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocks. 20 of these points came in the second half, and he didn't have much trouble getting to the rim. Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison were no match for Radford's size and experience in the frontcourt, they got frustrated early and Morrison ended up in foul trouble early. Cam Long was no where to be found, scoring only 2 points and was 1-for-12 from the floor. Mason won't win many road games this year with Cam shooting like that.

According to the game was "statistically over" with 5:49 to go in the second half but anyone watching last night knew the Patriots were done right as the second half began and Art Parakhouski quickly racked up a few baskets while Mike Morrison finished put backs and picked up another foul. The Patriots missed so many easy lay-ups and other opportunities, Luke Hancock uncharacteristically hit rim on a dunk that might have sparked some life for the team early on. It was just that kind of game for Mason. Despite going 17-63 from the field, they went 16-19 from the free-throw line but on the flip side RU got 28 attempts from the free-throw line went 84% from there. It's no surprise the Patriots were out-rebounded 47-29, but I did notice that Johnny Williams seems to be better on the boards than Mike Morrison if given additional minutes. Ryan Pearson, who usually is the Patriots best offesnive rebounder was boxed out all night, showing how much this team didn't match-up well with RU.

What is most discouraging about this loss is the fact that Radford's offense was very one dimensional and they had no depth. You knew that they were going to do and you knew where their points were going to come from, their guards were a total none factor. If they had some decent three-point shooters the margin of this loss could have been much worse believe it or not. They had open look three-pointers and went 0-for-9 from there. Their bench scored a whopping 4 points and to begin the second half you would have thought maybe the Patriots could wear them down, not the case. The Patriots have 4 more games in the next 10 days including ODU this Saturday, so hold on tight!

Below is a chart from and it highlights the "Four Factors to Winning at Basketball". If you have never heard of this statistical breakdown before read more about what they mean here

NCAA Basketball Stats


Monday, December 28, 2009

Patriots head to Big South

The Patriots travel down to Radford Wednesday to take on last year's Big South champion. This will be an interesting test for Mason as the Highlanders sport a much bigger line-up including the team's leading scorer and rebounder Artsiom Parakhouski who stands at 6-11, 260 lbs. Their line-up includes a three forward, two guard set which we don't see often among mid-majors. Will this give the Patriots trouble and will rebounding be an issue in this one? Mason has had trouble out-rebounding teams they had a size advantage over so this could be a battle for second chance points. Parakhouski will give the Patriots trouble and keeping guys like Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson out of foul trouble will be key. I would expect to see a lot more minutes for Kevin Foster up front in this one as well. As for the backcourt, Radford doesn't have anyone that will give Cam Long and the rest of the gang much trouble so Mason will have to take advantage in that area. Three-point shooting could also be a factor in this one as Radford has been allowing their opponents to shoot over 34% from behind the arch. William & Mary squeaked by these guys last week by nailing 15 three-pointers. Another weakness Mason could exploit is the Highlanders lack of depth, an up and down the court type game could favor the quicker, more athletic Patriots.

We have only seen this team win once on the road so far and I am curious to see how they will come out after only playing once in 18 days. The young guys on this team need to get more reps on the road, so hopefully Larranaga will use this game like the Tulane one and play the freshmen often. Last time the Patriots played a bigger team I thought we'd see more Johnny Williams, might things be different this time? The kid needs more work on his game but I still believe he will have a bigger impact before the season is over.

This is the final out of conference game before the conference schedule kicks into full swing and it will be the final chance for Larranaga to play around with the line-up. Some questions that still remain unanswered would be is the starting line-up going to stay the same and will the scramble defense continue to be put on hold.

Side note: Freshmen Sherrod Wright was named CAA Rookie of the Week


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Patriots survive VMI (Video Highlights)

It was a great night for guys to pad their stats as the Patriots came away with a 89-86 victory over VMI Tuesday night. The run-and-gun Keydets stormed back in the 2nd half but Mason just flat out beat them at their own game mixed a little bit more defense. Sherrod Wright set a new career mark with 24 points off the bench, including 18 in the first half. It's no surprise to see him do well in the transition game and while you can see in the highlights he got a lot of easy twos, it was still an impressive showing. Rashad Whack was another freshmen who shined last night scoring 9 points in 10 minutes of action. However the Patriots didn't need much more from Cam Long other than to just not let the game out of hand, and he did just that. Long's leadership coupled with Ryan Pearson's rebounding effort really made the difference in this one. They were finally able to dominate on the glass, as they should have and created a lot of second chance points. Luke Hancock had another great do-it-all kind of game, even with an in-your-face dunk (2:23 mark of the video above).

-Louis Birdsong's falling out has been Isaiah Tate's gain. I had written last week about how Larranaga was finally using him correctly and it continues to be working well. In 22 minutes last night he had only 1 turnover and 12 points. Hopefully he can continue to be a consistent guy on an inconsistent team.

-Defensively the Patriots kept the game in control and limited the three-point onslaught that VMI is used to throwing down. They never really got lured into playing the Keydets style of play but capitalized on the fast breaks when they needed to.

-VMI seemed to give up lay-ups like no one's business, which was expected, and it was good to see the young Patriots settle from them as was the gameplan. They needed to be disciplined and they were, scoring 52 of their points around the basket.

-This was another game were we didn't see much offense from starters Mike Morrison or Andre Cornelius. I don't necessarily know if this is a bad thing or not, I mean other guys were scoring but there are going to be certain games this season that efforts like that could hurt if freshmen aren't stepping up.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Patriots take on high-scoring, no defense playing VMI

I almost wonder why any team outside of the Big South schedules a team like VMI, sure they give you a great workout, but what does their unorthodox style prepare you for? VMI is a team that has an offensive strategy of running down the court and taking the first shot available, and I mean any first shot available. If you are at the game you will be surprised at some of the shot selections they make, you won't see any ball movement looking for the best shot. This leads them to not only look like the Paul Westhead offensive style some old Patriot fans and alum would love to forget but also giving them the highest scoring team in the country. Their run-and-gun offense is based mostly on taking quick shots from the perimeter as soon as someone down the floor is open. Historically over 40% of their points come from three-pointers and they typically lead the nation in that statistical category. They attempted 63 3-pointers against West Virginia Wesleyan. And as Brian Mull points out in his blog before a game between UNCW and VMI, this system actually comes out of necessity, as head coach Duggar Baucom only has 2 hours a day access to his players, 4:15-6:15 Monday-Friday and all pre-season workouts and conditioning have to held during that window as well. That doesn't leave a whole lot of time to watch tape and draw up offensive strategy.

This type of offense has led to just as many points on the other end for the Keydets unfortunately. They basically just don't play defense and give up two-pointers like no one's business, most teams they have played this year have scored between 90-110 against them. Could this style rattle the young Patriots early? With their relentless three-point attack and the fact that Creighton didn't have much trouble knocking down the outside shots against them, I think Mason will have to play a very diciplined game Tuesday night. Too many turnovers will lead to a double digit deficit for the Patriots that could be difficult to overcome, even at home. They will have to slow down the game and force their style of play on the Keydets while taking it inside whenever they can. Transition defense will be very important and missed assignments could be very costly for Mason.


Friday, December 18, 2009

The 5 things I’ve learned through 10 games of the 2009-10 season

The following is a guest post from Mike Isibel, Mason alum who has been following the program for years. He also has a radio podcast over at We're Just Sayin Radio with two other Mason alumni.

1. Aside from Luke Hancock, the freshman will continue to struggle

Let’s face it, Luke Hancock has been playing exceptionally well some would even call his play “amazing.” I won’t go that far, but he has been an unexpected bright spot throughout the year. We’ve seen him attack the basket, rebound effectively and knock down some big shots. He has been a leader on a sometime leaderless team. Unfortunately, the same can not be said about the rest of the freshman class. Sherrod Wright, Rashaad Whack, Johnnie Williams, Vertrail Vaughns and Paris Bennett -- I won’t include Foster since he has technically been here for 1 year already -- have shown they are all projects and will take time to develop. Wright displayed his potential in a big game against Dayton, but has played terribly in the rest of the games shooting 26.7% from the field this season. Williams hasn’t shown the inside dominance we were expecting when the 6’8” 250 pounder showed up in Fairfax, but the potential is there. Vaughns is averaging a turnover every 4 minutes of play. Whack along with Bennett really haven’t had the opportunities to perform with both averaging less than 6 minutes per game. Bottom-line, they are freshman and they will get better, but we can’t expect them to lead this team this season.

2. Cam Long’s play will dictate wins or losses throughout the year

In my opinion, the junior guard is the best player on the Mason team this year and his leadership and play will decide the young Patriots’ success. You can’t argue too much with the stats, in the Patriots 5 wins Cam is shooting 44.6% from the field averaging close to 14 PPG and has 18 rebounds. Conversely, in Mason’s 5 losses Cam is shooting just 34.0%, still getting points with 12 PPG but only 10 rebounds. But the biggest factor is his assist to turnover ratio; 1.6 in the wins and 0.7 in the losses. As our primary ball handler, Cam’s ability to take care of the ball directly results in the Patriot’s chances of winning. Cam’s capacity to knock down the midrange jumper is crucial, in that aspect he reminds me a lot of Folarin Campbell. Let’s just hope the cramp problem doesn’t resurface.

3. Mike Morrison & Ryan Pearson need to develop more low post moves

For the past five years, the Patriots have had a low post scorer who could dominate inside the lane. From Jai Lewis to Will Thomas to Darryl Monroe and the torch has been passed to Morrison and Pearson, or at least we’d hope so. These sophomore forwards need to make considerable strides with their low post moves if they want to have a dominate inside presence. Every time I see Pearson get the ball down low he does a spin move into the lane and puts up a 5 to 8 foot jumper. With Morrison it is much the same and he goes up with a left-handed hook shot. In time I think both will be reliable scorers, but they need to add some new moves to their repertoire to succeed.

4. Louis Birdsong’s senior season can be considered a disaster

This has become a sad state of affairs for the lone senior on the 2009-10 team. Birdsong’s stat line reads like a struggling freshman; 22% from the field, 1.6 PPG, 1.1 RPG and the one category he typically dominates, blocks, he only has 3 all year. Birdsong’s struggles have culminated to him losing his starting role and I don’t see how he can get out of the funk when he is losing playing time to Luke Hancock and Kevin Foster. I hope for Birdsong’s sake he can turn things around once conference play begins, but at this point in time his fall from grace is truly disappointing.

5. The 2009-10 George Mason Patriots team will finish the season as…

…conference spoilers. The rollercoaster ride the season has already been through 10 games will only continue throughout the year. The ultimate high of the season was a heartbreaking 1 point loss to the nationally ranked Villanova Wildcats. A team the Patriots had no business contending with let alone almost beating. This was the type of game Coach Larranaga dreams of having; everyone contributing offensively, solid defense and few turnovers. And the nadir of the season, so far, was the humiliating defeat against our new “rival” (at least in their mind) against George Washington. The team looked confused, not confident and lost. Hopefully something was learned in that horrendous performance. As we creep closer to conference play, I don’t see the Patriots holding one of the top spots as the season wraps up. The emergence of William & Mary as well as the continued solid play from VCU, Old Dominion and Hofstra makes the conference more difficult to dominate than in years past. Realistically, I don’t see this Mason team going better than .500 in the conference and continuing to struggle on the road. I think they’ll enter the conference tournament as a 5 or 6 seed and hope to ruin some of the better team’s chances for a NCAA tournament bid. But keep in mind, from the outset this was intended to be a rebuilding year and as long as experience is gained and the freshman continue to develop, 2010-11 will be a season to remember.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Has Larranaga found the right spot for Isaiah Tate?

At the beginning of the season it was difficult to expect what kind of contributions we would see from Isaiah Tate. With the influx of new talent all over the roster and the fact that Tate never had a season averaging more than 2 points a game, one would have thought he would be the odd man out in the guard rotation. In the Villanova game in Puerto Rico, freshmen Rashad Whack got the start over him for the rule-breaking Andre Cornelius and was a game he picked up a DNP.

Then Tate got the start against UNCW, which may have been the result of an unhappy camper in senior Louis Birdsong, who recently has been airing out his frustrations with the situation on twitter. Be that as it may Tate played 32 minutes in that game and collected 4 steals, contributing to a solid defensive effort on the road for the Patriots. He has since started against Dayton and last week's game against Creighton. While his stats might not wow you, I feel he is finally being used to the best to his abilities and here is why:
  • Tate is best used a spot-up shooter. He's never had great ball handling skills so playing him at the 2 spot was always a risk. While he was brought in to be a Lamar Butler type guy because of his three-point shooting ability he never was used the same way as Butler. Now you often see him in the line-up at the 3 spot which was previously being held by Birdsong. At 6'4" Tate has the size to play there and is given the opportunity to play a more catch and shoot role, which worked out pretty nicely while he was in the game against Creighton.
  • He still plays better defense than the freshmen. If you watch the games closely Tate is never wildly out of position on defense like Sherrod Wright and Luke Hancock have been caught doing. It's not a knock on those guys it is just Tate's experience in Larranaga's system, something those guys can't pick-up over night.
  • He doesn't turn over the ball. This season he has played 120 minutes and has only 1 turnover. By contrast Vertrail Vaughns has played 40 minutes and has 10. Sherrod Wright has played only 29 more minutes than Tate and has turned the ball over 10 times. as well. Late in a close game, who would rather have on the court?
I'm curious to see how this plays out, will Tate's minutes increase and will he continue to start or is this just a temporary experiment? It's difficult to think Hancock or Wright won't take over as a starter at some point down the road but for now their rookie miscues might be Tate's gain and may be better for the team at this point.

[photo credit Off wing Opinion via Flickr]

Sunday, December 13, 2009

George Mason vs Creighton Video Highlights

[Video by Thuc Phan]


Patriots edge out victory over Creighton

A late technical on Creighton head coach Dana Altman allowed the Patriots to stage a late second comeback at the free throw line to prevail 75-72. Cool hand Luke Hancock sank the two free throws off the technical than later drove to the basket for the winning dunk off an Andre Cornelius steal to seal the victory. Creighton fans are saying they got a "taste of homecooking", funny thing was all three refs were from the MVC conference which the Bluejays play in. Check out this boxscore and scroll to the bottom, check out each referee's profile and what conference they often officiate in. I will agree that I hate to see a game end like that with technicals and that feeling that the refs decided the game but let's not forget how much trouble the Bluejays had in-bounding the ball late in some key situations. The defensive effort by the Patriots nearly blew it for them, allowing the Bluejays to go 12-for-29 from behind the arch, that's over 40%. Totally unacceptable when the scouting report on these guys should be screaming about their long range shooting. For Mason, it seemed like they shied away from the three-point in this one, often hesitating on open looks. Also, we saw the Patriots struggle to take the advantage on the boards again, especially in the first half again, to a smaller Creighton squad. Kenny Lawson Jr was just plain out muscling Mike Morrison early on. Ryan Pearson seems to be the only consistent rebounder on the floor so far this season, but I also think Kevin Foster could have helped more in this area if given more minutes.

Cam Long - really stepped up in this one, ending with 22 points and sinking the game-winning free throw. He managed the game well and helped the Patriots limit their turnovers. The hestitation, especially on three-point attempts has to stop, he could have easily ended with nearly 30.
Ryan Pearson - Had the most complete game, collecting 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 steals. Did a great job getting to the line and I hope to see more of that.

Kenny Lawson Jr. - It was obivous from the opening tip that the focus of the Patriots defense was to crowd the lane and prevent the Bluejays leading scorer from having a big day. Lawson was held to 2 points but the defense worked almost too good as it opened things up for Bluejays three-point snipers. They really made the Patriots pay in that area and they are lucky to come out with a victory after allowing 12 three-pointers.

Free-throw shooting - As you will notice in the statsheet chart below, the Patriots did a great job getting to the line. They went 70% from the charity stripe to finish the game but they really missed some key ones down the stretch that if they had made would have secured the lead a lot earlier. They are improving in this area and by the end of the season I hope we aren't talking about it anymore.

Rebounding - The fact that they failed to out-rebound a team that didn't have a player on the court over 6-5 for most the game is a little discouraging. Both teams finished with 35 a piece but like the Dayton game a lot of meaningful second chance opportunities didn't go Mason's way. Mike Morrison was out of position often when Kenny Lawson was on the floor, which wasn't much, but it still showed a big weakness for the Patriots. Bottom line, they should have had an edge in that area.

Below is a chart from and it highlights the "Four Factors to Winning at Basketball". If you have never heard of this statistical breakdown before read more about what they mean here

NCAA Basketball Stats


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Game Day Links: Creighton (Free Live Video link)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Scouting Creighton

The Patriots try to bounce back at home Saturday afternoon against Creighton, who they are 0-3 against all-time. If you remember, Creighton was only team to beat Mason at home during the 2005-2006 season, but things worked out pretty well regardless. This season the Bluejays are led by big man Kenny Lawson Jr. (pictured above) which is different then what we have normally seen from this team. Traditionally Creighton has always been a three-point shooting group of snipers and last season Booker Woodfox went 5-for-6 from behind the arch on his way to 22 points and a 76-63 Creighton victory. Thankfully Woodfox is gone and Patriots face a struggling Creighton squad that are also trying to work a few kinks out. They still have some great outside shooters, so Mason's perimeter defense will be put to the test and I would expect to see more man-to-man defense.

The Bluejays do not have much size outside of Lawson, who has only been averaging around 23 minutes a game despite never being in foul trouble. Mason should be able to capitalize in this area, especially with Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison. Rebounding has been awful for the Patriots so far, but if they can't get the edge against this team that's a really bad sign going forward. Isaiah Tate is listed again as the probable starter but expect to see Sherrod Wright get a lot of playing time after his performance on Tuesday night. Strong defensive performances from Andre Cornelius and Cam Long will be needed and one of them has to get into a good scoring rhythm early to prevent another first half like we saw against Dayton. I would expect to see much better ball protection from the Patriots in this one and hopefully force more of then own than they have been lately.

For further analysis I had a Q & A session with the bloggers from the White and Blue Review.

Q: Creighton has always seemed like a heavy three-point shooting team and I noticed Creighton legend Kyle Korver has a brother on the squad so am I right in expecting the same this season or does the offense run more through Kenny Lawson Jr?

A: Actually, Creighton is looking at several different players to score for them this season, and just started finding Kenny Lawson. Lawson has come on quite strong as of late. Lawson has been steadily improving in the early start this season hovering around a double-double, and in the last two games has led the team in scoring averaging almost 22 points and 8 rebounds a game.

Q: The Bluejays didn't fare too well in the Old Spice Classic and already have four losses on the season. Some experts picked Creighton to be #1 in the MVC, so what do you think have been the problems for this team so far?

A: The problems for this team so far has been lack of defensiveintensity. There are enough scorers on this team that they could score easily, but it has been the lack of defense and turnovers that has plagued this team. In four of Creighton's seven games, they have had 18 or more turnovers with a lot of those turnovers turning into points for the other team. That will not help you win games.

The other issue is Coach Altman establishing a rotation of players that are the right combinations on the court. Chad Millard, Justin Carter, Casey Harriman, and Antoine Young have all experienced injuries and illnesses that have kept them out of games as well as some back spasms for Wayne Runnels and some minor injuries to P'Allen Stinnett. There seemed to be a more established rotation in the last game against Nebraska. It will be interesting if that stays the same against George Mason.

Q: I really thought Creighton was robbed by the selection committee last year, do you think the players feel like they have something to prove this season and has that changed expectations?

A: A lot of the players told us in interviews before the season started that they were focused on getting Creighton back to the NCAA Tournament after a three year drought. With the schedule that was setup for this season, it was definitely a lot tougher than most seasons and I think the coaching staff was expecting this team to do some big things and also the opportunity to get some key wins early in the season so they would not have to depend on winning the MVC. Some
of that pressure on the players is spilling over to the court.

Q: Will we see a fast tempo from the Bluejays or do they operate more out of half court sets this year?

A: Creighton still likes to run and play more up tempo and are known for shooting the three-pointer. Antoine Young is a really fast point guard who can get the ball up the court quickly. Several other players like Darryl Ashford, P'Allen Stinnett or even Justin Carter can start the break. Creighton also has a history of having some sort of press throughout the game to cause turnovers.

Q: Both Mason and Creighton often sport smaller line-ups with Mason having a slight edge in size. Has the lack of size been an issue this season for the Bluejays or does it suit their style of play?

A: Creighton is really a guard oriented team with a solid middle player. Lack of size for Creighton hasn't been because they haven't tried, but they do not have the typical center player outside of Lawson. Last year's backup Kenton Walker transferred over the summer which really
hurt. However, Wayne Runnels is a solid JUCO transfer that is playing some good minutes in the low post mainly to get rebounds, but can score. Ethan Wragge is a freshman that can will play the PF or even C, but defenders betware--He shoot it quickly and from quite a distance.

Q: What does Mason have to do to come out of this game with a victory?

A: I think the big thing Georg Mason has to do to come out with a victory is to cause Creighton to turn the ball over and then capitalize on those turnovers. The other thing is rebounding. It has been talked about over and over about how Creighton needs to outrebound their opponent. They have been doing a good job this year of handling that, but it could always rear it's ugly head again especially on the road. Mason's home crowd could be a factor, but Creighton plays in front of 16,000 nightly at home. In the end, Mason still has a young team and Creighton has some confidence back.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

George Mason vs Dayton Video Highlights

[Video by Thuc Phan]

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Patriots fall to Dayton, despite Sherrod Wright's coming out party

The Patriots saw their 18-game home court winning streak come to an end in a close 56-55 loss to Dayton last night. It's difficult to call this one a heart-breaker because the team played so god awful in the first half. With this loss Mason falls to under .500 for first time since 1999-2000. Looking at the box score numbers you would have thought this game was close for the whole 40 minutes but at certain points Mason's chances looked very slim early on. For example the rebounding edge by Dayton was only 33-25 but what that statistic doesn't show is how Mason was killed on the boards when it mattered. It seemed as if Dayton was able to get all the most meaningful rebounds late in the game. If the Patriots continue to get out-rebounded night in and night out it's going to be difficult for them to make any noise in the CAA this year. Mike Morrison finished with just 2 rebounds. Might this lead to Johnny Williams getting more minutes? He hasn't showed much yet but I really felt like his big body could have been used more in the front court last night.

The Patriots had some poor shot selection through out the game and didn't hit their first three-pointer til late. They ended the first half with a Mike Morrison lay-up that ended a 14:31 span without a field goal. Mason just flat out wasn't playing their game offensively and needed more from starters Long, Pearson, and Cornelius. Larranaga was quoted saying the offense is still a work in a progress, that's a nice way of putting it.

Sherrod Wright
- The second half rally by the Patriots was impressive and sparked by a huge steal from freshmen Sherrod Wright who took it hard to rim, missed the dunk by drew a foul and an eruption from the Mason crowd that didn't have much to cheer previously. Wright finished with a career high 17 points including a buzzer beat three-pointer to end the game. This is what Mason fans expected from him entering the season and I would hope to see him replace Tate in the starting line-up.

Louis Birdsong - The experiment of moving him to a more perimeter role seems to have ended and he was shifted back inside last night. He didn't put points on the board last night but he played a big role in the Patriots defensive efforts in the 2nd half during their rally. I don't really know how this is going to work out for the rest of the season because I would still much rather see Kevin Foster subbing in for Ryan Pearson more as opposed to Louis Birdsong.

Luke Hancock
- Well he finally is starting to look like a freshmen, go figure. I also think his turnovers and other miscues last night are a result of teams actually paying more attention to him. You know if they study film on this guy you will see he has been all over the place so far this year and has been a vital part to making the offense go.

Dayton's Chris Wright - Dayton's YouTube hero forward and 2nd leading scorer Chris Wright finished with only 2 points and was barely noticeable in this one. Hancock was matched up with him a few times and did a good job on him defensively.

Full-court pressure - Larranaga ditched this in the UNCW game and for most of last night as well. The Patriots went back to it in the last minute or so and I thought it should have been brought on a little earlier. The fast tempo was favoring Mason at certain points during their rally last night.

Free-throw shooting - Finally the Patriots were able to have a great night getting to the line and connecting. The ones they did miss were crucial but this is a good sign moving forward.

Below is a chart from and it highlights the "Four Factors to Winning at Basketball". If you have never heard of this statistical breakdown before read more about what they mean here

NCAA Basketball Stats

[Photo credit Off Wing Opinion via Flickr]

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Q & A with a Dayton Blogger

To prep for tonight's game I had a little exchange with the guys over at The Blackburn Review. You can read my answers to their interrogation here. Game is at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on MASN. Catch the free video stream here and there's another one here, if you don't have MASN.

Q: How high are expectations this season for the Flyers, especially after entering the year nationally ranked?

A: Well, coming into this season, it was Sweet 16 or bust, but 4 games into the year, and two losses in a row to Villanova and Kansas State later, panic beset most of the Flyer Faithful. The problem wasn't so much that we had lost two non-con games, the problem was that we had three chances to beat non-bcs teams, and we didn't capitalize on the chance. Dayton doesn't have another shot at a team that could be ranked other than maybe New Mexico (doubtful) and Xavier (not looking too hot themselves). For all intensive purposes, anything short of complete domination of the A-10 will result in Dayton being a bubble team this season. We're a bit down, but we certainly aren't out.

Q: Mason and Dayton are both balanced teams when it comes to offense but who in your mind is most valuable for the Flyers?

A: I don't know much about George Mason this season, other than the ten minutes of the Nova game I saw, but I wouldn't say Dayton is very balanced. We are on pace to set a team record in three point attempts, and unfortunately we aren't even making that many of them and our half court sets are lazy and lack any imagination. Two guys have carried us this season, Chris Johnson and much to my chagrin, Luke Fabrizius. Chris Johnson is a complete player in every sense of the word. Originally not a very heralded recruit, he turned into a monster on the boards and shown an ability to score both in the lane and from deep. He's showing a basketball IQ way beyond his years and will be a centerpiece for Dayton moving forward. Luke Fab, aka Pop-a-Shot, on the other hand has been an enigma. He is a shooter who can't play defense, is not much for rebounding, and distribution. Well, I thought I saw him pass once, but he might have just dribbled it off his foot. He was rightfully given credit for giving us a scoring boost against both Nova and Georgia Tech, but he's streaky and isn't a complete player. If he isn't making 3 points for every 2 he gives up, Dayton is in a lot of trouble.

Q: I remember last year Dayton was a very deep team, and looking at the game against Lehigh it appears 16 guys saw action? Am I reading that right?

A: Absolutely you are. Coach Brian Gregory would have tried to get himself into the game, but he only wears wingtips and they don't allow black soles on the court. Dayton believes in rapid substitutions, due to our intense style of man to man defense and only fresh legs can keep up the kind of pressure Gregory needs to win. Expect to see at least 10 or 11 different guys on the court against George Mason.

Q: What are this squad's strengths and weaknesses?

A: This year we brought back almost the exact same team we did last season, and expected to have almost the exact same results. Unfortunately that hasn't been the case. Our anemic half court offense from last season, has gone on life support. Often our offense consists of easy fast break points, or tossing up the first open three we see. If we're hitting our shots, we look fantastic, but the problem is, we rarely do. If it wasn't for some lucky breaks and playing Creighton when they had a few guys out injured, Dayton could easily be 3-4 right now. My blog mate Tommy Blackburn pointed out that Dayton was 11-1 in games decided by 5 points or less last season and are currently giving up 10 more points a game this season than we were last year. This season we aren't getting the breaks, and we aren't earning them either. In terms of strengths? As much as there is to complain about, there are a lot of teams that would wish to be 5-2. Dayton can play lights out for 10 minute stretches, don't be surprised to see Dayton and GMU exchange 12-0 runs. Just like last years game, what ever team scores the most in the last two minutes will win.

Q: How important is a guy like London Warren to this team? Does his name sometimes get lost with all the Wright and Johnson & Johnson highlights?

A: London, along with Marcus Johnson, is another senior that we expected the world from coming into this season, and as of now have not impressed. London last season was a lock down defender, who could drive the lane for a score every now and then, while also setting the tempo for the team. His freshman and sophomore season's were marred by untimely turnovers, often from his over exuberance in facilitating a fast break. While his turnover ratio has remained constant, opposing teams are using his complete and total lack of a jump shot to sag their defense. London has gone a few games almost completely uncovered. While on the fast break, he can make amazing passes, in the half court he is a liability, and his defense this season hasn't been amazing either. Just look at how Kansas State's back court demolished us.

Q: What will the Patriots have to do to win this game?

A: To win this game, the Patriots will have to slow the ball down. Dayton can only reliably score on the fast break, or within the first 7 seconds of a possession. After that they seem lost. If GMU can force Dayton playing the game one possession at a time, 58 points might win the game for them. That being said, and I know I've sounded very negative about Dayton so far this season, but we are still a very talented team, and our second best player Marcus Johnson hasn't woken up yet. I'm confident Dayton wins this game, but a young and athletic Patriots team is going to make us earn it.


Video Highlights from UNCW game

[Video by Thuc Phan]

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Patriots pick up first road win at UNCW

The Patriots pulled out a 57-52 win at the Trask in Wilmington and picked up back-to-back wins there for the first time in 25 years. With Andre Cornelius and Ryan Pearson back in the line-up the Patriots led by as much as 20. Isaiah Tate started the game and played 32 minutes playing excellent defense and collecting 4 steals along side Cam Long who had another strong performance. Overall they did a job defensely against the Seahawks, keeping star point guard Chad Tomko in check but let forward John Fields get too many easy baskets. We didn't see full court pressing in this one probably because it hasn't been great for Mason on the road so far. We did see a lot of man-to-man straight forward defense with Cornelius doing a fantastic job on UNCW's Tomko. I was impressed how this team came firing right out of the gates and got off to a fast scoring pace. They really had their way with the Seahawks early on and shot the ball well while also limiting turnovers. I think we also noticed how different this team is when Cornelius, Long, and Pearson are all playing well. They are the most valuable guys on this team will have to have more games like this for the Patriots to have continued success in the CAA.

Below is a chart from and it highlights the "Four Factors to Winning at Basketball". If you have never heard of this statistical breakdown before read more about what they mean here

NCAA Basketball Stats


Friday, December 04, 2009

Q & A with UNCW blogger Brian Mull

I had a little Q & A session with UNCW beat writer Brian Mull in preparation for Saturday's game, check out my answers to his questions about Mason here. But before we dive into the questions notice in the the game notes for Mason-UNCW on they list Isaiah Tate as a probable starter for tomorrow. Interesting to say the least. The Patriots being historical awful at the Trask and Tate being one of the few veterans on this squad with road game experience leads me to see why this move is made, but why not Hancock? Anyway, on to the questions:

Q: UNCW seems to be exceeding expectations so far this season. They certainly don't look like a team picked to finish last in the CAA to me. What can you attribute to this early season success so far?

A: A number of factors. There are four new faces in the nine-man rotation and each is making a significant impact, none bigger than John Fields, the 6-foot-9 center who transferred from East Carolina. He gives UNCW a true defensive presence in the paint and is scoring and rebounding consistently. He's on track to easily break the single-season record for blocked shots. Also the emergence of fellow big men, redshirt freshman Will O'Huaregbe and true freshman Keith Rendleman (who also starts) has allowed Dominique Lacy to move to the small forward where he's much more effective. The junior college transfer, guard Ahmad Grant, is growing more comfortable every game and is developing into a nice spark off the bench as the first perimeter sub. I can understand why the Seahawks were picked 12th - I picked them ninth - but this is a completely different team than the one most fans remember from last season. It's the deepest, most athletic and perhaps most talented in Benny Moss' four years at UNCW.

Q: What do you think of Chad Tomko progression so far? Is he on his way to becoming that Blizzard/Goldsberry guy we have seen in the past for the Seahawks?

A: Tomko isn't cut out of the Blizzard / Goldsberry mold. He's smaller and quicker than either and not as solid defensively. He's a scorer first, who is still learning how to play point guard and is most productive in the open floor. After an impressive freshman year, during which he delivered in several big games, Tomko struggled last season. His shot selection was questionable at times and his overall decision making suffered. But he and Fields developed a good rapport in practice last season and that has carried over to games. Moss likes to say that Tomko is playing like an upperclassman now, and it's hard to argue. Perhaps most important, Tomko is a fearless competitor and the Seahawks seem to feed off his attitude.

Q: What do you think are the team's biggest strengths and weaknesses this season?

A: Having personnel that fits Moss' style is one of the strengths. Statistically, the Seahawks have done an excellent job guarding the 3-point line (opponents shooting 24.5 percent) and simply playing hard each night, with emotion and confidence. Stopping dribble penetration has been a weakness. Too many opposing guards have driven into the heart of the UNCW defense. And on offense, turnovers, especially those that lead directly to points have been a killer. Also, only one player, Johnny Wolf the senior transfer from Xavier, has any postseason experience.

Q: How would you describe the tempo/style of play of UNCW so far this season?

A: They are uptempo. According to the most recent stats, the Seahawks are leading the CAA in possessions per game (75). Of course, playing VMI skews those numbers somewhat. Still, Moss wants his team to play opportunity or advantage basketball and encourages Tomko to push the ball in transition and create open looks either at the rim or via kickouts to 3-point shooters. But we know those opportunities tend to dry up as the season progresses. That's the next step this team needs to take: knowing when to run and when to set up a halfcourt set.

Q: Tell us something about this team we can't find on any stat sheet or box score.

A: They like each other. They have genuinely good chemistry and one goal: to bounce back strong from last season. Going through that 7-win experience was difficult for everyone in the program and from what I've gathered, the players simply want to erase those disappointing memories and have little concern for individual accolades.

Q: The Patriots have not looked good on the road so far and historically struggle when they travel to the Trask. What will they have to do well in this game Saturday to come out with a win?

A: Win the battle in the paint. I think both teams will emphasize guarding the perimeter and limiting transition opportunities. The Mason frontcourt will be as good as any UNCW has faced this season. Handling the defensive glass and converting scoring chances around the basket will give the Patriots an excellent chance to claim a CAA road win. I'm also interested in seeing the Cornelius - Tomko matchup, among others.


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Mason on the wrong end of Battle of the Orange Line blow out

Entering the game missing two starters, you knew this was going to be an interesting road test for the young Patriots. But missing the two sophomores Pearson and Cornelius doomed Mason with sloppy play and countless turnovers that led to a 66-49 beating. Hancock and Long attempted to hold things together but a back injury sidelined Long for a bit in the first half. The Patriots just never got momentum, every big shot they made they would turnover the ball and give the Colonials an easy basket or two. For most of the game is looked like GW vs GMU JV out there and the Colonials went on a couple of runs early. Rebounding was a key area the Patriots failed to prevail in. They looked over-matched on the boards and they really shouldn't have and without Ryan Pearson offensive rebounds were scarce. The overall shooting from Mason was just plain terrible as they shot 30% in the first half and finished just barely above that. Louis Birdsong came out flat again and really set the Patriots back early. While being terrible from the field, Mason could not take advantage at the free-throw line with all the fouls the Colonials were giving. It's not like the Colonials came firing off the blocks, their shooting was bad also in the beginning but the difference was they were making the Patriots pay for their turnovers. Even worse only one GW player finished in double figures, their best player Damian Hollis (25 points). Defensively the freshmen just aren't there yet with Larranaga's system and this is the result. Road games are going to be tough for these young guys but I think we really hoped to see more, especially from Sherrod Wright. This is one of those games where you hope the team learned something, like not to break team rules.

Below is a chart from and it highlights the "Four Factors to Winning at Basketball". If you have never heard of this statistical breakdown before read more about what they mean here. Notice how Mason was able to get to the free-throw line much more than GW but failed to capitalize.

NCAA Basketball Stats

Photo Credit [Flickr djotpics]


Ryan Pearson and Andre Cornelius are out for tonight's game at GW

Thanks for everyone who sent the tips in on this one. It seems Ryan Pearson and Andre Cornelius are both suspended for tonight's game at George Washington. This may be the reason why Pearson was on the bench most of the second half at Tulane as well. While most of you read the same stuff I did on certain social media sites, it appears the two were suspended by Coach Larranaga for stealing a pillow while staying at a hotel in New Orleans this past weekend, there could be more to story but that's all I know at this point. You can notice in today's game notes (PDF) that they are not listed as probable starters, Luke Hancock and Sherrod Wright are penciled in as of now in their place. Very disheartening to see this kind of thing happen, but Mason fans know Larranaga runs a tight ship and no deed like this goes unpunished. Although this basically a non-conference game of little importance to Mason, you can't deny the fact that as a fan you want to see this team beat our neighbors in DC. I'm curious to see what Wright does in his extra minutes tonight as he will have a lot more opportunities to shoot the ball. Also with Pearson out Kevin Foster will see a lot of front court action and the team will need him playing aggressive alongside Morrison. Morrison staying out of foul trouble is another key tonight.

Washington Post Preview

Free video stream if you don't get MASN channel

Current line: Mason +4

All-time series: GW leads 9-1

Game Notes

Radio Link


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

GW is taking the George Mason game very seriously

If you can't remember the last time George Mason played George Washington in hoops (the universities, not the men) your not alone. It's been years, 11 actually. For most of recent history George Washington felt they had nothing to gain being a mighty Atlantic 10 team playing a lowly CAA team, despite the close proximity. But then something happened. The NCAA banned schools like GW from recruiting players from these high school "diploma mills" that had helped the school produce a winner. Left having to recruit locally against others GW hasn't adapted well and have recently been in the basement of the A-10 conference. Guys like Pops Mensah-Bonsu who starred for the Colonials would not be allowed to play in today's NCAA rules.

So now that George Washington is no longer an Atlantic 10 power, their marketing department says George Mason vs GW is a rivalry now and they have the website to prove it! The "Battle of the Orange Line" slogan is good but I really want to know how much the school paid for this whole "Beat George Mason" campaign. And look there's more video!:

Very cute. I'm glad George Mason is their superbowl for this season. It will be interesting to see how many George Mason fans are in attendance because I know plenty are buying up the tickets. Through all of GW's promoting there still seems to be a lot of tickets left for seats in that high school gym of their's. I really hope this rivalry idea sticks, and next year's GW - Mason game at the Patriot Center should draw a great crowd.

GW fans love to remind us that Mason is 1-9 all-time against them but here's a fun fact about the game I noticed: George Washington, despite having a basketball program for 102 years, has the same number of NCAA tournament wins as George Mason.

George Mason vs Tulane Video Highlights

[Video by Thuc Phan]

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