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George Mason Basketball

George Mason Basketball: February 2011

Monday, February 28, 2011

George Mason cracks the Top 25 this week

George Mason finally got the respect they deserved today as they were ranked #25 in the nation on this week's ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.

I believe the last time a team in the CAA headed into the conference tournament with a ranking was when David Robinson was with Navy and they were ranked #17 back in 1986. They eventually took home the CAA title that season.

Also, Mason is ranked #26 in the AP Poll.

If you curious here's a link to see how each one of the AP members voted.


You just never know what will happen on Selection Sunday

This post is not to say I think George Mason has a chance at being snubbed from this year's NCAA tournament.  I simply just want to show the track record of the selection committee when it comes to the final who's in and who's out decision time. Mason is a lock for the tournament in my opinion regardless of what happens next weekend at the CAA tournament. It's interesting to think that this year's conference tournament could have national implications, especially if someone other than VCU, ODU or Mason won the auto-bid. The ripple effect of who wins these conference tournaments can doom a lot of bubble teams and that is why you just don't know what Selection Sunday will bring.

Take a look at the graphic below from of all the top 40 RPI teams that have gotten snubbed from the selection committee since 1992. George Mason's RPI currently stands at 25 today.

This further proves that RPI isn't everything and there are many factors that go into the decision making process. Also this year the committee isn't putting any special emphasis on a team's final 10-12 games like they have done in the past. Be that as it may I still find it difficult to believe that the Patriots' 15-game winning streak won't carry any additional weight on the minds of the committee, especially when it's a statistic that led the nation.

The difference between this year's George Mason team and the teams with similar RPI numbers on this graphic are the conference records.  The Patriots' only conference losses were against the #2 and #3 teams in the final standings and no other team on the above graphic had that going for them during selection time. Expert said in 2006 that Mason's success in the CAA that season is what got them an at-large bid into that tournament.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Win over Georgia State caps off best regular season ever for George Mason

This has been a season that has well exceeded expectations for George Mason fans and supporters.  Yesterday's win at Georgia State was another game where they didn't dominate the opponent but came out on top again to keep the nation's longest winning streak alive at 15 games.  Finishing the year with 16 CAA wins is a new school record and ties the record for the conference (VCU got 16 in 06-07).  The Patriots ended the game on an 11-4 run to finish the Panthers 65-58.  Cam Long had some late game heroics but the Patriots really showed their balance as a poor shooting night from Ryan Pearson didn't doom the team.  Mike Morrison stepped up, had a momentum swinging alley-oop near the end and finished with 14 points.  Meanwhile Long continued to show why he's All-CAA material by scoring 16 of his 19 points in the second half.  Also when the team needed a spark on offense Vertrail Vaughns was there again and with his 3-for-3 night from behind the arc is continuing to show how he may just be an x-factor this March.

Although the Patriots didn't show their usual dominance on both sides of the court they again found a different way to win.  2nd half hardships do not get them down and their leaders are really picking it up when the team needs them.  The team has that killer instinct and won't back down from any fight.

Now the real season begins.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

What to look for in tonight's regular season finale against Georgia State

I'm sure it's difficult for most Mason fans to get too excited about tonight's regular season finale at Georgia State, except for to see if the nation's longest winning streak will continue. It also doesn't help that the game is not televised, why does this always happen when they play in Atlanta?  The Patriots have already secured the #1 seed in the CAA tournament next weekend in Richmond and are locked into that noon time slot on Saturday March 5. However an interesting thing to root for in this game is to see the Patriots try to get that 16th CAA win for the season.  Achieving that feat would tie a conference record and of course also be a new school record for George Mason. 

Some might be calling for Larranaga to give the reserve players some more minutes in this one but I wouldn't expect to see the 'green team' play the whole second half or anything like that. One of Mason best strengths is the well conditioned starting five they have that can run up and down the court with just about anyone. You want to keep them conditioned and in good rhythm considering they have a week off until their next contest.  I can't possibility see Ryan Pearson seeing the bench too much today, he's just been on too much of a tear recently. In the past seven games, Pearson is averaging 17.4 points and 10.8 rebounds Having said that I'd still like to see some of the reserve forwards get more time.  None of them have logged more than 5 or 7 minutes in the last couple of games and it's an area where the Patriots are thin.  Mason could end up playing a physical front court team in the tournament and they might need a guy like Johnny Williams to be ready.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Senior night for George Mason, but still plenty of basketball to play

A lot is at stake tonight for George Mason: seniors Cam Long and Isaiah Tate are being honored, the team can win their first outright regular season CAA title in 11 years, lock up a #1 seed in the CAA tournament, extend the nation's longest winning streak to 14 games, and finish the season undefeated at home. It's only fitting they are playing Northeastern because on January 12 after a 86-60 victory in Boston this whole streak began. The toughest thing for the Patriots at this point is not to lose their focus which so far they done a great job of doing lately.  Mike Morrison continues to keep the team is high spirits:
"When the Gold Team (first unit) secured victory over the Green Team (the reserves) in a full-court exercise, junior forward Mike Morrison, the team's biggest personality, hopped down the court waving his arms and chirped: "You gotta believe. You gotta be hungry. Stomach growlin'!"
The hype around this team will no doubt fill up the Patriot Center tomorrow, something you don't see often on a Thursday night game against a 10th CAA opponent.  Mason has shown no signs of slowing down during this streak even they get down by a few.  I expect that continue tonight in a game that will probably have the players looking like they are having fun, especially because Northeastern plays awful defense.

While the Patriots try to prepare for one game at a time, they can't ignore the media attention and the constant comparisons to the 2005-2006 team.  USA Today has a video up today with the players talking about those comparisons and how they want to make their own history:

Also, if you've never heard George Mason's pep band, the Green Machine, play Rage Against the Machine you should really take a look at this.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Looking back on what I first said about Cam Long and Isaiah Tate as new recruits

Tomorrow night will be the George Mason's last home game of the regular season against Northeastern and seniors Cam Long and Isaiah Tate will be honored.  I have covered both Long and Tate since their arrival to Fairfax on this site and I thought it would be interesting to see what I first said about these guys when Larranaga and his staff recruited them. Some of it might make you laugh.

Keep in mind how lofty the expectations were for the guys in this recruiting class. The buzz from the Final Four was still all around Fairfax; Long and Isaiah Tate were being brought in to replace guys like Lamar Butler and Tony Skinn who basically seemed like Gods to most Mason fans. Earlier readers of this blog will remember how much I was gushing about Vlad Moldoveanu who committed after Long and Tate.

Here is what I said about each them.

Cam Long

Long turned out to be a very special player and I'm sure it was a shock to most fans to learn last week that he almost left George Mason back in 2008. When Cam first committed I wrote that he was described as a versatile guard who had the ability to play both guards positions. His high school coach Ahmed Dorsett was a former player under Jim Larranaga.  I loved his ball handling skills and ability to knock down a three.  Later on when I was summing up the 2007 recruiting class I mentioned how he carried his high school team on his back into the state playoffs and how that might translate into good leadership skills here at Mason. I also mentioned his size and defense would bode well for him under Larranaga. I remember hoping that he would be molded into a player like Folarin Campbell.

Isaiah Tate

I used the word "pure shooter" a lot with Tate, so much so that I once referred to his high school numbers as "Steve Kerr-like". Those numbers from behind the three-point line (44% in high school) and the fact that he came from powerhouse DeMatha in Maryland had me thinking he was going to be the team's next Lamar Butler.  His high school coach described him as "one of the best shooters we've had here in the last 10 years". Sadly Tate's high school sharp shooter ability didn't quite transfer over to Fairfax until this season where he is shooting 43.9% from behind the arch.  In the end he will probably be known more for his defense under Larranaga.

Ryan Pearson explains team's pledge to not cut their hair during the streak

Great find from the DC Sports Bog today:

Hopefully this streak will last into March!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

George Mason Bracketology Part II

The Patriots might not be getting all the respect they deserve in the polls but they seem to be by the Bracketologists out there.  This past weekend's Bracketbusters success really boosted the CAA's chances for three-bids in this year's tournament.  Right now a lot of experts are tabbing the Patriots as a 7 seed, which is most likely based on them being projected as winning the CAA and getting the auto-bid.  


Sunday, February 20, 2011

The streak continues as George Mason edges out Northern Iowa

First off, I apologize for those we didn't get drunk while playing the drinking game I made. The ESPN2 announcers must have gotten wind of it. Regardless we saw a resilient George Mason team come from behind on the road in a tough arena for their 13th straight victory.  Andre Cornelius was the difference with his 24 points and 5-for-8 shooting from behind the arc.  Ryan Pearson added a double-double with 21 and 15 as the Patriots found themselves in a rare close game.  Northern Iowa was hot from the three-point line and were shooting 58% in the first half .  It was so bad that Larranaga benched Mike Morrison for all but 4 minutes in the second half to have quicker guys out there to defend the perimeter better.  In the end it worked as UNI didn't have nearly as a successful of a half shooting wise. Mason's offense kept rolling in the 2nd half and ended up with 17 assists by my count I believe they are 12 or 13-0 when they record 16 or more assists.  However it was not an easy victory for the Patriots and you have to appreciate them coming back in this one as they easily could have folded against a team on a hot shooting night.  They continue to surge into March and don't seem to show any signs of slowing down.


Friday, February 18, 2011

George Mason vs Northern Iowa Bracketbuster Drinking Game

George Mason-UNI Preview here

Here is a post I just could not resist, especially with the attempted spectacle ESPN tries to put up with the whole Bracketbuster Weekend promotion.  With all the seriousness of the news coverage surrounding the team lately I thought it was time to have some fun. Even if your not a drinker check to see how many of these you witness tomorrow night.

Take a sip of beer or your drink of choice if any of the following happens:
  • The word "Cinderella" is used by the announcers or any ESPN commentators
  • ESPN shows footage of George Mason's Final Four run of 2006
  • The announcers mention that no one on this year's George Mason team is from that 2006 team
  • ESPN shows footage of Tony Skinn's game-winning three-pointer against Wichita State int he 2006 Bracketbuster game
  • The announcers try to make it seem as if this game is as important to George Mason as that Wichita State game was in 2006
  • The announcers pretend Northern Iowa still has a chance to win the MVC or get an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament
  • The announcers refer to the CAA as the "Patriot League"
  • The announcers compare George Mason to last season's Butler team
  • If you can hear Coach L's trademark whistle during the broadcast
  • If your able to see Coach L clapping ecstatically after a George Mason player turns over the ball or has a bone-headed play
  • Cam Long and Kwadzo Ahelegbe are featured in the pregame "Star Watch" segment
Finish your beer or drink if any of these happen:
  • One of the announcers describes Luke Hancock as "deceptively athletic", "having sneaky athleticism","being crafty", "being cagey", "scrappy", or "elusive"
  • Anyone says "George Mason could be this year's George Mason"
Shotgun a beer:
  • You see Gunston in any of the 2006 Final Four footage shown

George Mason heads to Northern Iowa trying to remain focused

Right now staying focused is the name of the game for Jim Larranaga and his players.  They have been in the spotlight on the national scene with everyone and their mother drawing comparisons to the 2005-2006 team. Last night Chris Caputo and Luke Hancock where on 106.7 The Fan with Bill Rohland and the assistant coach said that he was most impressed with how the team has stayed focused during their winning streak and was not looking ahead past the next game at hand. That is going to be an important quality during these last couple games for the Patriots and it begins Saturday with a game at Northern Iowa for the ESPN Bracketbusters.

Judging from the comments I received a few weeks ago I think most of you will be happy to hear that Dick Vitale will not be calling the game tomorrow night. It's still great to have Mason on ESPN2 right now with how well they are playing.  Northern Iowa has been in a slump since their leading rebounder Lucas O'Rear got injured and have gone 1-3 in their last four games in the MVC. I think the Patriots might have to worry more about these guys distracting them more than the actual team they are playing (kidding):

The game itself might have lost some of it's luster since it was announced a few weeks ago but it is still a solid road test for the Patriots. It's funny how Bracketbusters can be a play-in match for the NCAA tournament one year and a burden of a road trip the next. Currently UNI has an RPI of 75 which is still another Top 100 game for Mason to have under their belts. And I don't think at this point any loss for Mason would not knock them out of the at-large discussions.  If you've been following the Mock Selection on Twitter that the NCAA does every year and has going on now, you'd know that Mason is under strong consideration for the field of 68 by all the experts.

Here is what to expect in this game.  Look for Mason to have a good night shooting from behind the arc, they are one of the best teams in the country shooting from there and Northern Iowa is one of the worst teams defending it.  Andre Cornelius, Cam Long, Isaiah Tate, and Vertrail Vaughns will no doubt get plenty of opportunities for three-point chances and it will most likely end up being the difference in the game.  Also I talked about how UNI lost their leading rebounder but the truth is they weren't a great rebounding team even before O'Rear got hurt.  Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison should help the Patriots control the glass and give plenty of second chances opportunities to the guards.  On defense for Mason senior guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe is a holdover from last season's Sweet 16 team and will be focused on as he leads the team in scoring.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Who is the George Mason's most irreplaceable player this season?

While doing a Q & A for's Mike Miller and his Beyond the Arc blog this week I was posed this question. I found it a tough one to ponder based on the way George Mason's season has progressed so far. The Q & A exchange will run tomorrow morning on and I ended up going with Cam Long for a couple of different reasons, however I feel I could have also gone a different way and not have been wrong.  The team is just so balanced and versatile this season that I find it hard to pinpoint one guy.  You can argue that they are so successful because of what they all do together at there as a team and that losing any one of them would severely disrupt the flow. But for arguments sake I tried to nail down the true catalyst of this year's team.

As I just stated Cam Long is the play here due to the fact that he has the best leadership qualities, numerous intangibles and often looks like a floor general out there.  You can really notice him take charge on the court this season and does not try to do to much, something that plagued him last season. Out of all the guys in this year's squad I think Long is the one guy that you can say makes everyone around him play better when he is on the court.  It also doesn't hurt that he is leading the team in scoring and currently posting his best three-point shooting numbers of his career.

After Cam Long I would have to rank Ryan Pearson next on my ranking list of irreplaceable players.  He just does too much on offense and on the boards.  Rebounding was a bit of an issue in the beginning of the season and the Patriots have steadily improved during this winning streak.  Pearson is a big part of that and often times when Mike Morrison is struggling it seems like he is the only rebounding force out there for the Patriots.  He just does too many good things in the low post and I don't think they would have much of a presence there without him. And that's not a knock on Morrison but I just think it would be very difficult for Mason to establish any sort of inside game without Ryan Pearson on the floor.

Next is where some of you might disagree with me.  I'm going with Luke Hancock next on this ranking but it could easily be Andre Cornelius or Isaiah Tate.  Cornelius has had some amazing defensive prowess this season and let's not forget his three-point shooting ability.  Meanwhile Tate has basically been the bench contributions this year and has done everything the coaching staff has asked him to do.  But Luke Hancock is more valuable to be because he represents somewhat of a "glue-guy" holding it all together.  He leads the team in assists and often time looks like a point guard out there.  He handles the ball well and has been setting up his teammates numerous times during some of their best in-game runs this season. Any time the Patriots have gone a serious run in a game Hancock almost always has been involved with a key assists here and there.  While fans might not love his defensive efforts, you can't argue that he is probably the most well-rounded player on the team and his versatility would be very difficult to replace.  

Who do you think is the team's more irreplaceable player?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

George Mason dominates VCU while extending winning streak to a new program record

The Patriots' latest victim on their current 12 game winning streak was VCU who was run out of their own building last night in a  71-51 rout. Now Mason has clinched at least a share of the CAA crown, something they haven't won outright in 11 years. In this game Mason executed to near perfection, Ryan Pearson was spinning in the low post to the basket, Cam Long was knocking down key shots, and Vertrail Vaughns went 4-for-5 from behind the three-point line in the first half to put an exclamation point on it all. Meanwhile Mike Morrison was aggressive on the boards and Andre Cornelius was in Joey Rodriguez's face all night. The Rams led once, when it was 2-0, and looked frazzled against the Patriots' man-to-man defense. As a result none of VCU's starters finished in double figures. This isn't something we haven't already seen countless times this year but keep in mind that the Rams were no slouch entering into this game. The full court pressure of the Rams did not bother the Patriots at all, mostly because when your not hitting shots consistently it is difficult to get into position on such a defensive plan.  I'd have to check the records but I don't think VCU has ever lost this bad to a CAA opponent at the Siegel Center.

There is a lot to take away from this game, so let's go right to it:
  • With this 12 victory during their current winning streak the Patriots have set a new program record for longest streak. A school record that was 27 years old.
  • They have tied the school record for consecutive roads wins (6).
  • The Patriots are guaranteed at least a share of the CAA regular season crown, and can clinch the title outright with a victory over Northeastern February 24th.
  • Last night the Patriots went on runs of 11-0, 13-2, 11-0, and 10-0. Add those together and it was a collective 45-2 statistic of domination.
  • Here is a very telling statistic of their execution: George Mason now outscoring CAA by 0.23 points per trip. Last year Butler outscored Horizon by 0.20
  • During this current winning streak Mason has won by at least 14 points all by once and their average margin of victory has been 17.83 since January 12th. That's got to be best in the nation.
  • Mason also had 18 assists last night, Coach L set a per-game goal of 16 earlier in the season and when they reach that mark they are 12-0 this year.
  • With Mason's RPI currently at #22, it seems fairly certain at this point that the team has locked up an NCAA Tournament berth regardless of how the remaining few games turn out. 
Here is Coach Larranaga during the post game interview:

[Photo Credit: VCU Ram Nation]


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Is tonight's game against VCU basically a play-in for the NCAA tournament for George Mason?

At this point, with how well the Patriots are currently playing, I'm not about to end the wild speculations. And honestly, they aren't even that wild when you think about it.  Consider the magnitude of tonight's game on the road against VCU.  This game can do a lot for George Mason's final push before Selection Sunday and show people out there on national television how for real this team actually is. Let's breakdown the impending impacts of this game:

-VCU is the best remaining opponent on the Patriots' schedule. Although the Bracketbuster match-up at Northern Iowa looked enticing from the beginning, the Panthers have fallen on hard times after losing their leading rebounder Lucas O'Rear for the season due to injury.  Their RPI is falling fast and is currently at #77 after three straight losses. VCU on the other hand still has an RPI of #60 despite their loss on Saturday and still has room to improve after tonight's game when they play Wichita State (#55) this weekend. Overall I think a win on the road against a team like VCU that received a lot of praise earlier in the season would look very good to the selection committee.  

-A win tonight over VCU and a ODU loss clinches first place in the CAA for George Mason. Basically a win tonight is the last big hurdle for the Patriots on their road to winning the CAA's regular season crown. Why is that important? Well two reason actually. First, finishing #1 in the conference guarantees the best seed in the conference tournament in March.  And second, finishing the regular season in 1st place in the CAA looks very good to the selection committee.  Members of that committee stated back in 2006 that Mason's strong CAA record is what got them an at-large bid.  It depends on how strong people believe the CAA is this season and for the most part I believe the overall concensus is that it is one of the better conferences.

-Mason needs one last good road win.  Take a look at some of the better teams the Patriots have played on the road this season: Duquesne, Dayton, Hofstra, and ODU. How of those did they win? One, against Duquesne in double overtime back in late December.  The selection committee loves road wins and although Mason pummeled Hofsta and ODU at the Patriot Center they still lost to both of them at their respective venues.  I do however believe that their current win streak trumps this issue a bit but a loss at the Siegel Center tonight gives the committee a reason to snub the Patriots and you can't ignore that.

Let me be clear that a loss tonight to VCU does not torpedo Mason's at-large chances.  However I just wanted to highlight how important I think this game might end up being in the grand scheme of things. 

Am I over-analyzing here? What are your thoughts on the impact of tonight's game?


Monday, February 14, 2011

George Mason heads to Richmond for CAA showdown with VCU

Top 25 polls were just released today: George Mason ranks 26th in the Coaches Poll (30 votes) and 30th in the AP Poll (28 votes). 

The Patriots travel down to Richmond to face VCU in what could end up determining 1st place in the CAA standings.  Mason faced a bit of adversity on Saturday in there victory over JMU which I think will help them in this game against the Rams.  I say that because they will need contributions from their bench tomorrow night, guys like Vertrail Vaughns, Johnny Williams, and Rashad Whack will have play at a high level again.  On paper VCU is a deeper team than Mason and that could make this a very up tempo fast paced game with the last team standing getting the victory.  The Patriots haven't won at the Siegel Center since 2005-2006 and recently they have had trouble with the Rams full court pressure down in Richmond.  Although nothing seems to faze the Patriots these days and the Rams are coming a pretty poor performance against ODU at home you can't discount how tough of a game this may still end up being.

VCU's struggles on Saturday highlight some areas the Patriots can take advantage of tomorrow night.  Aside from the fact that none of their starters finished in double figures it would painfully obvious their lack of front court power.  ODU's Frank Hassell, how the Patriots kept to 9 points a week ago, erupted for 18 against the Rams and had 11 boards.  As a team ODU dominated VCU on the boards and almost had as many offensive rebounds as the Rams had total. The Patriots have been steadily improving on the glass at both ends of the court and this could a facet of the game where Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison should hopefully continue to roll.  I thought the two did a good job defensively on JMU's Denzel Bowles; VCU has no front court player of the same caliber as Bowles. I don't really think the Rams will have an answer for Ryan Pearson's inside game so that will be something to watch.

The Rams might not dominate in the front court but they can beat you in similar ways the Patriots do.  They have quick talented guards in Joey Rodriguez and Bradford Burgess who can both hit threes from the outside and make plays in transition.  As Mason leads the CAA in points per possession the Rams are #2 right now and also lead the conference in assists.  They can be very dangerous when they start rolling but they take a lot of shots to get to their point totals. When the early shots don't fall you end up having a game like they did against ODU.  

Mason has let the atmosphere get to them in the beginning of their last couple of games, most notably against ODU and JMU at home.  They can't afford to let that happen at the Siegel Center, which can be a tough venue to play.  If they get behind early it will be much more difficult to mount a comeback with the way VCU plays. The Rams get to the free-throw often and the Patriots were a little foul happy on Saturday.  In the end this one will all come down to rebounding and defense, two areas the Patriots are doing better in at the moment. 


Cam Long is quietly moving up George Mason's all-time scoring list

Lost in the media hoopla and fans talking about George Mason's chances in this year NCAA tournament is the fact that Cam Long continues to climb the ranks on the Patriots' all-time scoring list.  He entered the 1,000 point club back in early December and now has a chance to move into the top 15 if the team gets a few post-season games this year.  Currently this is where he stands on the all-time list:

12.  Lamar Butler              1488
13.  Herb Estes                 1436
14.  Curtis McCants           1398
15.  Dave Skaff                 1365
16.  Mike Hargett              1362
17.  Erik Herring                1315
18.  Cam Long                  1304

It will be interesting to see where he finishes on this list when everything is all said and done. I feel we will still see a few more big games out of the senior. Not sure where I would have Cam on my all-time Patriots list, that will have to be determined after this season is concluded. 

Thanks to reader Dan who sent this in.

[Photo Credit Amp Photography]

Sunday, February 13, 2011

JMU can't keep up with George Mason, Patriots tie longest winning streak in school history

After watching this game yesterday I think it's safe to say that these guys just flat out know how to win.  We haven't seen the Patriots have to deal with much adversity lately but they had to overcome some in this game.  JMU came to play and taking advantage early of Mason's sloppiness on defense. Steven Goff reminds us in his article recap that the Patriots haven't trailed for more than a few minutes here and there in long time so I am sure most fans were eager to see how they would react.  Coach Larranaga made the right move by benching starters Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison for some early sloppiness on both ends and reserve players Vertrail Vaughns and Johnny Williams gave the Patriots the spark they needed.  After ending the 1st half up one and erasing a 12 point deficit it was a heavy dose of suffocating defense and Ryan Pearson in the 2nd half. Pearson had 12 of his 15 in the 2nd half and he and the Patriots kept All-CAA Denzel Bowles a non-factor late in the game.

With this victory George Mason has now tied the school record for consecutive wins (11) and with Ohio State losing yesterday the Patriots also have the 2nd longest winning streak in the country.  This was another game where the Patriots started off slow and then picked up the tempo in the 2nd half.  It's not secret at this point that the Patriots are more deadly as the pace of the game picks up. If it is a high possession game your not going to be able to stop these guys once they start rolling. This team just doesn't seem to get rattled no matter what is happening on the court and that is a quality you need to have to be a contender in March.

Now the Patriots gear up for a CAA showdown in Richmond to face VCU, who didn't look all the good yesterday in their loss to ODU.  Regardless this could be Mason's toughest challenge of the season as they haven't won at the Siegel Center since 2006.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Listen to me talk George Mason basketball on SB Nation Radio

This morning I taped a radio gig with the guys over at SB Nation Radio talking about this year's George Mason team. The show will air this Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on 106.7 The Fan DC.  Hopefully I sound like I know what I am talking about.


George Mason Bracketology Part I

A lot of hype going on around college basketball about George Mason and their NCAA tournament hopes.  The Patriots still have work to do and remember that making the big dance isn't always guaranteed despite how good fans think their team's resume looks.  However Mason does play Top 100 RPI teams in their next three games so the odds are looking more in their favor at this point in time.

Bracketologist all over the interwebs are projecting this year's field of 68 and Mason is included in mostly all of them.  I'm attempting to compile a list of all those projections so please let me know if I'm missing any good ones. These are current projections as February 11th:


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Coach Larranaga is making his rounds with the media

Here is audio from him on with the Junkies this morning on 106.7 the Fan, in my opinion it's one of his better interviews with these guys:

Here is video of Coach Larranaga with CSN's Jill Sorenson:

Here he is on ESPN's First Take morning show talking about that funny cartoon the athletic department put out the other day:

A few other notes:

-I wrote an article for SB Nation the other day titled "Five Things You Need To Know About George Mason, D.C.'s Hottest Team"

-Don't forget George Mason has a good 2 for 1 deal going for this Saturday's game vs JMU, the game isn't sold yet but it usually does given all the JMU alumni in this area.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

George Mason escapes Trask for 10th straight win

The Patriots struggled a bit in the beginning of this one but once again had a big 2nd half en route to their 10th straight victory. They now have currently tied the longest team winning streak in Coach Larranaga's tenure at George Mason and this is the fastest in school history they have reached 20 wins (beating the 2005-06 squad by 1 week). Andre Cornelius went off in this one as he led all scorers with 25 points that included a 7-for-10 night from three-point land.  Mason could have used some more from the big three in the 1st half as they were taking ill-advised shots and getting beat to some easy boards. UNCW was able to take advantage and end the half only down by one. I know I sound like a broken record when I say this but yes the Patriots again overwhelmed another team in the 2nd half.  They pushed things into their favor off a couple of runs and some hot shooting. Why Cornelius was left alone so much behind the arch I'll never know. His ability to consistently hit shots from the outside makes this team so much more dangerous on offense, if that was possible. Also, Cornelius is the 4th different leading scorer for Mason during this big winning streak.

You have to appreciate Mason being pushed again on the road early and battle back to come away with another decisive win. The early foul trouble didn't seem to slow them down and they kept their composure despite some questionable calls. Sure it wasn't as close as their road game in JMU but they again found away to win with a balanced attack. 


George Mason athletics attempts to go viral with funny video about basketball team

I like how they take jabs at JMU and Duke. Funny stuff.


George Mason travels to UNCW looking to match longest winning streak in the Larranaga era

The Patriots take on UNCW tonight and with a victory would tie the longest team winning streak during head coach Jim Larranaga's 14-year tenture.  The record, as I jinx it with this post, is 11 set back during the 1983-84 season.  This is a game where Mason can't lose their focus, despite all the media hype they have been receiving. Just this morning there is an AP article describing this year's George Mason team getting back to where the 2006 team was. Here is a quote from Ryan Pearson:
"Even when I go to my classes, my professors still bring up the Final Four,'' said junior forward Ryan Pearson, who on Monday was named the Colonial Athletic Association's player of the week. "And I'm like, 'I wasn't a part of that. I want to make my own history here."
Certainly the success from this year's team is going to have all types of media outlets comparing them to that 2005-06 team and they are just going to have to deal with it. And although it gets me giddy to see them placed here in a bracket projections,  I do still think the comparisons are unfair on these guys. Hopefully that should be motivation for them to make their own history as Pearson said. I'm sure Pearson and the rest of the team know they still have a lot of work ahead of them.

Heading into this game against UNCW the Patriots are clearly looking like the best team in CAA right now. The offense has been upstoppable and they currently lead the conference in field goal and three-point shooting percentage. Andre Cornelius has been deadly from behind the arch lately hitting 13 treys over the last 4 games. Meanwhile Ryan Pearson has had his way with some of the better CAA front court players and Cam Long continues to build his case as an All-CAA type player. Together this team has become so much of an efficient offensive monster that you rarely can take notice to how well they are doing defensively.

The Seahawks on the other hand have struggled this season and last time these two teams met were on the wrong end of an 80-52 beat down.  However in their last game on Saturday against William & Mary they put together an efficient offensive showing of their own in a 91-81 victory. Does this have me worried about tonight's game? No, but it just shows that Mason can't expect to sleep walk through this one.

[Photo Credit: Amp Photography]


Monday, February 07, 2011

Monday Links - It's Ryan Pearson Day!

Andy Katz has Ryan Pearson as his Player of the Week, check out the video below:

Ryan Pearson talks about the car accident that changed his life. Read the full article from the Washington Post here.

  • One game at a time, Larranaga's Patriots build their NCAA case [TBD]
  • George Mason currently has an RPI of 23, while their Bracketbuster opponent UNI fell to 62 [Statsheet]
  • Mason freshman adjust to Life of Division I hoops (feature on Jonathan Arledge) [Laurel Patch]
  • John Feinstein shares his thoughts on the Patriots' win over ODU [Washington Post]
  • It's Official: You can't call George Mason a commuter school anymore []
  • George Mason tops mid-major rankings (ESPN Insiders only) [ESPN]
  • Listen to Coach L's weekly teleconference [CAA Sports]

Sunday, February 06, 2011

George Mason takes down ODU for ninth straight win

The Patriots took down ODU yesterday 62-45 in front of a record crowd at the Patriot Center. Mason started off slow scoring only 4 points int he game's first 11 minutes but came out firing in the second half on a run that ignited the large crowd.  This team has been coming out strong in the 2nd half all season long and they continue to put together runs that leave the other team looking confused and defeated.  The Monarchs inability to take advantage of the Patriots slow start was there undoing as they had an ugly day from the field and behind the arch.  Mason held ODU to 27.3% from the field and 1-of-15 from the three-point line. It almost seemed like Mason was taken in a little too much by the atmosphere and the importance the game in the beginning of this one. But like we have seen many times this season already they pulled themselves together at half time and were unstoppable to close out the game.  

Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison were huge and battled tough up front with ODU's forwards. Pearson ended up with a double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Morrison added 10 and 7.  Morrison might have had his best game of the season yesterday as he was assertive something the team really needs from him.  Up until yesterday you could argue Mason's front court players were their weakness but they proved they can go toe-to-toe with a physical team like ODU and beat them at their own game.

The Patriots just continue to find ways to win, no matter what type of game they are in.  In this one they were entrenched in a low scoring game by their standards but still found a way to overcome it.  You would have thought a low scoring affair would favor the Monarchs but this Patriots team just flat out knows how to win games.  They don't let another team bully them into playing a different brand of basketball and they are executing from all over the court.

[Photo Credit Amp Photography]


Friday, February 04, 2011

George Mason vs ODU: Why it's more of a big deal this year

I don't think I really have to mention to fans how important this game might end up being for both teams on Saturday, however there is a little more at stake this year. The Examiner has an article this morning detailing how both Mason and ODU have NCAA tournament credentials which highlights the added intrigue for this game.  This game poses as not just a battle for the top of the CAA standings but also a rare chance for each team to get a top-50 RPI win during conference play, something that is usually scarce for mid-majors. Currently George Mason's RPI is at #28 and ODU's is #34.  Both team's coaches would tell you the NCAA tournament is far from their minds and they are focusing on winning the CAA. I agree that winning the conference and getting that automatic bid should be the team's main focus but it's difficult to not be thinking about the big picture if your a fan.  Mason's winning streak in the CAA is nice but two losses to ODU won't look good come selection Sunday regardless of their numbers.  Now let's talk about the actual game.

The battle back in the beginning of January was a good one between these two clubs and if Mason was playing like they are now I think they would have won that game.  ODU was playing out of their element as they scored 69 points, well above their usual average per game. In their last six games the Monarchs have only scored that many or more points once and in their loss to VCU they managed only 50.  The Patriots however are averaging over 74 points a game and have scored 84 or more in their last three games.  At home they have averaged 77.1 points per game against conference opponents which is impressive.  They are currently rolling right now and a high scoring game favors them largely.  

The Monarchs strength is in the front court, where they dominated Mason back in Norfolk earlier in the season.  The Patriots can neutralize that by pushing the tempo and having five different guys making shots often.  Teams have really had trouble defending Mason this year because you often don't know who to focus on.  Ryan Pearson, Luke Hancock, Cam Long and Andre Cornelius are all capable of scoring 20 or more a night, you just don't always know which one it will be.  

The Patriots are #1 in the CAA in points per possession which is not exactly a mainstream statistic but it's an  important one between us bloggers. It measures a team's efficiency, in other words it's how many points does the team score versus the number of possessions they have during the course of the game. In Mason's case it really shows the quality of their offense.  As a team they are making excellent shot selections and just simply scoring in bunches when they get the chance.  The statistic also shows how dangerous Mason can be when they are scoring quickly on fast breaks and getting points off turnovers.  This is why I think Mason has the big advantage tomorrow against ODU at home, they are just simply a scoring machine and I don't think ODU, like the rest of CAA will be able to keep up.

If you still looking for tickets tomorrow the Mason ticket office is supposedly selling "seats with a limited view" for $8, whatever that means. 


Thursday, February 03, 2011

George Mason wins 8th straight, moves into share of 1st place in CAA

George Mason's offensive firepower overwhelmed Hofstra last night 87-68 on route to their 8th straight victory.  This is the longest winning streak for the team since the magical 2005-2006 season.  Mason's RPI is now at #28, best in the CAA currently as they continue to mow down the competition in their conference. Andre Cornelius, who has been heating up lately, had a huge impact in this one.  He is starting to look like he has found his groove back from behind the arch and hitting outside shots like he was at the end of last season. The Big Three, however, continues to lead the way as Long, Hancock, and Pearson combined for 43 points, 24 of the team's 40 rebounds, and 14 of the team's 20 assists on the night.  They started to run last night and Hofstra just flat out couldn't keep up. Mason's has too weapons for a team like Hofstra to defend and that is what has made them so dangerous during this winning streak. Credit Isaiah Tate for playing Charles Jenkins tough in the 2nd half after he was plagued with fouls in the 1st.

Coach Larranaga naturally can't miss the opportunity to unleash his story-telling skills, as he compares this year's team to lumberjacks. No I'm not kidding:
"For perspective, Larranaga, a master storyteller well known for referencing fables and parables to make a point, told a winding tale of competing lumberjacks: one who cut down trees non-stop, the other who took periodic breaks and ultimately boasted a greater haul.

What in the name of the NCAA does tall timber have to do with basketball?

"We call it sharpening our saw," he said. In essence, success is achieved by pacing oneself.

"With us," he explained in simpler terms, "we have got to be smart about gaining some valuable rest and be focused physically, mentally and emotionally for our next game."
Oh that Larranaga.  Funny stories aside it is difficult to not compare this team to that infamous 2006 squad but I think this year's team has an identity all it's own.  They winning games in a different fashion then those guys did. They are using speed, pushing the tempo, and shooting the ball extremely well from the outside.  They are no burly forwards grinding it out like Jai Lewis and Will Thomas did. Instead you have a team that is equally as tough to gameplan against as you don't always know where the scoring is going to come from.

Now the showdown on Saturday awaits as the Patriots take on ODU. Currently Mason is tied with VCU for 1st place in the CAA and that February 15th date with the Rams could decide 1st place.

Side note: Dick Vitale could be in the broadcast crew for George Mason's Bracketbuster game at Northern Iowa.

[Photo via Flickr via TheMasonBench]


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

George Mason battles Hofstra tonight, begins crucial stretch of CAA games

The Patriots take on Hofstra tonight in Fairfax for the beginning of a crucial run of CAA games.  The battle for the top of the standings will begin to heat up after tonight's game as Mason next faces ODU on Saturday, followed by games with James Madison and VCU shortly after.  The Patriots are 10-0 at home this season and have won all but one by at least 13 points so you can see why the online betting at BetUS has George Mason the double-digit favorite in this one despite having previously lost to the Pride.  That game against Hofstra earlier in the season was probably Mason's worst of the season as Charles Jenkins shredded the Patriots in the 2nd half.  If Mason doesn't slow down Jenkins in this one the Pride could very much be in this game in the 2nd half.  Mason should have the edge in rebounding as the Pride have been beaten on the boards during their last two games against VCU and Drexel both of which they lost.  Defensively I think Mason will take care of business as usual in the Patriot Center despite Hofstra being hungry for a conference win.  


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Watch Lamar Butler on Lunch with Lindsay

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