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George Mason might need to tweak their game plan a bit before the NCAA tournament

George Mason Basketball: George Mason might need to tweak their game plan a bit before the NCAA tournament

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

George Mason might need to tweak their game plan a bit before the NCAA tournament

John Mcdonnell / Washington Post
George Mason's loss to VCU in the CAA tournament ended the team's 16 game winning streak and may have opened eyes to some about how this team enters into games.  There is no overhaul that needs to be done, they had the nation's longest winning streak for a reason, but their are some minor details I think they started to overlook during the streak.  Some of which teams learned to exploit in the early goings of some of the Patriots' last few games. According to Jim Larranaga, teams started to take notice of Mason's style of play more closely in the last couple of weeks:
"Larranaga said as the regular season came to an end, teams began to adapt to the Patriots' style of play.

"[In the past few games] teams have been a little more conservative offensively against us," he said. "The games are slower paced, they're lower scoring and there are fewer possessions. It puts a premium on defensive rebounding and your shots."
Why is this such a big deal? The Patriots' thrive on high possession games. They led the CAA and are currently ranked 14th nationally in points per possession (1.13), so it's easy to see how this can throw off the team's strategy on offense if an opponent limits their touches.  With Mason having four players shooting better than 48% from the field (Long, Pearson, Hancock, and Morrison) they can be very deadly if another team trys to run and gun up and down the court against them.  However opposing teams have not been doing that lately.

The conservative play by some of Mason's recent opponents is only a small part of the story here.  Another underlying factor is the Patriots' defense in the first half of those games.  Take a look at some the first half shooting percentages from Mason 's last couple of opponents:

Aside from the game against a dreadfully bad shooting Northeastern team, Mason has yielded some pretty high shooting numbers in the beginning of their last couple of games. In the Northern Iowa and VCU games it was obvious how open they were leaving the perimeter and the two teams shredded the Patriots early on. A lack of defensive effort in these games didn't allow Mason to force the other team into playing their type of game.  They want to force turnovers, get more possessions and make the other team settle for shots they don't want to take.  We haven't seen much of that recently and the reason a loss like the one to VCU didn't come earlier was because this is team is full of clutch players and is very strong offensively.  They have the ability to storm back at any point when they are down but the point I'm trying to make is that they shouldn't be putting themselves in that position.

For Larranaga and his staff this issue really isn't something that can't be corrected very quickly. We've seen the team perform at the level they need to win in the NCAA tournament many times this season.  The loss in Richmond could end being a blessing for the Patriots as they enter into March Madness as I doubt haven't learned they need to play a whole 40 minutes and 94 feet of court in all their games.  



Anonymous GMU Patriot said...

Has the team gone to get their hair cut yet?

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Charlie T said...

Not that it means anything but only one home game in those games you mentioned. Another side note if you make a Jump shooting team play defense plus set picks and screens on them their legs feel it. You are very right about time of possession. VCU did use constant movement inside and out and their passing by and large was quick and accurate. Sometime just because the other team changes tempo does not mean when you are on offense you need to rush shots and have zero to one touches. I am very sure Coach L and his group did not get off the Turnip truck yesterday(quote from Rick Barnes at his press conference when he was hired at Mason) and they know what to do and how to do it. When you win you become a target. You just have to remember you have more weapons.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Kdenton1 said...

Don't let the hype of the big dance get us star struck and score more than the other team.

Boxing out, grabbing boards, setting effective picks, hitting free throws, and playing lock-down D wouldn't hurt us either.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Jackmic said...

If they are hungry and willing to listen, losing is the best thing that could happen to this team. This team was cocky and hopefully now Larranaga has their ear again like he did in 2006. (Same scenario)

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Why do you necessarily believe they were "cocky"? Sometimes a team just gets beat and that's what happened last weekend with VCU. VCU is a good team who scrapped, hustled, made threes and free throws and defended well whenever the Patriots made a push. They gave ODU all they could handle in the final and probably could make some noise in the NIT assuming they get in. The Patriots didn't look selfish or disinterested, just tired after a long, grueling season. In fact, they've looked tired since the LAST VCU game back in February. GMU has played very hard throughout the season and considering they get few consistent contributions from anyone over 6'6" (new "phenom" Jonathan Alridge never gets off the bench, Mike Morrison seems to have topped out athletically, Johnny Williams is less than advertised and Paris Bennett is young and plays small for 6'7") they still continue to fight and overachieve. Quite frankly, I think Coach L has done wonders with this year's team and they've had yet another great run. They succeed on guard quickness, defense, balance, and timely shooting. I hope GMU gets in to the tournament (NOT a lock, especially considering how deep the Big East and other major conferences are this year) and can turn it back on but I fear this might be a one and done kind of tournament for Mason, especially if they fall behind early.

Still, a great year and congratulations to all the guys no matter what happens next.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Reggie said...

A key to advancing:

A Corny not going 1 for 7 from the 3, not sending stupid tweets, look to distribute on occasion, put his team first and his inflated ego second. My keys to victory. Along with a bunch of other stuff.

8:08 PM  

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