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George Mason Basketball

George Mason Basketball: March 2012

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Post-Season Awards Announced

This year we did our first ever GMU Hoops Post-Season awards voted on by the readers. Ryan Pearson came away as the obvious choice for Offensive Player of the Year but the real battle was for Walk-on of the Year, which saw three times more votes than any other category. Jordan Baird and Jacob Hoxie must had a battle going on between their friends and family, but Hoxie came out on top. 

Mike Morrison earned Defensive Player of the Year and the Hustle award, which is how I voted. His offensive game improved as well this past season but he did a lot of other things this season that helped the Patriots have a strong front court. 

2012 Offensive Player of the Year: Ryan Pearson

-CAA Player of the Year and one of best seasons in program history. Pearson was also an honorable mention on the AP All-American teams.

2012 Defensive Player of the Year: Mike Morrison

-Really picked up his game this year on both ends of the court. Helped make the Patriots front court the best in the CAA by improving his overall toughness.

2012 Rookie of the Year: Erik Copes

-Didn't play as much as fellow freshman Corey Edwards but certainly made an impression when he did. Mason fans are looking forward to three more years of his toughness around the rim.

2012 Guard of the Year: Sherrod Wright

-A lot was expected of Wright this season and for the most part he delivered. Next season he should be a more consistent scorer for the Patriots.

2012 Forward of the Year: Ryan Pearson

2012 Walk-on of the Year: Jacob Hoxie

-Looks like Jordan Bairds singing talents couldn't save him here. 

2012 Hustle Award: Mike Morrison

-The closest of all the awards. Morrison received 23.88% of the votes with Sherrod Wright and Ryan Pearson receiving 16.42% and 15.92% respectively.

2012 Individual Performance of the Year: 2/14/12 - Sherrod Wright Game-winning three-pointer over VCU

-No brainer this was the highlight of the season for George Mason. Certainly fans would have enjoyed a different type of highlight in the post-season but this was still the peak. Hopefully this is just the beginning of game-winners from Wright.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

GW's AD says Atlantic 10 additions could be announced within a month or two

Today there was a statement from an Atlantic 10 athletic director about the conference remaining strong after Temple's departure. George Washington's AD Patrick Nero had this to say to the GW Hatchet:
“I think we all felt like the Temple departure was imminent, and so it’s almost like, whew, that’s over with. Time to move on,” Nero said. “And so we’re moving on and I think within the next month or two, the conference will have some announcements that will show that we’ll be as strong as ever.”
A month or two still might be early for any CAA teams to make any sort of announcement, as we talked about the other day. Still though, his words seem to suggest that they already have confidence strong basketball programs are coming and this is right after this news broke. Certainly adding Butler, VCU, and George Mason would warrant a "as strong as ever" statement. And it makes you wonder what other programs he could be talking about if those new additions aren't from the CAA? This isn't over yet.

Join the discussion on this on the GMU Hoops message boards.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ryan Pearson is an honorable mention among the 2012 AP All-American teams

Great honor for Ryan Pearson as he was one of the honorable mentions listed in AP's All-American teams for 2012. I think the last time a George Mason player was an honorable mention was George Evans back in 2001. 

Tom O'Connor denies any Atlantic 10 discussions involving George Mason

George Mason athletic director Tom O'Connor issued a written statement today in regards to the George Mason to the Atlantic 10 rumors:
"George Mason University has not had any formal discussions nor have we been invited to join the Atlantic 10 Conference. As a founding member of the Colonial Athletic Association, we are proud of the CAA’s accomplishments and are committed to the success of the conference. The nature of college athletics dictates that we have to be aware of all the discussions that may be going on with conference membership issues on all levels. We have the responsibility to ensure that Mason is in the best position to continue the success of our athletic programs within the mission of George Mason University."
Steven Goff of the Washington Post later added this after he met with O'Connor:

VCU put out similar statements today, with the key word being "formal". O'Connor denies the school has discussed any conference movement that the A10 has not approached him or George Mason. A formal invitation has been issued but I think where there's smoke there's fire.

Michael Litos puts out that CAA teams are due money on June 30 for the conference's NCAA tournament units. This includes money still being redistributed among CAA teams for George Mason's Final Four run in 2006 and VCU's last year. So basically, don't expect anything to be said about leaving the CAA until July 1.

Jeff Eisenberg, of Yahoo Sports also has a good write-up on the situation from today.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

George Mason in discussions to join Atlantic 10 along with VCU and Butler

Looks as though the rumors of two of the CAA's finest possibly jumping ship to the Atlantic 10 are true. Brett McMurphy of is reporting that George Mason, VCU, and Butler (Horizon League) are in discussions to join the Atlantic 10 starting in 2013-2014:
"VCU, George Mason and Butler have had discussions with the Atlantic 10 and indicated to the league they have potential interest in joining for the 2013-14 school year, sources told

VCU and George Mason are currently in the Colonial Athletic Association and Butler is in the Horizon League. All three schools would need approval from their respective school boards to make the move.

Sources told that VCU's Board of Visitors already has had at least two meetings about making the move, while Butler has negotiated with representatives of the Atlantic 10 for the league to assist financially for the Bulldogs to change leagues."
Looks as though VCU is taking this very seriously, is Mason? I can't imagine George Mason not following VCU if they were first to bite on this offer. If VCU left and they didn't follow that would leave them with one less fellow non-football school in the CAA, which seems to be moving more of its attention towards football.

Keep this in mind though, George Mason and VCU seem to vary in how much they are willing to commit to athletics, especially men's basketball. VCU has gone all in since their Final Four run, where Mason didn't do all that much after there's. The results led to Jim Larranaga walking and Shaka Smart getting a big raise and better facilities. VCU has had remarkable attendance and George Mason's has been so low they refused, among other reasons, to host a CIT or CBI game this season.

Still the fact the remains that this move is an upgrade for the two CAA programs. The Atlantic 10 gets more recognition and gets more teams to the NCAA tournament annually than the CAA does. The move would make the Atlantic 10 a mini power conference capable of producing four or five NCAA tournament teams a year if not more.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Incoming freshman Patrick Holloway named to first team All-Met

By now you know about how great of a senior year Patrick Holloway is having, especially over these last two months. Today Holloway announced on twitter that he was named to first team All-Met. A tremendous honor given the talent in the area:

Previous All-Met players in George Mason's recent recruiting history include Jonathan Arledge (2010 third team), Cam Long (2007 first team), Vlad Moldoveanu (2007 second team), Folarin Campbell (2003 & 2004 first team), and Lamar Butler (first team 2001).

Congrats to Patrick.


The CAA should be better next season, but will George Mason?

With the CAA's success in the NCAA tournament in recent years, it is definitely a down year when the conference only sends one team to the dance. This wasn't the most memorable of CAA seasons but we saw a lot of young talent flourish throughout the year. Brian Mull who is a beat writer for UNCW does a break down of the returning talent for next season in the CAA and mentions that 10 teams will return at least six rotation players. Overall a lot of league's production, in terms of minutes and points, are returning. Mason has seven returning players but they account for only about 54% of the team's scoring, see Mull's chart below:

What the chart doesn't factor in is teams like Mason getting some players back from redshirt seasons. Forward Johnny Williams, who had a nice feature in Connect2Mason yesterday, is expected to be a solid rotation contributor and starter next season. It's difficult to project how much production freshmen Patrick Holloway, Marko Gujanicic and sophomore transfer Anali Okoloji will have next season but they are in this group as well. 

Who will void the bulk of scoring void left by Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison is going to be one of the biggest question marks heading into next season. Those two handled a ton of the team's possessions and players like Bryon Allen and Sherrod Wright are going to have to get used to taking more shots and overall taking charge of the team. Are they up for the task?

Mason went a whole season with Bryon Allen and Corey Edwards at the point guard spot and team averaged over 15 turnovers a game. As a team their assist-to-turnover ration was 0.85, for comparison VCU's was 1.06 and  Drexel's was 1.11. Cutting down on the turnovers has be one of the team's number one priority during this off-season. With a full season under their belts' Allen and Edwards are going to have to make big strides in their game if George Mason is going to be a top four CAA team again. 

On paper, Mason doesn't quite have the kind of experienced players needed to compete with VCU and Drexel next season. Ryan Pearson, whose scoring ability greatly masked some the Patriots' problems this past season, is gone and we will be looking at an entirely different offense next season. The up-tempo offense will be back in full swing, after the team seemed to taper off it early in the year when they were struggling. With Pearson gone, the team could be more balanced and I really doubt we will see any player average more than 15 points a game next year. And that's a good thing because if the Patriots are successful next season it won't be because they are overwhelming teams with their star players. Pearson carried this team with some great performances but I think at times it prevented others from getting into a rhythm on offense making them very one-dimensional.  

Biggest concerns that need to be addressed from what we saw this past season:

Ball control. At the beginning of the season they were atrocious at holding on to possessions and would often have games with 18+ turnovers. Bryon Allen had one year in high school where he played the point and freshman Corey Edwards was thrown into the fire early. Their progression from this past year will be vital to the team's success next season.

Perimeter defense. This was spotty all season long and it never seemed like they made teams uncomfortable like Drexel and VCU did. Overall they were adequate on defense enough to produce wins but a lot of it had to do with simply putting more points on the board than playing lock down defense. With Andre Cornelius gone, they don't really have an top on-the-ball defender with Vertrail Vaughns, Bryon Allen, and Sherrod Wright all being exposed at certain points of the season. Hewitt said he didn't want to run his 1-2-1-1 full-court pressure defense during the season because he didn't want to run Ryan Pearson down. Things will be different next year and the team should be better defensively with a different rotation.

Outside shooting. No team was afraid of George Mason's three-point shooting this past year and it limited what they could do on offense. Vertrail Vaughns didn't have a great year shooting the ball like most thought he would and Andre Cornelius seemed to get worse as the year progressed. Sherrod Wright is a very capable outside shooter but seemed to hesitate a lot during the year. Vaughn Gray showed a lot of promise and could be the answer here. As a team they are great to getting to the rim and getting opportunities at the free-throw line but they are lacking a sharp shooter. Incoming freshman Patrick Holloway has the skill set but usually high school shooters need some time to adjust to Division I and have trouble creating their own shot. He's also small for a two guard, which might make him a liability on defense in the early goings. With the offense moving away from the inside game they had with Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison, they will be more opportunities for guys like Vaughns, Wright and Gray to take outside shots and flourish.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Andre Cornelius arrested again

Andre Cornelius found his way on the police blotter again, this time being arrested for "possession of marijuana". The news comes the day after an ODU player was arrested during warm-ups before their CIT game against Mercer. Great end to the season for the CAA. Back in September of 2011, Cornelius was arrested for credit card fraud and was suspended by the school for ten games this season.

Yes, Cornelius is a senior and has exhausted all his playing eligibility, but let's just hope that another younger player was not involved in the incident or this might not be the end of the story.

The George Mason athletic department had this comment after I emailed them:
"We are aware of the incident and, at this time, have no further comment. Based on the police report, no other men's basketball team members were involved."

[via @Mason_Courtside, photo by John Powell]

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

George Mason recruit Patrick Holloway helps power Paul VI to first City Title

George Mason recruit Patrick Holloway has already proved he's a winner, hitting big shots in games here and here. Last night he hit three big shots to stop multiple rallies from Coolidge to help his Paul VI squad in Fairfax win their first ever Abe Pollin City Title. Holloway finished the game with 15 points and you have to enjoy seeing him continue to take big shots for his team, especially in front of a 4,000+ crowd. This shot, as described by SB Nation's Samuel Chamberlain is probably my favorite after watching Mason's three-point shooting this season:
"The second big shot, another three-pointer, came from behind the NBA line from the right elbow and made the score 53-42."
Let's hope he can adjust to the Division I level sooner rather than later in his freshman season because the team could use his three-pointer shooting right away. Something else encouraging to see is that Holloway seems to have done a better job creating his own shot. Some high school shooters have trouble creating for themselves once they move up to the college level, so watching him get shots around other future Division I players is great to see. Congrats to Patrick and Paul VI on an amazing season.

Don't forget to the vote in the 2011-2012 George Mason Post-Season Awards


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Your Post-Season Awards

While we look ahead to next season, let's take a moment remember the good moments from the 2011-2012 season. Take a few minutes and vote in the GMUHoops post-season awards, an idea I got from our friends over at VU Hoops. Be sure to vote in all the categories below. The "Hustle Award" should go to the player who has contributed the most hustle and energy to the team, think of a player who does the “little things” that don't always show up on a stat sheet.

Click here to continue reading

Paul Hewitt talks about scheduling on ESPN980

Yesterday afternoon George Mason head coach Paul Hewitt was on the ESPN 980's "March Madness Today Hour" show. Along with the NCAA tournament they also talk about a little bit about George Mason and Hewitt's first season here. The most interesting part of Hewitt being on the show is when they discuss scheduling and differences between the ACC and CAA. When the topic of scheduling local schools comes up Hewitt says he wants to play them and they are working with John Feinstein to play in the BB&T Classic again. Perhaps against Maryland? Hewitt ends it with saying it's a "we'll see what happens" type of thing. With Gary Williams no longer there you have to wonder if this might actually happen. Listen to the podcast below:


Also, some recruiting news that we came across today as it appears Hewitt and his staff have shown interest in a new point guard, per TheRecruitScoop:

This interest shows that like most of us fans, the staff probably isn't completely sold on either Bryon Allen or Corey Edwards running the point next season. Perhaps the staff is just doing their due diligence on a recruit that just hit the market again and nothing more. He says in this interview that he wants to play in an uptempo offense and be on a team that is on TV a lot. Hopefully the staff can sell him on the CAA's new NBC Sports TV deal! Also in that interview he states a lot of big time programs were looking at him and I'd have to figure most don't have a scholarship open for next season like Mason does. The Recruit Scoop also seems very high on him and says he does a good job getting his teammates involved, an area Mason was really lacking in point guard play this season. This could be an interesting development to follow but the bottom line is I don't see them using this last scholarship on a point guard.

UPDATE: I received word that the staff does not plan to offer Dickerson a scholarship.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What to expect from the redshirt players next season

The season is over for George Mason and that is a disappointment. However, 24-9 is hardly a terrible year for a program going through a transition with a new  head coach. We can play the "what if?" game all day long when looking back at this season but at some point it's time to move on and forward to the future of this program. Something I'm really interesting in seeing progress are the two players that had to sit out this season, Johnny Williams and Anali Okoloji. Williams took a redshirt year to recover from shoulder surgery from an injury he says he played through his freshman and sophomore year:
"I played through it freshman and sophomore year," said Williams, who has two years of eligibility remaining and is better known as J2 to his teammates. "It got really bad sophomore year. They were like 'Hey, you have got to get this taken care of or it's going to ruin your future.'
Williams now says his shoulder is 100% and he will certainly get an opportunity for a ton of minutes in the front court with Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison gone. We have seen flashes of his ability during his freshman and sophomore years and I think he be great complement to bruising forward Erik Copes in the Patriots front court.
Williams has dropped about 25 pounds, now weighing 245. "I'm jumping now a lot better," Williams said. "I'm running up and down the court faster. My shot is a lot quicker. Everything is progressing."
Okoloji is bit more an unknown to Mason fans, as they isn't a lot of tape on him from his freshman season at Seton Hall. Below is probably the only highlight you will find on him:

Okoloji didn't fit in Seton Hall's system, which was mostly half-court based: 

Okoloji, a 6-8 forward from Brooklyn, is sitting out the required season after playing last season for Seton Hall, where he appeared in 16 games, averaging 1.9 points and 1.0 rebounds a game. He decided to transfer after a postseason meeting with head coach Kevin Willard.

"The best decision for me was to go elsewhere and do really well," said Okoloji, a Sports Management major who has three years of eligibility. "Their style of play was more half court. Here it's more up and down. I kind of like that. It fit me perfectly."
He is definitely more of a Paul Hewitt guy, one who has size and a lot athleticism. Here is what Hewitt had to say about him:
Okoloji could give the Patriots versatility inside and out by playing more at the 3 spot. "Anali is a great athlete," Hewitt said. "I think you'll see us be more of an up-tempo team with his addition. In our pressure defense we can put him on the ball in our 1-2-1-1 full-court pressure. I think he can be an active, athletic guy.
Boy wouldn't it be great to see next year's team during more full-court pressing, especially considering we are used to watching other teams effectively do it to Mason? I love the idea of having a 6'8" guy like him at the 3 spot and helping the team play uptempo basketball. He will hopefully help fill some of the void left by Pearson who played both inside and out.

Johnny Williams will most likely be in the starting lineup from day one next season, perhaps with either Jonathan Arledge or Erik Copes. They will be a ton of question marks heading into next season, but Williams being able to come in and provide low post scoring and rebounding shouldn't be one of them. Copes is a much better shot blocker and rebounder and hopefully Williams can learn from his toughness around the rim.

Anali might have to earn his playing time against a bench of good shooters next season. Vertrail Vaughns, Vaughn Gray, and Patrick Holloway are all better shooters than him but Anali brings size and hopefully better defense. It will be interesting to see if plays a role like Paris Bennett did towards the end of the season but in more minutes. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

George Mason doesn't receive bid to NIT

Well we knew the Patriots had a slim chance of making the NIT this year, and all the regular season champions losing in their conference tournaments certainly didn't help. Athletic director Tom O'Connor stated the school wasn't going to participate in either the CBI or CIT tournaments so that season is officially over for Paul Hewitt and George Mason. The Washington Post has some quotes from Hewitt:
The Patriots’ chances were “a flip of the coin, at best,” Coach Paul Hewitt said Sunday night after watching the 32 teams unveiled.

“I started to feel uneasy the last few days with all the regular season champions getting knocked out,” said Hewitt, who had a 24-9 record in his first season at George Mason. “It seemed there were two every day.” 
 I know some fans think it's crazy that a 24-9 team isn't playing in any post season but most high mid-major and BCS schools view the CBI and CIT as a joke. Keep in mind the Patriots barely drew 2,000 fans when they hosted a CIT game in 2009, so O'Connor isn't making things up by saying it's not a financially good option for the program. The Patriots had a weak schedule this season, which wasn't Hewitt's fault considering that last coaching staff built this year's schedule. The CAA as a whole didn't do themselves any favors in the non-conference schedule and sadly it really hurt Drexel and Mason's postseason chances. Still  Mason missed key opportunities, especially in the preseason NIT and on the road against UVA. Also, had they had made the CAA finals, they might have had their named called for the NIT bracket last night.

And for the people that are saying all extra games benefit the young players is not something I necessarily agree with. This is going to be a completely different team next season, so playing another sloppy game this season with Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison hoisting up another 17-20 shots isn't going to help next year's team much. Three starters are gone and the front court will be completely different, plus you have two guys who sat out this season and two freshmen joining the rotation. 


Join the 2012 bracket challenge here. If you played last year you are already enrolled for this year's bracket selection challenge. The password is mason.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Update on George Mason's NIT hopes

From what we have seen this week in college basketball, George Mason's hopes at an NIT bid are still pretty slim. A lot more NIT autobids have been won and a few things need to happen for the Patriots to get in. However, Mike Scullin, who runs NIT-ology has George Mason currently as a 7 seed in the tournament. I used to poke fun at fans that were solely relying on this website to gauge Mason's chances, but turns out the Wall Street Journal did a piece on Scullin and he was 31 for 32 in his NIT picks last season. So as his updates continue keep his site bookmarked down the stretch tomorrow. Right now he currently has some BCS teams like VT and UCLA on the outside looking in, and from what we saw on last year's selection I don't know if as many mid-majors will be in the field as he currently has in. 

For everyone hoping for a Miami-George Mason NIT showdown, looks like it still is somewhat possible. Would have fun writing that game preview. I believe the NIT selections are announced Sunday night after NCAA tournament selection show, buts Mason might leak the news earlier.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

George Mason's chances of playing in the NIT are slim

The Patriots are now playing the waiting game and seeing what unfolds this week in college basketball to see if they will have a shot at the NIT or one of the third tier tournaments. Depressing, I know. However, don't think that the NIT is a lock for the team this year. The NIT gives autobids to teams that finished in first place in their conferences but don't make the NCAA tournament. So for instance Drexel would be given an autobid to the NIT if they don't get an at-large on Selection Sunday and Valparaiso lost in their championship last night and will get an autobid to the NIT. Every time this happens throughout the week it reduces George Mason's chance of being selected to the field. 

Currently George Mason's RPI is 79 (SOS 180) and their record is 24-9 (14-4 CAA). This article from a newspaper in Iowa shows the background of the last year's NIT qualifiers.
There were 18 at-large teams that qualified for the NIT. Here were their resumes (overall record, conference record, RPI) entering the 2011 postseason:

Alabama: 21-11, 12-4, 80
New Mexico: 22-13, 8-8, 66
UTEP: 25-9, 11-5, 59
Miami (Fla.): 19-14, 6-10, 73
Colorado: 21-13, 8-8, 65
California: 17-14, 10-8, 76
Ole Miss: 20-13, 7-9, 83
Colorado State: 19-12, 9-7, 50
Boston College: 20-12, 9-7, 58
Northwestern: 18-13, 7-11, 87
Wisconsin-Milwaukee: 19-13, 13-5, 92
Oklahoma State: 19-13, 6-10, 61
Harvard 23-7, 12-2, 35
Washington State: 19-12, 9-9, 82
Virginia Tech: 21-11, 9-7, 62
Wichita State: 24-8, 14-4, 60
Nebraska: 19-12, 7-9, 89
Dayton: 22-13, 7-9, 70

Of the 18 at-large teams, 11 came from the six power conferences (Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, SEC, ACC, Pac-12). The average RPI was 74. All of the at-large schools (except Harvard) were seeded fifth or higher. Of the 11 power-conference schools, only two (Ole Miss, Nebraska) didn’t host first-round games.
With a lot of mid-majors taking up bids automatically the committee doesn't seem like they are itching to give out more to others. Keep in the mind this tournament wants to make money like any other and BCS teams with less impressive profiles are still going to get in for TV ratings. This is another factor that hurts Mason's chances of being in the field.

As for the CIT and CBI tournaments, it is unclear whether or not the school would agree to pay to play in either once of those. Remember when they paid to host that disaster against Fairfield in 2010 CIT, which was the largest comeback by any team in March in Division I basketball history. Schools have to pay to host these tournament games, and as Ed Miller of the Virginia-Pilot notes the 24-team CIT's fee is $30,000 per game and the 16-team CBI is $35,000 for a first-round game, $50,000 for second, and $75,000 for the semifinals. With Mason's attendance down this season I really wonder if they will even consider paying to host one of these, especially when that CIT game against Fairfield only drew 2,062 fans to the Patriot Center.

UPDATE: AD Tom O'Connor says school won't pursue CIT or CBI tournament:

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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

George Mason's average attendance dropped 12.5% this season. Still drew more fans than Miami and Georgia Tech

Not a huge surprise to hear George Mason basketball's average attendance dropped this season, with Jim Larranaga leaving town, a weak schedule and some disappointing early losses in November. David Teel of the Daily Press wrote about ACC attendance numbers today and had some notes from other Virginia area schools pointing out some interesting observations. I think it's funny despite Mason's 12.5% decrease they still managed to draw more fans than their ex-head coach, who fled for Miami and Georgia Tech, the school from where their current head coach was fired.

George Mason

Last season: 5,896

This season: 5,161

Down: 12.5%


Last season: 4,763

This season: 4,248

Down: 10.8%

Georgia Tech

Last season: 6,095

This season: 4,929

Down: 19.1%

As a whole the CAA was down 4.7% in attendance this season and VCU was the only Virginia school in the conference to see an increase.

Monday, March 05, 2012

VCU eliminates George Mason from the CAA tournament once again

Don't try to blame this embarrassing loss on the fact that the tournament is annually held in Richmond. Mason didn't come out ready to play this game, something we have seen at many other times this season and VCU take advantage. This marks the sixth time since 2004 that VCU has eliminated George Mason from the CAA tournament. The game started off with a 22-0 run by VCU with Bradford Burgess dropping three-pointer bombs left and right. It got as bad as 32-4 and body language for the Patriots didn't look good. Mike Morrison helped rally the team and cut the lead down to 16 at the half, a minor miracle. His energy must have been infectious in the locker room because the Patriots did mount somewhat of a comeback in the second half. And they did have their chances to bring it to a one possession game but Vertrail Vaughns and Jonathan Arledge both missed key three-pointers down the stretch. I had in my tournament previews that this team would need to lean on their veterans players and Mike Morrison and Andre Cornelius helped make this game more respectable for Mason but Ryan Pearson was a total disappointment this weekend.

It was just amazing to watch how poorly Mason executed to start the game, turnover after and turnover, all of which VCU turned into points. Then they started hoisting up three-pointers, an area of the game they have been atrocious from all season. They really needed something more from Ryan Pearson as it was a sad way for the CAA player of the year to go out. I do applaud the team for not giving up and fighting until the end but it should never have come to this, especially in the conference tournament with the chance for an NCAA bid on the line.

The Patriots most glaring weakness this season was the struggles at the point guard position. Towards the end of this game Paul Hewitt had Cornelius bringing the ball up instead of Bryon Allen, something he hadn't done much at all this season. That doesn't bode well for the future at this position for George Mason. Corey Edwards played one minute last night, which was not encouraging. Bryon Allen is great scorer but I don't know if he is the answer at the point. Hewitt still has a scholarship available, might he bring in someone else?

Something positive to take from this weekend is what we saw out of sophomore Jonathan Arledge. He got a lot of minutes in this one with Erik Copes out due to a hip injury. We already know he has a decent outside shot but he showed some toughness inside against the Rams that I hope to see more of next season. 

Now Mason waits to see if they can earn a low seed in the NIT or entry into a third-tier post season tournament. To help cheer us all up let's watch the Green Machine play "Moves like Jagger" from this weekend:

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Saturday, March 03, 2012

George Mason escapes Georgia State, moves on to semifinals vs VCU

Ryan Pearson was just named CAA player of the year but you wouldn't have know it as Mason narrowly got by Georgia State 61-59. Pearson finished with 4 points and was mostly in foul trouble during this one. Mike Morrison and others stepped up in his absence. Sherrod Wright barely played in the first half but made all 10 of his points in the second half count. Credit the Mason guards with getting it done when they had to. They had their miscues all night but kept their composure when the team needed them. Bryon Allen made a reverse lay-up that turned out to be the game winner, while Vertail Vaughns help Mason regain take the lead in the second half. Also Jonathan Arledge was called upon with Pearson in foul trouble and he did very well in a tight game.

George Mason tightened up on defense in the second half and it fueled their comeback. They will need that defensive effort tomorrow against VCU. They also kept the turnovers to a minimum (13) despite Corey Edwards getting a lot of early time due to Bryon Allen being in foul trouble. Mason had to deal with players in foul trouble all night and towards the remaining minutes of the game both Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison were fouled out. Bryon Allen and the Mason guards showed up big when it counted and came out with the victory.

Mason can't beat VCU with Pearson only scoring 4 points and they will need to get Sherrod Wright more involved in the first half.  I have no idea why Sherrod played so little in the beginning of the game but they will need him Sunday afternoon. Despite some miscues by Corey Edwards Mason kept the turnovers to a minimum, can they do that again against VCU? Against the Rams they will need to get to the foul line more and have better shot selection.

As I mentally prepare for another game against VCU (in Richmond) watch Sherrod Wright's tomahawk dunk, followed Ryan Pearson's reaction:

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Previewing George Mason vs Georgia State in the CAA quarterfinals

TV: CSN+ find channel here

Time: 8:30 pm

Live Stats


Georgia State quickly dismantled Hofstra last night 85-50, in what was the largest margin of victory by any team in CAA tournament history. It has been a long and tough season for Hofstra but this was still an impressive game for Georgia State as they shot the lights out last night. Wouldn't you know it that George Mason gets paired in the same bracket pairing as the hottest team on Friday. 

Here is breakdown of their night:

-The Panthers shot nearly 60% for the game from the field.
-Scored 48 points int he paint, Eric Buckner had 21
-Scored 23 points off Hofstra turnovers
-And went 20-for-24 from the foul line

Combine that with their shifting zone defenses and this is George Mason's worst nightmare. Granted Mason isn't Hofstra but the Panthers played them tough back in early January at the Patriot Center. Ron Hunter's game plan against Ryan Pearson worked well and his defensive sets confused the Patriots all night long. That time the game was ugly but that won't necessarily be the case tonight. Forward Eric Buckner has been strong on the boards lately and he is a pivotal part to Georgia State's success. 

Here are the keys tonight for George Mason:

Go right at Eric Buckner. They need to get Georgia State's front court in foul trouble and get Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison going right from the start. Morrison had a good night against this team last time out because Pearson was getting so much attention. They need to make Buckner work all night, which will result in a lot of their shots being blocked, but also some easy trips to the foul line. Mason is deeper in the front court than the Panthers and they need to control the paint in order to win. 

Keep turnovers under 14. They cannot play as sloppy against this team tonight as they did back in January or else it will be a quick out for the Patriots. I'm sick of talking about turnovers but it's a reality we need to face for the rest of the the season. They have won a ton of games this season when they have kept the number under 15. Keeping it around 10 or so would be great but at this point I think that is wishful thinking. They need to make things easier for Bryon Allen and Corey Edwards, and get the ball out of their hands quickly before GSU's defense has a chance to set. Hofstra tried to run up and down the court on the Panthers last night and failed miserably. Mason will most likely try to do this as well but they need to be careful with distributing the ball.  

Pump up the up tempo offense. Too often this season other teams have forced Mason to play a half court game, using presses and other traps. They need to use their athleticism and run on this team tonight.  If they can do that they can take Eric Buckner out of the game. This also makes it a lot more difficult for the Panthers to get back in their defensive sets, where they are so good this year. Andre Cornelius, Bryon Allen, and Vertrail Vaughns are key here and they need to push the ball when they have the chance. 

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Thursday, March 01, 2012

Ryan Pearson is the 2012 CAA Player of the Year

Ryan Pearson was named the 2011-2012 CAA player of the year tonight at the annual awards banquet.  Pearson is the first George Mason player to win the award since George Evans won his third consecutive one back in 2001. Pearson received 28 of the 48 first-place votes from the panel, Drexel's Frantz Massenat came in second. Pearson was easily the most talented player in the league this season and it's tough to think George Mason would be a third place team in the CAA this season without him. Also considering the adversity he overcame as a child, this is a huge accomplishment. Congrats to Ryan as he is having an amazing season that hopefully will continue deep into March.

2012 CAA Tournament Primer for George Mason already had a nice highlight video of him up:

Watch his acceptance speech here:

CAA Tournament Primer: George Mason back to being the underdog

The expectations at the beginning of this season for George Mason were mixed. Despite losses of key players and their head coach, the media still tabbed them to finish second in the CAA. Some thought that was a generous pick and the team entered the season with many question marks. There were some disappointing losses to begin the year but then the Patriots seemed to find their stride under Paul Hewitt, winning 11 out of 12 from January 14 through February 18. But they ended the year with back-to-back road losses at Northeastern and VCU. Now no one seems to be giving them much of a chance in the CAA tournament this weekend and I think that's a good thing for this squad.  

There were many times during this season that George Mason needed to be humbled and kicked in the teeth. They seemed to play down to the level of their opponent and even look disinterested. Sometimes when it came close to happening early in the year they somehow pulled themselves out of the funk and escaped with a win. Perhaps they will be under less pressure this weekend coming off their recent losses and flourish in the underdog role. That may be expecting a lot, especially considering they will most likely have to go through VCU to get to the finals, but I think for this group the current situation they are in fits them better at this time.  Let's face it, when they have been the heavy favorite this year they haven't delivered. When they were supposed to thoroughly handle a team, they didn't, and often squeaked by. At this point all of their problems have been exposed and the coaching staff knows what needs to be done. Will the players step up to the task is the main question.

Something to keep in mind is that Mason still has a lot more tournament experience on their roster than most in the CAA. This is last chance for Ryan Pearson, Mike Morrison, and Andre Cornelius to make their mark as seniors. I doubt there is anything worse in their minds than ending their careers with another loss to VCU in the conference tournament again. VCU has eliminated George Mason from the CAA tournament five times since 2004.  

If they end up having to face VCU again this year in the semifinals they won't be any excuses.  Last year they only faced the Rams once in the regular season and thoroughly whooped them at the Siegel Center. Then Andre Cornelius gave them some great, pre-game bulletin board material and the rest is history.  Mason was riding the nation's longest winning streak before that loss and perhaps may have gotten a bit cocky, especially since they had just recently beat the Rams on their home court. This year the series was split during the regular season and even if the Patriots destroy either Georgia St or Hofstra in the quarterfinals, I doubt they will be the favorite against the Rams.

Photo by John Powell
I think it's safe to say the Patriots won't be cocky heading into this tournament but they certainly know they have the talent to beat any team in the CAA. A commitment to defense and disciplined basketball is what we need to see from them. I would also have to say that their bench play during this weekend is going to be as important to the team's success as say Ryan Pearson is.  They can't wait til the end for a Ryan Pearson or Sherrod Wright heroic basket. They need to take advantage of some of the talent they have on their bench because most teams in this conference aren't that deep.  It can be a long weekend for teams that lack depth and Mason can have real advantage if Vaughn Gray, Corey Edwards, and Sherrod Wright can hit shots from outside.  

Point guard play needs to be better

Something I hope the Patriots worked on in practice this week figuring out to keep Bryon Allen and Corey Edwards out bad situations at the point. VCU's pressing and traps worked too good at the beginning of the game last Saturday and Mason needs to help their younger guards move the ball better down the court.  It's been a problem all season and it is a big reason why their turnover numbers are so dreadful.  Obviously not all the turnovers are their fault but a lot of them can easily be prevented. The guards need to get the ball into the bigs in the paint because that's where Mason can take control. They are at their best when they are outscoring their opponents in the paint.

Ryan Pearson needs to do more than just score points

George Mason isn't a #3 seed without Ryan Pearson and he has almost single-handedly won the team some games this season.  At times they rely on him a little too much but his production speaks for itself this season.  A shame that he probably won't win the CAA Player of the Year award tonight, Drexel's Frantz Massenat seems to be the favorite, because he's certainly played good enough for it.  He has so many ways of getting to the basket but what the team really needs for him at this point is make better passes out of the post and to play better defense. These last two games have really shown how a team can beat Mason if they make Pearson play ends. It's obvious his offense can sputter when teams challenge him at both ends of the court.  Most teams don't have the luxury of doing that but it's that time of year when weaknesses can get exposed more frequently.  As for his passing, he needs to find the open shooter on the wing more.  Guys like Sherrod Wright and Vertrail Vaughns can get hot but they need someone feeding them the rock.  The Patriots attract a lot of attention down low, leaving these guys open but they have struggled to dish the ball to them.  Pearson touches the ball more than anyone besides the point guard and needs to be part of the solution for this.  

Mason's ability to win ugly, scrappy games this season could help them this weekend

I may be reaching with this one but consider this: March is full of ugly, close games and Mason has been in a ton of those this season, and won most of them. I think it's a key advantage for Mason that they have won in a variety of different situations this season. They can win despite turning over the ball 18 times and shooting under 45% from the field and they know how to grind out wins in choppy games. Sometimes the slower the game the better for Mason, despite their up-tempo style, because it means they are getting to the line more. Defenses are better at this time of year but games are still often won at the foul line. Mason can control games with strong play in the paint and getting to the foul line, even in the sloppiest of games.  


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