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

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

Friday, March 23, 2012

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.


Anonymous Spence said...

Please stop using 'we' in the article when referring to the team, You're a fan of the team not a player.

10:50 AM  
Anonymous AndyMinor said...

When does he do that? Only times he says "we" is in the editorial sense; I don't ever see him refer to himself as a member of the team.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous GMURULES said...

Spence, we is more than appropriate.  It is our team, we have players coming back, we should look good.  Dude does not portray himself as a player.  WE ARE GEORGE MASON!

11:22 AM  
Anonymous AndyMinor said...

I think you saw Hewitt give up halfway through the season and just let Pearson and Morrison run the team.  In a way he had to do that, because those two guys weren't going to put in the effort to learn a new system in less than a year.  What's promising is we only have 2 seniors on the roster next year, and they're both walk-ons, so the other players will know they need to get on the Hewitt train fast or it will quickly leave them behind.  I'm interested to see how he will fare without our 3 seniors, who didn't really fit with how Hewitt wanted to coach but were too sound offensively to ignore.  I think with a young, determined bunch we will see a team that didn't look so out of place with itself.  

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Eric said...

Ryan, you didn't mention Marko Gujanicic. He could be another outside shooter and maybe big-man ball handler vs. the press.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous gmuhoops said...

Ah yes, good call I did forget about him.

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Charlie T said...

Thanks for this. Again no matter what you say someone has to poke a hole in it but so be it. As for next year yes the league will be great. As for we,us or them GMU players should be gym rats during the summer. VCU went to some war camp or whatever and acted like it. Why them as an example. Well they should have been in the sweet 16. I could be wrong and am often but all most fans want is for the team to show up in mental and physical shape plus have a bit of a chip on their shoulder.
203 days I think.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous gmuhoops said...

Brace yourselves guys, Lamar Butler is tweeting Paul Hewitt is heading to SMU:!/Butler2two

2:28 PM  
Anonymous gmuhoops said...

Well nevermind, he just now tweeted that Hewitt called him and said he was staying.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Taylormade703 said...

I don't know why we couldn't do a 1-2-1-1 press.  I ran that press in HIGH SCHOOL!  All the back person does is not let anybody behind him.  That's it.  Nothing else.  Nada.  You could put Pearson or whoever back there and they would just stand.  The other 4 players do all of the work basically.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous Taylormade703 said...

Nobody is saying "we" like they are a member of the team.  But we all went to Mason, or are at least fans.  I think "we" is fine.  It's like saying "we're going to beat the Cowboys on Sunday."  Nobody here thinks they are actual players for Washington.  You're cool, Ryan.

3:31 PM  
Anonymous harri said...


11:22 PM  
Anonymous Mooky_l3d said...

We we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we (insert Geico Pig) we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we we  we we we we we we ARE GEORGE MASON !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Get a clue and a grip!  

GO MASON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

8:52 AM  

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