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Game Preview: George Mason at Bucknell

George Mason Basketball: Game Preview: George Mason at Bucknell

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Game Preview: George Mason at Bucknell

It's weird to think that a Patriot League opponent will be a more difficult game for George Mason than an ACC one was, but that is the case heading into tonight's game. Unlike UVA, Bucknell has a legit NBA prospect, 6-11 center Mike Muscala, and aren't hampered by injuries and suspensions. The Bison return four starters from a team that won 25 games last season and beat Arizona, at Arizona, in the NIT. This first road test for Mason will be an important one to see if this team has really gotten rid of the turnover bug and learned to play more disciplined on defense. We saw them force their tempo on UVA and press well on defense. That all needs to continue against Bucknell, as the Bison are brimming with confidence after opening the season with a win on the road at Purdue. 

Last season Mason defeated Bucknell at home in a close game. The Bison had trouble containing Mason's guards Sherrod Wright and Bryon Allen. However, Cameron Ayers had an incredible shooting night (5-8 on three-pointers) that nearly helped Bucknell escape with a win. Muscala didn't have a huge game but he owned the boards, something Mason will have to make a priority in this one. 

Bucknell has had the same front court for the last two years, while Mason is putting together a new one this year and missing a key piece in Erik Copes. The match-up of Mike Muscala against George Mason's front court could be the key thing to watch in this one. Muscala tends to get to the line often and he makes teams pay from there. This could be an issue for Mason if guys like Marko Gujanicic, Johnny Williams, or Jon Arledge get into early foul trouble. UVA didn't have a real threat in the front court so this will be a big swing in game 2 for the Patriot forwards. The most important thing in this front court battle will be rebounding. Mason struggled to get the edge against UVA and they can't let Bucknell get too many second chances. This is where Mason really misses Erik Copes in the middle; Johnny Williams just has to be tougher inside.

Another area Mason struggled in their opener was at the free-throw line. They did end the game on a strong note and made the key ones to end the game but it was still an issue. I bring this point up because Bucknell get to the line a whole lot against Purdue and went 20-for-25 from there. Mason has to be disciplined on defense and not turn this into a battle at the line, it's not their game. Making a fast paced game and using their bench is a something Paul Hewitt will try to dictate from the start.

Remember when I talked about guys like Anali Okoloji and Marko Gujanicic being x-factors? Well this game is a perfect example of where they can create mismatches. Bucknell runs a three guard, forward, and center lineup and they don't have much backing it up. Mason has a size advantage and the athletic advantage at the wing. I think Marko and Anali will create big problems for the Bison if they continue to hit outside jumpers and do some dirty work inside. Both were all over the court on Friday night and will give Bucknell real problems on both ends if they continue that.

What this game will come down to is if Mason can once again force the tempo and their brand of basketball on to another team. This will be more difficult without being in front of a sellout crowd at the Patriot Center and they will need to once again limit the turnovers and make smart decisions. They are facing a team that doesn't make many mistakes and rebounds at a high rate. Mason can take advantage with mismatches at a few spots and scoring in a variety of different ways. They won't have as good a shooting night as they did against UVA and they will have to make up for that by hitting their free-throws and getting points in transition.

Note: This game is not televised tonight but you can purchase streaming options on Bucknell's website. As always I will post any other streams I find on twitter.

Game discussion 

Kenpom prediction: Bucknell 71 George Mason 63



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