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George Mason Basketball

George Mason Basketball: February 2012

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pre CAA Tournament links

-Drexel suspends starter Derrick Thomas, will miss CAA tournament. This is huge because the Dragons only go 7 deep and  Thomas was often matched up on defense against the opponents best perimeter player.

-Hewitt forging new path at George Mason [Atlanta Journal-Constitution] -- The news outlet that continually bashed him while he was at Georgia Tech.

- 7 out of 13 ESPN experts pick Ryan Pearson for CAA Player of the Year

-Michael Litos from caahoops.com fills out his CAA bracket predictions:



-CAA Notes: League happy with Richmond Coliseum for now [Richmond Times Dispatch]

-Bill Rohland interviews Rudolph Jones, one of the first George Mason basketball stars [GoMason.com]

-George Mason recruit Patrick Holloway was on ABC 7 on Tuesday night:
 

-Cinderella Madness: How would the '05-'06 George Mason team stack up against other memorable Cinderella teams? WhatIfSports.com and CollegeHoops.net run the simulations.


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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

George Mason recruit Patrick Holloway hits another game-winning shot

Back in late January, George Mason recruit Patrick Holloway hit a game-winning shot against DeMatha in a huge win for his Paul VI squad. Well last night he did it again against DeMatha and this time it helped his school with their first ever WCAC title. Holloway again came up back in an important game for his team in front of a crowd of 3,400 at American University's Bender Arena. The kid definitely has ice water in his veins and that is a trait you can't coach.

DMV Elite has the highlights from the game. Holloway is number 10 in white and you can watch his game-winning shot at the 4:22 mark:

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Something has to change or it will be a short weekend in Richmond for George Mason

This is not how George Mason wanted to be playing before heading into the post season.  This season has been full of ups and downs but now the Patriots find them in a position redeem themselves this weekend at the VCU Invitational CAA tournament. But they won't get very far in the tournament if they play anything like what we have been seeing in these last two games.  The good news is that the loss to VCU on Saturday doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things. The Patriots would have still been on the same side of the CAA tournament bracket pairings regardless of who won that game and they still have the to win the conference's auto-bid to get to the big dance. The question is can the Patriots shrug off these losses and play disciplined, sound basketball in Richmond?

They had a really difficult time with VCU's trap and could not seem to match their intensity. Towards the end of the game they were better on defense but they needed to play with that energy for a full 40 minutes. Their reputation of "sleep-walking" through the beginning of games was very evident on Saturday.  Teams that win in March play good defense and it needs to be what the Patriots are focusing on this week.

There are a number of things Mason needs to straight out before they head to Richmond and I'm not just talking about turnovers.  We've beaten to death the turnover issue this season, and since it's hasn't changed much to date, don't expect it to magically disappear this weekend.  They've still have won a ton of games despite their turnover percentage. The more pressing immediate issue is stopping the opposing team's hot shooter.  Over the last two games the opposing team's leading scorer had 27 and 31 respectively and combined for 30-for-34 at the free-throw line. This is beyond ridiculous and it exposes how Mason's defense can unravel. It is difficult to win when you hand the ball over to the other team constantly and then give them countless attempts at the free-throw line.  

The Patriots offense hasn't been the problem and even though VCU kept landing hay-makers on Saturday they didn't give up in trying to mount a comeback. Mason has the talent to mask some of their problems and we've seen this be the case in numerous games this year. The problem is they continue to shoot themselves in the foot during their runs when they are down by not doing their part on defense.  They don't keep guys off the perimeter and give way too many open looks.  And then when they don't give up the open looks, they will bail the other team out by fouling. It just comes down to discipline on the defensive end.  Bryon Allen and Corey Edwards aren't going to become floor generals overnight but the team can play improve on defense this weekend.


[Photo via vcuramnation.com]

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

George Mason ends regular season with disappointing loss at VCU

The Patriots are limping into Hothe post season after a second straight loss. Last night Mason never came close to the Rams' high octane energy in Richmond. The game started off with some controversy after the Mason players started warming up on the court during Bradford Burgess' senior ceremony. Totally classless by the Mason players and it gave VCU even more fuel. For the actual game, I'm not sure what Paul Hewitt's gameplan was in this one as they looked like they had never seen a trap before or the Rams aggressive defense. VCU's defense prevented Mason from during pretty much anything they wanted to on offense. Mason has gotten by this year because of talent but they needed a strong gameplan in this one and didn't get it.

They didn't stop VCU's perimeter game despite having a decent night shooting themselves. The Rams won the battle at the free-throw line which looked similar to their loss against Northeastern. In the end the Rams' "havoc" on defense controlled the game and the Patriots had no answer while being frustrated all night.

Now Mason plays the winner of GSU/Hofstra game on Saturday at 8:30 pm in the CAA tournament.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Previewing the regular season finale at VCU

TV: ESPN2, 6 p.m.

The Patriots finish up the regular season in Richmond against VCU, where they will be headed right back to in a week for the CAA tournament.  The loss to Northeastern on Wednesday night prevented Mason from any chance of getting the #1 seed in the tournament and now the winner of tomorrow night's game will determine the #2 and #3 seeds. Keep in mind that the #2 and #3 seeds can meet in the semifinals if both win their games on Saturday during the tournament, so it's very likely the Patriots will yet again face VCU in the semis. 

Mason played of their better games of the season against VCU and you have to think they will be "up" for this one after coming off an embarrassing loss to Northeastern on the road. Last season they stunned the Rams at the Siegel Center with a 71-51 win but then got manhandled by them in the conference tournament a few weeks later. The situation of seeing them again in the CAA tournament is very likely and at least this year we will have more tape on the teams against each other. The result of the game might not mean that much considering they will most likely need to beat them again in a week but a win would certainly give them some much needed confidence heading into the conference tournament.  

To win on the road against VCU the Patriots will need to do what they did in Fairfax last week plus a little more.  The Rams still forced a lot of turnovers but Mason didn't let them go on any sort of run.  Ryan Pearson did a great job on the boards and they will really need that again.  Mike Morrison wasn't much of a factor and that is something they just can't afford on the road.  The one positive from that Northeastern game was how Morrison looked assertive in the paint, let's hope he's pumped up for this one.  

With that said here are the keys to the game for George Mason:

Keep the turnovers to around 10-13:  I don't think Mason can win turning over the ball 16 times again against the Rams. They got away with it at home but on the road in a packed house against the thieving Rams defense is a totally different story.  There were some awful turnovers, a lot by Bryon Allen, on Wednesday night and it will be interesting to see if Corey Edwards handles the ball a bit more in this one.  Allen's been getting more minutes at the point but he and Edwards both have questionable decision making late in games.  The Rams will attack this and how the Patriots respond could be the difference in the game.  Getting the ball out of their hands quickly and into the post or to shooters on the wing should a focus for them.

Win the battle at the free-throw line: The Patriots definitely lost this battle on Wednesday night and let dumb, ticky-tack fouls prevent them from getting into any sort of rhythm on offense.  Usually they are better than that and make their opponents pay for sending them to the free-throw line.  They didn't do enough of this against VCU last week. Sherrod Wright and Ryan Pearson only combined for seven FT attempts in that game and they need to get there more to slow down the momentum the Rams can get while playing at home.   With Paris Bennett playing more recently, the Patriots have a deeper bench and getting the Rams into foul trouble could be a huge advantage for Mason in this one.

Get Sherrod Wright involved early: The Huskies provided VCU with a great blueprint for slowing down Ryan Pearson. They frustrated Mason all game long and the Rams are even more capable of doing this.  Pearson often gets off to slow starts early in road games and Mason needs to make sure other players are getting involved.  Too often this year Sherrod Wright hasn't gotten going til the second half, especially when Pearson is getting a lot of attention.  Andre Cornelius has not been much of a factor on offense recently and Vertrail Vaughns has been a streaky shooter all year.  They need to run plays, set screens, and do whatever they need to get Sherrod Wright more looks.  This is going to Mason's toughest road game of the season, and the Rams have a way of forcing a team out of their usual flow, making Wright's impact even more important for the Patriots.

[Photo by John Powell]

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

George Mason and VCU to the A10 talks heat up again

Back in October we talked about how the Atlantic 10 conference expressed informal interest in adding both George Mason and VCU as members, citing an article from the NY Times. Now with Temple on it's way out of the A10 and moving to the Big East, or should we say Gigantic East, talks of the conference adding new basketball members have started up again.  Per the Philly Inquirer:
"Obvious A-10 targets to replace Temple would include George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth, two schools that reached the Final Four in the last six years out of the Colonial Athletic Association. Maybe the biggest target would be Butler, a Final Four participant the last two years out of the Horizon League."
George Mason and VCU seem like very obvious targets to me, considering neither has football and both have proved they can do more than just compete in the NCAA tournament. Personally I would love the move if it happens, especially since the CAA is slowly becoming more about football each year, and this season has proved that the conference getting multiple bids isn't always going to be a lock. Having Xavier, Dayton, Saint Joseph's, and Richmond regularly on the schedule would be a huge boost for Mason and VCU and definitely help their chances going to the big dance each season. And oh boy, what if Butler was added too?

We will have to wait and see what happens because it is all just speculation now and perhaps athletic director Tom O'Connor has no intentions of accepting any possible invites. However with the school showing no initiative towards starting football, I can't imagine during down an invite would make much sense.

George Mason falls to Northeastern in overtime

Another sloppy game for the Patriots last night, but this time they couldn't find the needed heroics to come away with the victory.  There were 41 fouls and 43 total turnovers in this game, with the Huskies killing the Patriots at the foul line.  If you need to see how badly they had the advantage at the free throw line just look at the four factors chart below. Junior guard Jonathan Lee had a career-high 27 points, most of which he got at the free-throw line (18-20 from FT). It was astonishing to watch how many times the Patriots sent this kid to the line, over and over again. Some of the fouls on Lee late in the game were above the three-point line, which was just ridiculous in a close game. In the second half, that coupled with sloppiness on defense prevented them from going on any kind of run. Despite Mason's miscues they managed a new season-high for assists in a game, 24. Bryon Allen dished out 13 them but also had a team-high six turnovers.  Two of his erratic passes towards the closing moments of game were devastating to Mason and basically ended the game for them.  I would not be surprised if this spurs Corey Edwards to handle the point more against VCU on Saturday.

Offense wasn't the problem last night, but efficiency on defense was.  The sloppiness snowballed and you could see the demeanor of the team was declining late in the second half. As the frustration mounted the shot selection suffered.  Aside from big three-pointers by Vertrail Vaughns and Ryan Pearson, the Patriots were lucky to make it into overtime.  Northeastern's defense would constantly collapse on Pearson and would not let him get into a rhythm. Mike Morrison took advantage but in the end it just wasn't enough. The Huskies beat the Patriots at their own game, getting to the free-throw line often and converting in transition.  

Not what we had hoped to see from Mason at this point in the year, especially with the battle for the #2 seed happening this Saturday at VCU and the CAA tournament beginning a week from tomorrow.  This team has been difficult to get a read on all season but it's not like most of us didn't see this loss coming.  The writing has been on the walls for awhile now with amount of turnovers and lapses on defense we have seen this year.  Will this loss be the final gut check for this team, or is it too late for that? Certainly a win against VCU on Saturday will make us all forget about this game but you still might have that feeling that any CAA team can beat us in the conference tournament, and that's unsettling. Some are saying this officially ends the at-large talk, but I don't believe this team should have been in that "talk" anyway.  I'm more concerned with that how this team will do in Richmond next weekend and it we saw anything again like we did last night it's going to be an early exit for the Patriots.

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On a side note, I think it's time to retire the black jerseys. Mason is 0-2 this season with them, with the other loss coming against UVA back in December.  Someone correct me if I am wrong but I think these are the last four results of the team wearing black uniforms:

2/22/2012 - Loss at Northeastern 85-82 OT
12/6/2012 - Loss at UVA 68-48
3/23/2004 - Loss at Oregon 68-54 (NIT)
3/8/2004 - Loss to VCU 55-54 (CAA finals)

Let's stick with the green and gold.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Previewing George Mason at Northeastern

TV: ESPN3.com or watch free live stream here

The ever important rematch against VCU is set for this Saturday but the Patriots travel to Boston to take on Northeastern first tonight.  Mason is riding a five game winning streak while the Huskies are 1-5 in their last six games with the lone win coming over Towson.  They don't play the best defense in the CAA but are a fairly good shooting team and are capable of knocking down threes in bunches.  In their last game against Stony Brook last weekend they went 10-for-17 from behind the arch.  Mason has only won once out of four recent visits to the Matthews Arena and can't afford to stumble now while trying to stay hot before the CAA tournament.  

Guarding the perimeter is a must, and keeping junior guard Joel Smith from getting hot should be a priority.  The Patriots will have an easy time working the ball inside the paint and getting to the free-throw line.  The Huskies are sending opposing teams to the line more often than not and Mason will take advantage of this.  We don't want to see the Patriots take their foot off the gas pedal and want them to keep the momentum going from their recent strong play.  Ryan Pearson and Sherrod Wright should again lead the way on offense while the team will hopefully have another night where they keep their opponent under 40% shooting.  On the year the Patriots are holding their opponents to 38.8% from the field, which is good for 19th best in the nation.  Defense wins games at this time of the year and that is area we definitely want to see Mason continue to excel on.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Listen to Paul Hewitt with the Junkies today on 106.7 The Fan DC

Here is the audio from Paul Hewitt's interview on the Junkies today, hope to see more of these in the future:

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Larranaga questions CAA teams' NCAA credentials

While it should be a surprise to no one that Jim Larranaga is actively pumping up his Miami team like he did for the George Mason, it is a bit of surprise that he is questioning the CAA's NCAA tournament credentials after spending years lobbying for the conference.  Now I don't disagree with the notion that the CAA doesn't have the resume as a conference to be in the conversation for at-large bids but did Larranaga really have to speak out like this while not even being a full year removed from the mid-major conference? Here is the transcript from the Daily Press:
Question: “You've been through the are they in, are they out talk before at George Mason. Just wondering how you address it, if at all, with your players?”  
 Answer: “No, we don't talk about it at all. I would say this, having been at the mid-major level for 25 years, and I still follow that closely, this has been a year where the non-conference performance of the high majors far exceeds what the mid-majors were able to do. “There have been years — and last year was one of them — where the mid-majors’ performance was outstanding. With the expansion of the field from 65 to 68, a couple of more mid-majors were able to get in. In this particular year looking at their non-conference performance, it would appear to me that those spots should be reserved for the high majors who played a much more difficult non-conference schedule and were far more successful than any of the teams in the mid-majors. “I think you see that if you watch the BracketBuster this past weekend, a lot of the so-called quality teams, highly regarded, didn't do that well.” 
Question: “Would you be saying the same thing if you were sitting back there at George Mason at 14-2 in the CAA though?” 
Answer: “Yeah, but if you look at their non-conference strength of the schedule, it's in the 300s. That's not the resume that the committee has looked for over the years. You look for people who have really challenged themselves in the non-conference. And not only challenged themselves, but did pretty well. “If your strength of schedule is 200 and below in the non-conference, as a committee, you look at that and say, ‘Well, you know what have they proven?’ They can win games against weak opponents, but there's no weak opponents in the NCAA tournament. Those are the teams that even the automatic qualifiers from a weaker league have had to win a lot of games to put themselves in a position to win the tournament and be in the and the at-larges are basically the next 37 strongest teams. “If you look at the field overall, it's rare anybody's RPI is below 40 to 50. I think the lowest ranked RPI team to get in last year was VCU with 49. So if you look at the RPIs right now, there are not a lot of mid-major teams that have played a very strong non-conference and performed well. They might have won games, but still their strength of schedule is in the 200s, and 300s, and their RPIs are in the 100 to 150. That's not a resume for the NCAA tournament.”
What he is saying in general about the CAA is definitely true as it's not a banner year for the conference, especially non-conference schedule wise. But saying it's a down year for mid-majors as a whole just isn't true.  As writer David Teel states the top 35 of the RPI is full of mid-major programs.  Larranaga saying CAA at-large possible teams have non-conference strength of schedules in the 300s is also just not true. VCU's is 171, Drexel's is 235 and Mason's is 239, so he could have at least gotten the facts straight before sounding off on his former conference. Let's not forget that about 90% of Mason's non-conference schedule for this season was put together by him and his staff and he knows how difficult it can be to get quality teams on the slate. And saying it's rare for teams with RPIs outside of 40-50 to get at-large bids is funny when Teel points out that last season Michigan (52), Florida State (55), Clemson (57), Marquette (64), and Southern California (67) all received bids. And lastly not sure why he thinks teams with an RPI in 100-150 range are being considered for an at-large berth, no one is saying they are. That just came off as a nonsense filler statement trying to belittle the mids and speak highly of the BCS conferences.

Back in 2010 he was actively saying the tournament should be expanded to let in more mid-majors:
“I would say that if they’re going to expand, it has to be to get more of the midmajors in,” Larranaga said in a phone interview. “They just don’t get a chance to play the high-major opponents on a neutral floor.”
Of course Larranaga is going to campaign for this team but I think he could have just kept his mouth shut on the negative stuff he had to say about mid-majors and the CAA.  

Sunday, February 19, 2012

George Mason holds off Lamar in Bracketbusters game

George Mason had another game yesterday where they let a big lead shrink in the second half and somehow found a way to keep things interesting late in the game. Mason was firing on all cylinders as they built up a 17 point lead in a game that started out with hot shooting and no defense on either side.  VCU buzzer-beater hero Sherrod Wright came off the bench and sank a three-pointer on his first attempt, picking up right where he left off.  However the turnovers and poor shot selection towards the end of the game once again nearly doomed the Patriots.  Sure this game didn't have the feel of a VCU or ODU but it would have been nice to see them have a killer instinct and put a team away early.  But the Patriots come away with the win again and are currently on a five game winning streak and staying on a roll at this point in the season is very reassuring.  

Mason shot the ball very well despite surrendering their big lead.  They shot 68% in the first half and 57% overall for the game.  It seems as though the Patriots sometimes just get too comfortable when they jump out to big lead and start to coast.  Maybe they just like to keep things interesting for all us fans.  We did however see a better three-point shooting day from Mason then we are accustomed too. Wright and Cornelius combined for five three-pointers, something I hope we can more of before this season is over.  

The three seniors were honored and each of them had a good game.  Ryan Pearson picked up another double-double and had a great day on the boards, while Mike Morrison get things going early in the paint.  Andre Cornelius had the most impressive game we have seen from him in awhile but only played 14 minutes.  Sherrod Wright has obviously earned the playing time but I still think Cornelius is going to have to be a big factor if this team wants to be playing meaningful basketball after March 5.  

[Photos by John Powell]



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Friday, February 17, 2012

George Mason home opener for 2012-2013 will be UVA on November 9

Emails were sent to season ticket holders today, letting them know if they renew for two years now they will be able to "purchase additional tickets for opening night versus UVA", which is set for Friday, November 9, 2012. This is the best home opener George Mason has had since Wichita State came to Fairfax in 2006. UVA's current RPI is 42, and they have a lot of talented freshmen coming in next season. They won't have Mike Scott or Sammy Zeglinski (who killed us this year) but they will still be a strong team on the Patriots non-conference schedule. You can bet they won't be wearing the black alternate unis for this one.

Keep in mind they will play four games in the Paradise Jam tournament November 16-19, with a field that includes UConn, New Mexico, and Iona.

Also, here is the CAA tournament seating chart if you plan on going to Richmond this year.


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Paul Hewitt talks about George Mason's success on CBSSports radio

Today Paul Hewitt talked with CBSSport's Jon Rothstein about George Mason's season so far and the CAA:

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Previewing George Mason's Bracketbusters game against Lamar

This year's Bracketbusters game doesn't have the same excitement that sometimes goes with the event.  A win tomorrow against Lamar from the Southland conference doesn't do much for the Patriots overall resume. Some media members are still holding on to hope that the CAA has a chance for an at-large bid this year but the numbers are against them. The main thing is that this is the last home game for seniors Ryan Pearson, Mike Morrison, and Andre Cornelius.  A class that has seen some great success over their four years. Back when they were sophomores and Kevin Foster was still here they referred to themselves as KRAM and even had their own spotlight on Comcast Sportsnet. Their ending hasn't been written yet and another trip to the NCAA tournament is certainly the way this group deserves to goes out on.  

Lamar is a small team that has balanced offense, while being coach by Pat Knight, who is legend Bob Knight's son. They get to the free-throw line at a higher rate than Mason, which is a lot. Couple that with the fact that they grab a ton of offensive rebounds and you can see this is a team Mason shouldn't take lightly.  While averaging more than 75 points a game they are more accustomed to higher scoring affairs than some of the other teams Mason has faced this season.

What we are looking for here is for Mason to build off their win over VCU and continue to roll.  At this point it would certainly be reassuring to see them blow out someone, anyone.  A dominating performance even at home, gives me more confidence in this team going to Richmond a week from tomorrow beating VCU again. This is the time of year where the teams that start to get hot do well in the postseason.



Also here is a nice feature on guard Jordan Baird with some cool behind the scenes footage of the team this year.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Is Sherrod Wright becoming the player we hyped him up to be?


Before the season started, we had high hopes for Ryan Pearson and what he was capable of doing for this team.  But with Cam Long and Luke Hancock gone we didn't quite know what to expect from back court. A lot of us, including myself, penciled in Sherrod Wright to quickly bounce back from his shoulder injury that sidelined him all of last season, and fill the scoring void.  It was an unfair expectation for a guy who had missed an entire season and who was in a crowded back court his freshman year.  Nevertheless most of us expected big things from him, especially when he started off playing 39 minutes against Rhode Island in the first game of the season scoring 17 points, and then 16 in the next game against FIU. But after a hard fall against Monmouth in the NIT Tip-off, his production started to wind down.

Sherrod missed the next game at FAU due to the injury but returned for the Patriots as they faced a group of weaker non-conference opponents.  At this point Andre Cornelius was still serving his suspension and Wright was getting close to 30 minutes a game.  His production was still going strong, then the Patriots suffered a  disappointing loss to UVA on the road and things changed. In a game that was there only chance to grab a marquee win on the non-conference schedule the Patriots were flat and Wright finished with seven points.  That game was the start of a downward trend for him as he didn't reach double figures in scoring for more than a month after that.  From December 6 through January 12 he averaged only five points a game and was replaced in the starting lineup by Andre Cornelius.  

Since being replaced in the starting lineup he has been averaging about 11 points a game, which has included second half performances against JMU, Hofstra, UNCW, and VCU that were a huge part of the team's victories. Ryan Pearson may be the team's go-to guy but Sherrod Wright is quickly turning into Mr. Clutch. Even before his heroic shot against VCU he has been giving this a team a huge lift off the bench late in games. He was in a slump and is now thriving in his role as the team's sixth man. 

Mason needs Wright to keep this up as games are going to continue to be tight from here on out. Defenses will tighten up, especially in the CAA tournament and beyond, and the Patriots need a go-to man in the back court. His conference leading free-throw shooting and ability to get to the line is a big asset for this team moving forward. The VCU game still has us all on a high but I won't let that cloud my judgement that I believe Wright's best games are still ahead of him.  

[Photo by John Powell]

Erik Copes' monster block against VCU

The only video I could find on this was from George Mason's athletic site, and it's not the best quality and is hard to follow. However, I felt think this deserved its own post, a huge block by freshman Erik Copes that gave the Patriots a spark, then followed by him saluting the fans. Full highlights from the VCU game can be found by clicking the Video tab above. 

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[Video from George Mason Athletics, GoMason.com]

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sherrod Wright's buzzer beater lifts George Mason over VCU



I'll admit it, I called it game over late in the second half when the Patriots coughed up the ball at a critical moment.  I should have realized that this Mason team is prepared for a game just like this. Ugly, scrappy, and gritty right until the end, with the occasional big shot here and there. The Rams kept making free-throws during the final minute, then Ryan Pearson hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to two.  Follow that up with a Vertail Vaughns three-pointer, boy did he pick a good night to make a comeback, and Mason was within one.  Briante Weber went to the foul line and missed the first. Pearson was the inbound passer after Weber made the second and tried to get it into Bryon Allen who was covered. Tip-toeing down the baseline he almost stepped over the line before he hurled the ball into Sherrod Wright. The rest is history as Wright was the hero again. Last week I called him "Mr. Under 5-minutes", now I think just plain "Mr. Clutch" will do.

Here are four different angles of Wright's game-winning shot from CSN:



Ryan Pearson and Vertrail Vaughns really kept Mason in this game despite a night full of mistakes.  Seniors Mike Morrison and Andre Cornelius were total non-factors, combining for three points.  Mike Morrison couldn't stay in the game and threw one of this patented temper tantrums after picking up his fourth foul in the second half. Luckily guys like Sherrod Wright were able to come off the bench and produce. Even Paris Bennett had his moments last night on the boards. Erik Copes also had two monster blocks taking full advantage of the extra minutes he received with Morrison in foul trouble.  



VCU got 10 steals last night and Mason turned it over 16 times.  Some were worse than others and I really thought it would be their undoing in the final moments of the game.  Corey Edwards dribbled into some bad situations but overall I thought he and Bryon Allen did a decent job running the offense.  



I don't think there is any doubt that Ryan Pearson is the CAA's best player. Going up against another CAA player of the year candidate Bradford Burgess, he simply looked like a man among boys durng key moments. Burgess hit some big shots last night but Pearson carried the Patriots and would not be denied.

[Photos by John Powell]
College Basketball

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Keys tonight for George Mason


It's the game we all circled on our calendars when the schedule was released, the first of two meetings between George Mason and VCU. We both teams involved in a three-way tie for first place with Drexel, it goes without saying that this game carries a lot of weight. I briefly talked about VCU yesterday but today I want to talk about what Mason needs to do to win this game. This should be the toughest game Mason has played all season because they haven't faced a team that can play defense like the Rams can.  They are one of the best teams in the country in forcing turnovers and turning them into points.  Very worrisome when you consider how many times a game the Patriots are turning it over.  On paper Mason looks like the stronger team with much better shooting and offensive numbers but a lot of what the Rams do well doesn't show up on a box score. Despite what their shooting numbers say they still have guys like Bradford Burgess and Troy Daniels who are both capable of hitting 5-7 three-pointers on any given night. At this point I'd give the edge in the back court to them and the edge in the front court to Mason.



Mason really has to impose their will in the paint area tonight. They really cannot afford to have Mike Morrison be a wallflower, both on the boards and on the scoreboard. I have no doubt he will be high-energy tonight and he will need to keep his composure.  Ryan Pearson will get a lot of attention tonight, and Shaka Smart's gameplan against him could have things starting off slow for #FeartheBeard.  If that happens, how Mason responds will go a long way into seeing who wins this game.

Keys tonight for George Mason:

Protect the ball: The most obvious key to tonight is how well the Patriots hold on to the ball against the thieving Rams. As I said yesterday they are #2 in the country right now in steals per game and are very good at turning them into points.  Bryon Allen and Corey Edwards will have their work cut out for them but it also comes down to guys like Ryan Pearson not making erratic passes out of the post.  The Rams turnover the ball a good amount themselves but Mason needs to keep the turnover margin in their favor to have a chance in this game. Will they try to keep the tempo down in this one? That will an interesting thing to keep on eye on.

Guard the perimeter: Bradford Burgess was 5-for-9 from behind the arch against ODU in the Rams latest victory and junior guard Troy Daniels is shooting above 38% from there on the season.  As a team they don't shoot much better from there than Mason but they have guys who are more likely to get hot from there. The most difficult thing for Mason on defense tonight will be getting back on defense in transition after a turnover and preventing the Rams from hitting a quick three-pointer. When the Rams get rolling that is what you can expect.

Keep doing what you're doing at the FT line: One of the Patriots biggest strengths this season is getting to the free-throw line and making their opponents pay for sending them there. Mike Morrison has improved recently from there and has gone 11-for-13 from the line in the last three games. Meanwhile Sherrod Wright, who leads the CAA in FT shooting percent (86.2) has gone 15-for-17 in the last four games and needs to keep doing what he's been doing late in the second half.  If VCU starts lighting up three-pointers, getting to the line might be the only way Mason can neutralize that. VCU might be just as athletic as Mason, but they don't get to the rim nearly as good. Mason can control the pace of the game by getting to the line and who dictates the pace could be very important tonight.

Rebounding: Another obvious key but more important tonight because the Rams take a lot of ugly shots.  Mason cannot allow them to grab offensive rebounds and must make them pay if they are having a poor shooting night.  Ryan Pearson, Mike Morrison, and Erik Copes need to own the paint tonight and that starts with rebounding.  The Patriots guards are better rebounders than VCU's and will need to step up tonight.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

NBC Sports and CAA announce new five year TV deal

NBC and the Colonial Athletic Association have announced today a new five year deal that starts next season for broadcasting games.  The full press release is here, and it states that their will be at least 12 games shown nationally on the NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) and 39 games will be shown regionally through CSN.  The CAA finals will no longer be on ESPN, which is an interesting move for the conference. Perhaps this means the date of the conference tournament might be moved, I always hated how early it was compared to others. It was early due to it being on ESPN so that could change for next year and hopefully the finals won't have to be on a Monday night anymore.

Overall I think the deal is good news but I'm guessing we won't see games on ESPNU and ESPN3 anymore. Games will still be on Comcast, which is great news for local area fans and the national coverage on NBC Sports Network could be a big lift for the conference. But aren't they losing a lot of viewers by ditching ESPN? ESPN's online distribution is growing and does the average fan even know channel NBC Sports Network is on their TV guide? Hopefully NBCSports.com will do a decent enough job streaming games and this could turn out to be something great for the conference. Also, CAA commissioner Tom Yeager said today that the conference will still participate in ESPN's Bracketbusters event. This deal is also only for CAA conference games, so MASN will still carry some of out of conference Mason games.

Here is the breakdown of outlets that will show Mason games starting 2012-2013:

-NBC Sports Network
-Comcast Sportsnet
-MASN
-ESPN-sponsored tournaments, also Bracketbusters
-NBC online

Not bad at all.

The main thing behind all this that the CAA currently only has eight national TV exposures and now they will have 12-18 which includes the semifinals and the finals of the CAA tournament. 

George Mason gets ready for a showdown with VCU



With George Mason's win over UNCW on Saturday they are now only one win away (or an ODU loss) from locking up a top three seeding in the CAA tournament. That will be easier said than done with their showdown with VCU tomorrow and a visit to Boston to take on Northeastern.  In their victory over UNCW the Patriots again turned another game into a squeaker as the Seahawks clawed back late in the second half.  The team shot the ball well, even from behind the three-point line but the turnovers and Mike Morrison finishing with only 5 points and 2 rebounds is discouraging.  With VCU coming to the Patriot Center tomorrow we can only hope Mike Morrison comes out with more fire.  

Eamonn Brennan of ESPN thinks the winner of tomorrow's game still has a remote shot at an at-large for the NCAA tournament. I don't really agree with that but the game tomorrow is still a huge deal for George Mason. Grabbing the #1 seed in the CAA tournament this year is a lot more crucial than it has been in previous seasons.  Without a realistic chance at an NCAA tournament birth outside of the CAA automatic bid, having that easier path to the conference finals is vital.  Especially since VCU's crowd at the Richmond based tournament this year will be bigger than ever. Even during a down year for the Rams you'd see the place littered with VCU t-shirts, now throw in a team coming off a Final Four run.  The Patriots need to position themselves in the best position they can for this tournament and that starts with beating VCU tomorrow night.

Tomorrow I'll get into the three keys for George Mason in this game but I still wanted to get into a few things.  First of all, VCU is #2 in the country right now in steals per game (10.2), which should really scare Mason fans as we just saw this team turn it over 16 times to UNCW on Saturday.  Mason already averages almost 15 TOs a game, while the Rams have the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the CAA.  The numbers don't worry me as much as the Rams style on defense does.  I don't think the Patriots have played a team this year that has this kind of aggressive, attacking style defense.  They are an athletic team, like Mason, and this could be a very uptempo game.  This might be the first time this season that I say I don't think an uptempo game is what Mason wants.  If they get into a track meet with VCU I think they will lose because the Rams are just too good at turning TOs into points.  Mason can win the game in the paint and getting to the free-throw line but they will need to be very disciplined.

When the Rams tighten down on defense, I don't know what Mason will do if they dig themselves into a hole early.  I think the Rams are the only team in the conference outside of Drexel that are good enough on defense to throw the Patriots off their game.  Sometimes they do that to themselves but they still find a way to win. Will they be able to do that against VCU?

More on the George Mason-VCU showdown tomorrow.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Previewing George Mason at UNCW

The Patriots head down to UNCW this Saturday as their regular season CAA schedule winds down.  Recently UNCW was that team that helped Towson snap their epic, record breaking, losing streak. So naturally that means this game will go down to the wire for Mason. Patrick Stevens outlines Mason's inability to bury these weaker CAA foes and how it's resulting in lesser opponents not being scared to play the Patriots. It was very evident in the last game against Hofstra. The Pride went right at Mason all night and was with them nearly til the end.  If Mason played like they do in the last five minutes of games for the entire 40 minutes then they'd be a helluva tough team to stay with.  Unfortunately we have seen too many struggles and slumps in the first half this year that allows teams to hang with them. Road games seem to magnify this and despite UNCW not having a great year this could still be a tough game for the Patriots.  

With two meetings with VCU on the horizon sandwiched with a visit to Northeastern, Mason doesn't have the easiest path to the #1 seed in the CAA tournament.  It goes with out saying they cannot overlook this game and it would do them some good to crush a CAA team they are stronger than, on the road. If that team that showed up in the second half of the Hofstra game makes a comeback they can do just that.  However it's tough to predict how Mason will start off in this one.  UNCW connected on nine three-pointers in their last meeting at the Patriot Center and they shoot better from there at home.  Mason's perimeter defense in the first half this season has been weak and it's something that could be their undoing in this game. Also during their last meeting, Mason held star player Keith Rendleman in check and they will need to do that again.  Mike Morrison had one of his better games on defense and also helped Mason win the battle on the boards that night.

The key for Mason is not to let UNCW disrupt their offense again like they did last night out with different zone looks.  After scoring in transition early in that game they settled for a ton of ill-advised three-pointers that allowed the 'Hawks to crawl back into the game late.  Mason can bury them early by getting to the free-throw, scoring in transition, and guarding the perimeter.

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Listen to Paul Hewitt on ESPN980

Yesterday Paul Hewitt was on the Sports Reporters on ESPN980 radio in DC. He talks about Ryan Pearson, the team's point guard situation, and how he thinks two CAA teams will make the NCAA tournament this year.  Definitely don't agree with that last one.

Listen to the audio here:

http://www.stationcaster.com/player_skinned.php?s=65&c=426&f=396881


[via ESPN980 radio vault]

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Thursday, February 09, 2012

Corey Edwards' inbounds alley-oop to Sherrod Wright GIF

I decided last night's alley-oop on the inbounds pass from Corey Edwards to Sherrod Wright was GIF worthy:

And here is the rest of the highlights from last night:

George Mason takes care of Hofstra to keep pace in the CAA

Photo by John Powell
George Mason earned another victory last night to remain atop the CAA standings and remain in a three-way tie with VCU and Drexel.  Much like their previous meeting with Hofstra it was an exciting second half, where the Patriots again got a lift from Sherrod Wright. I think we need to start calling him "Mr. Under 5-minutes" because that seems to be when he does his best work.  He converted an alley-oop from an inbounds pass from Corey Edwards (who had seven assists) while being fouled. He hit the resulting free-throw and put the Patriots up by seven to give them the cushion they needed.  I talked briefly yesterday about Paul Hewitt going with Edwards late in these games instead of Bryon Allen at the point guard spot and it seems to be paying off.  The tandem of Allen and Edwards combined for 12 assists and both facilitated some great plays in this one. Both have flourished at different times this season running the point but Edwards has definitely looked more creative with the ball in his hands.  

Mason shot 65% in the second half after another sluggish start. Hewitt went as far as benching the entire starting lineup for a short period to try to create a spark this time. Vertrail Vaughns only played nine minutes and I don't know if he's been battling an injury or something this season but he's been fading fast. Another interesting move from Hewitt was inserting Paris Bennett into the game when Ryan Pearson was in early foul trouble.  Bennett hadn't played in the team's last three games but came in for a few minutes and did all the little things that Hewitt says got the team back on track

Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison combined for only four rebounds in the game and Mason still somehow outrebounded the Pride. Fundamentally they weren't playing great basketball at the start of this game and their poor execution gave Hofstra some early life.  It's becoming a trend that weaker teams are not scared of the Patriots and simply just go right at them from the start.  Mason continues to tighten up in the second half and it's not secret that's where they have played their best basketball this season but it would be nice to see a decisive win from start to finish.

-----------------

Here's a look at the video boards around the Patriot Center if you haven't seen them live yet. They can play some recorded video but not live replays for some reason.  This picture below is what they display when a player is attempting a free-throw for example.


NCAA Basketball

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Ryan Pearson is already in an elite group in the George Mason record books


Ryan Pearson is having one of the most prolific seasons in George Mason basketball history. And it turns out with still six regular season games remaining he is already among an elite group in the George Mason record books. There are only four Patriots to amass more than 1,200 points, 600 rebounds, 100 assists, and 100 steals and Pearson is one of them:


[Photo by John Powell]

Previewing George Mason vs Hofstra

Game is on ESPN3 or watch free live stream here

We've already seen the school's dramatic promo for this game against Hofstra, as the Patriots try to separate themselves from the three-way tie for first in the CAA standings tonight. Last time versus Hofstra we saw Mason need late game heroics as it came down to the wire.  It wasn't very encouraging to watch against a Hofstra Pride team that has only won two conference games to date.  The Patriots however have been strong at home and hopefully this time won't have the troubles on offense they did during that last meeting.  I seriously doubt Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison will be held to a combined 10 points this time around.

The Patriots have been living off points from the free-throw line lately. Against ODU last Saturday they shot below 30% from the field but got to the line for 35 free-throw attempts.  While that is one of their strengths it would be nice to just see them convert some easy baskets.  Opposing defenses are giving them the outside open looks because they know they can't hit them and it is disrupting the Patriots flow on offense. Pearson needs someone to go to when he's double-teamed and their offense gets very one-dimension when no one is hitting outside shots or making lay-ups.

Something to watch for is who is running the point more in this game.  Hewitt went with freshman Corey Edwards late, which was a head-scratcher, but maybe he was looking for more of a facilitator to get things going on a sluggish day for the Patriots. Bryon Allen is the better scorer and seems to be improving but the move on the Saturday seems to make me think Hewitt still might favor Edwards as that true point guard.  Edwards still makes way too many mistakes in my opinion and I think Allen has shown he's more than capable of running of the show. Allen was having an off day against ODU (0-7 from the field) and Hewitt probably just pulled him to help give the team a spark.  Nevertheless it's getting too late in the season to have instability in the backcourt.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Video of Jordan Baird singing the national anthem at homecoming game

Walk on guard Jordan Baird sang the national anthem last Saturday before the Mason-ODU homecoming game. If you missed it live here is the video.



[via Connect2Mason.com]

Monday, February 06, 2012

George Mason has a serious promo video for Wednesday's game against Hofstra

Nice work on this promo video the school put together for Wednesday's game against Hofstra. Between the voice over guy and the dramatic way they talk about the two teams' last meeting you'd think you were watching an HBO sports special.

Fear the Beard Campaign: 4th Edition

We are closing in on the last remaining regular season games for Ryan Pearson and I think he still is very much in the running for CAA player of the year. He is currently third in the conference in scoring (17.8 ppg), fifth in rebounding (8.8 rpg), and seventh in FG% (50.0). Let's not also forget that he is second on the team in three-pointers made this season (21) and overall is shooting 35% from there.  Pearson has had his slumps recently but he still managed to contribute by grabbing a key offensive rebound or hitting a late game free-throw.  He's been more consistent overall than the likes of ODU's Kent Bazemore (preseason CAA POY pick) or VCU's Bradford Burgess. Pearson has just been doing more than those other guys and is getting double-teamed a lot more often.  He is one of the most versatile players in the country, especially with his improved three-point shooting and the number of steals he had collected this season. His two steals late in the game against ODU on Saturday were a prime example of the do-it-all type player he has become this season.  I can't imagine a more difficult player to game plan against in the CAA than Ryan Pearson, as he still seems to find new ways to score around the basket.



Some of Pearson's other notable accomplishments this season:

-10 double-doubles, only three other players in the CAA have more

-highest scoring point total in single-game among CAA players: 35 against Charleston

-highest number of FGs made in single-game among CAA players: 15 against Charleston

-went 10-for-10 from the FT line against Georgia State

[Photos by John Powell]

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Chalk up another ugly win for George Mason

Broken record folks. This year's George Mason team is the turning into the king of ugly affairs in the CAA. The latest win yesterday in this style against ODU was foul heavy, with numerous early turnovers, and bad shooting.  Mason got another heroic or lucky performance from the bench and this time it was freshman Corey Edwards. The Patriots were leading by three with about three and half minutes to go in the game when Edwards threw up a three-pointer that banked in off the glass.  It was Mason's only made three-pointer in the game and it gave them the cushion they needed to keep their lead.  Neither team shot over 33% from the field, with Mason having a dreadful night from the there (27.7%).  In the end the Patriots took more advantage at the foul line, especially late in the game. Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison went a combined 17-for-20 from the line, which proved to be the difference in this sloppy game.  ODU's strong half court defense kept them in the game and it was difficult for Mason to get any kind of rhythm going on offense.  

Another broken record is the number of turnovers this team constantly commits. They continue to be a troubling stat as they coughed it up 21 times yesterday compared to ODU's 17.  Some of that is just how this game some was just the Patriots being sloppy.  An even scarier statistic is that VCU is currently 15-1 when their opponents turn over the ball 15 times or more. The Patriots have to clean this up somehow with the Rams still on the schedule twice. 

New scoreboard was up but not fully complete
You have to take away from this that Mason is still winning these types of games because this is what we can expect the CAA tournament to be like this year. This game proved that offensive numbers mean nothing in a good old fashion rock fight between conference heavy weights.  Mason has the conference's best offense entering into this game but you wouldn't have thought that after watching this one.  At this point of the year stats mean less and less, wins are what matters.  

Guard Jordan Baird sang the national anthem 


[Photos by John Powell]

Friday, February 03, 2012

Previewing George Mason vs ODU

The Patriots are coming off a bad loss in Delaware and need a win at home Saturday to stay atop the CAA standings.  Last time these two teams met in Norfolk the Monarchs seemed to grab every rebound that bounced off the rim but just couldn't put it back in the basket. Mason escaped there with the win, something they hadn't done in that arena in years. They are now looking to sweep this series for first time since 1999, something that would most likely go a long way in terms of the CAA tournament seeding. Mason needs to bounce back from their recent road loss and focus on the task at hand because there are still enough chances for them to create separation in the standings.

While Mason is coming off less than stellar recent performances, ODU was looking very impressive in their win last night against JMU.  Despite being one of the poorest shooting teams in the country, the Monarchs went 13-for-25 from behind the three-point line (52%), on the season they are only a bit above 30% from there.  They also had six players in double figures and dominated the boards.  Forward Chris Cooper finished with 22 rebounds, so Mason better make boxing him out a priority.  That game for ODU was still an anomaly as they don't score above 65 often and have had much worse scoring droughts than the Patriots this season.  

What worries me is the inconsistent play from Mason's backcourt, as they recently have been sluggish on offense and have allowed opposing guards to have big nights (JMU Hitchens 27 points, UD Anderson 21).  Paul Hewitt has tinkered with the line-up having Sherrod Wright come off the bench, which has led to much better production from him.  The problem is the other guards besides Andre Cornelius rotating on defense to defend the perimeter.  Vertrail Vaughns and Bryon Allen have had their struggles on defense this season and while it may seem like they have a deep bench in terms of scoring they don't in terms of on-the-ball defenders.  ODU's Kent Bazemore had a productive night in their last meeting and is very capable of having a 20+ point day against Mason.  It will interesting to see how they play him in this one because having Vertrail Vaughns on him for most of the game is not going to work.

Keys to game for George Mason:

Rebounding: Forget the turnover battle in this one because ODU won't feast off them like other teams have against Mason. They have beaten teams this year with their rebounding margin and stout defense. I can't stress enough how much rebounding will determine the winner in this game and the Patriots have to make this a priority. The issue was masked a bit in their last meeting because ODU couldn't buy a bucket, don't expect them to be that cold again.  Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison have been much better on the boards since that game but will need help as the game could get ugly.  Morrison tends to get very emotional in big games like this, he can't let that get the better of him in this one.

Get to the free-throw line: ODU's defense might make this a much more lower scoring game than the Patriots want it to be. Mason wants to run up and down the court and score quick baskets.  That won't be easy tomorrow and since they struggle with outside shooting getting to the line is the only other way for them to build a lead.  They didn't convert from there at Delaware and it was the difference in the game.  They are much better at home from there and will need to do this to take advantage of their more athletic backcourt players.  

Get the backcourt players going early: I don't think Mason can win this game without the backcourt being heavily involved. It will be sell-out crowd and most of the young players on this team aren't used to that atmosphere.  That is why they need to get them going early on offense to build confidence.  Running plays and screens for them in the early goings to pick up easy baskets is a must in my opinion and it's something they seem to abandon too early.  Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison will get theirs but they need to set the tone with these guards early to keep ODU's defense honest and open things up.


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Thursday, February 02, 2012

Sneak peak at new scoreboard being put up in Patriot Center

Here is a photo of the new scoreboard about to be put up at the Patriot Center. The new scoreboard, with no video replay, will debut for this Saturday's homecoming game against ODU.


Here is the artist's rendering of the final product:



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