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Can George Mason win the CAA tournament?

George Mason Basketball: Can George Mason win the CAA tournament?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Can George Mason win the CAA tournament?

Expectations are not exactly riding high right now for George Mason fans entering this weekend's 2013 CAA tournament. I'm sure a lot of fans are finding comfort in the fact that at least Mason won't be eliminated by VCU this year. The question still remains whether or not George Mason can start off fresh in Richmond and take the CAA's autobid for a berth to the NCAA tournament. Their resume is not impressive and their body of work in the CAA is sketchy and inconsistent to say the least. They had real trouble beating the top half of the CAA this season and would most likely have to go through Drexel, Northeastern, and Delaware to win it all. A tough task considering they went 1-5 collectively against those teams.

Here is what they will have to do to win this weekend in Richmond:

Tighten up on defense, everywhere. It's no secret defense wasn't this team's strength this season and it really destroyed a lot of good things they did on offense. It's almost shocking how this aspect of their game never improved over the course of the year. Paul Hewitt wanted to a run a more up-tempo offense (remember how many times I used that phrase in the off-season?) and that starts with making stops and forcing turnovers. It never materialized and often Mason fans watched open shot after open shot. They have had real trouble closing out on the perimeter but the trouble wasn't just there. Mason players were so out of position in a lot of games that fouling was literally their only means of stopping the opposing team's players. That's just bad and we saw it happen way too many times this year. This weekend a big key will be limiting the amount of three-point looks they yield to their opponents and forcing more perimeter players to put the ball on the floor.

Stop sending teams to the free-throw line so often. This is a big killer as well and it kind of goes off what I said above about their sloppiness on defense. But it deserves it's own point because tournament games are usually close and can come down to free-throws. There are only 16 teams (out of 347) that send their opponents to the free-throw line at a more frequent rate than George Mason. It's so bad that the Patriots last loss was in a game where Delaware had more made free-throws (26) than they had field goals (25). That's an interesting and frustrating way to lose. They have to reduce this rate in Richmond and stop giving away points at the line. It ruins their tempo and stalls any momentum they may have built.

Get Sherrod Wright going early. George Mason' success on offense is usually tied to how well Sherrod Wright is doing in that particular game. Lately he hasn't been putting up the kind of numbers that earlier in the season had him in the running for CAA player of the year. Perhaps he is a bit worn out but he's had a week to rest and focus. As a team they are at their best when Wright is drawing a lot of attention, hitting outside shots, driving to the lane, and getting to the foul line. They have to run plays for him and early and ride him because they don't have better options that score consistently. It's great that they try to get Erik Copes going in the beginning of most games but the focus has to be on their best player this weekend.

Keep a short rotation. This ones for Paul Hewitt. I'm not sure what the status of Johnny Williams is but either way they need to keep a short rotation. Off the bench I think we should really only be seeing Vertrail Vaughns, Marko Gujanicic and Patrick Holloway. Fouls can muck this up and that's why they need to stay more disciplined. I think keeping Wright, Allen, and Edwards on the floor for more minutes is the best recipe for success in this tournament. Hewitt loves to throw Anali Okoloji in the mix for his energy on defense but a lot of times he hurts more than he helps. Paris Bennett should only be brought in if foul trouble is an issue with the forwards and if Johnny Williams isn't playing. I think the big reason why we never saw a shorter rotation as the season went on was because Hewitt couldn't find a group that consistently played good defense together. It all starts with defense.

[Photo by John Powell]



Anonymous mkaufman1 said...

Nice writeup and I agree with what you said. Crazy enough, for a part of the season I believe that Mason was tops in some defensive categories. I am sure that is not the case now, however.

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Christopher Hirsch said...

I will be cheering them on but no, they aren't winning the tournament this weekend. It would be nice if they can at least beat Drexel, but I have no expectations beyond that. I am happy VCU isn't in it this year so no excuses can be made for why Mason lost. We can save those for next year in Baltimore when Towson has "homecourt" advantage.

I really hope they take a CIT or CBI bid this year as this team needs all the experience playing together they can get. Year 3 of Hewitt will be huge for the direction of the program. Most of the guys will be in their third year in his system and if we see the same struggles, I am not sure what any Hewitt defenders left will be able to say.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous gmu95 said...

Hewitt should pay for the team to be in one of the C tournaments.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Rick Jank said...

Very accurate assessment in this writeup. Which of course shows what an uphill battle Mason has. Many of the things mentioned that we need to improve upon simply do not happen overnight. Assuming we don't have that drastic, eye-popping turnaround, we win the CAA only if our offense catches fire with outside shooting, Sherrod indeed wakes up, and/or we catch our opponent on cold-shooting nights. And with that last factor, what's working for us is that the current favorites to win it, Delaware and NE, are not used to being in that position. And yes, that's from the Take Anything You Can Get Dept.

11:03 AM  
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4:39 AM  

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