(in Fairfax Cox Channel 74, also ESPN360)
Video Web Stream
(doubt we will find free stream)
Radio: WWRC 1260 AM
CAAHoops.com will have post game interviews
George Mason finds themselves playing VCU in Richmond Saturday at 2:30 pm. They are looking for a fresh start and will hopefully view this postseason tournament as a clean slate after a season full of ups and downs. Can the Patriots learn from their recent close game losses will be the biggest question mark heading into this match-up. Larranaga always seems to have a few last aces up his sleeve when it comes to the CAA tournament but advancing with this team will probably be one of his toughest challenges. Talent only gets you so far in the conference tournament and while the Patriots aren’t short on that they will need to dig deep to find success. Don’t think Mason fans have forgotten last year’s drubbing the Patriots received from VCU in the CAA tournament finals, an element which only adds to making this the most intriguing quarterfinal game of the weekend. The Patriots don’t have to worry about a guy like Eric Maynor going off for 25 points this time but they could have their hands full with Larry Sanders again who collected 20 boards in that game. This year’s Rams team might not scare you as much as paper but they can be just as deadly, especially in the Richmond Coliseum with a throng of VCU students.
In the two teams’ only meeting this season, Mason pulled out the victory in overtime
with big games from Mike Morrison and Cam Long. The Rams’ Joey Rodriguez scored 24 on 6-of-11 shooting from behind the arch. Mason can’t let that happen again and will need to be stout with their perimeter defense. Larry Sanders, who despite being named Defensive Player of the Year, has been less than dominant this season. In that game against the Patriots in Fairfax he collected only 4 rebounds and fouled out of the game. I’d expect him to have more of an impact in this one but his foul trouble problems are always a factor.
Keys to winning for Mason:
Discipline on defense: The Patriots haven’t been consistent enough on offense to think they can overpower anyone in this tournament so they will need to keep up their stout defensive ways. More importantly how well they defend at the guard spot could determine how far they go this weekend. Isaiah Tate and Andre Cornelius have been less then stellar recently, will they be up for the task against Joey Rodriguez and Bradford Burgess? They need to limit Rodriguez’s touches, he got way too many open looks in Fairfax earlier this season. The team also can’t afford to have more breakdowns from guys like Mike Morrison or Ryan Pearson. If either of them start collecting sloppy fouls and lose their composure it will be a short trip to in Richmond this year.
Which Cam Long will be in Richmond? Will we see the Cam Long from January were he averaged 19.3 ppg when Mason went 9-1 or the the guy we’ve seen in the last 5 games of the season averaging 7.4 ppg? Long is just too important to this team’s success and although he struggled with the added pressure this season he can look at this tournament as a chance to redeem himself. They need to help him create more shots early on and get him hot because he sets the tone for this team.
Protect the ball: This hasn’t been an issue all season but it has recently. The Patriots haven’t been winning the turnover battle in their last few games and it’s been especially a problem in the 1st half of games. They can’t afford to let the Rams build up an early lead by giving up easy points due to sloppy ball handling. Luke Hancock has been the biggest culprit and I can’t imagine VCU not attacking him early. Cornelius and Long should be the only ones bringing up the ball in this one.
Late game management: Not all of the factors of winning can be pinned on the players. The team might be inexperienced as a whole playing in this tournament but Jim Larranaga sure isn’t. However, despite his experience a lot of close game losses this season left us scratching our heads as we watched the teams final possession. Often times the team had a realistic chance of winning and the last “drawn up play” out of a timeout would end in a debacle. Too many times we saw the ball in the hands of a freshman or a final shot never got off. To me that’s inexcusable to not at least give your a players an opportunity to make a play. There’s a real chance this game could come down to the wire, if so how will Larranaga handle this one?