George Mason at the break

George Mason is currently on their break for final exams and with about one third of the season over we take a closer look at what’s been happening this season.

MVP so far. Well that’s easy, Sherrod Wright. He’s been Mason’s leading scorer all season and been the most consistent overall player. He’s learning to take charge more, being more aggressive on offense, and also second on the team in rebounding. Over the last two games he’s averaged 21.5 PPG, shot 68% from the field, 71% on three-pointers, and went 8-10 from the free-throw line. It’s an understatement to say he needs to get the ball more.

Biggest surprise. I’m going with Patrick Holloway over Marko Gujanicic because I expected solid contributions from Marko given his international experience and versatility. I would have pegged Holloway as a guard barely making appearances on the court and yet he’s been one of the team’s best bench scorers. He’s one of team’s best pure shooters and isn’t afraid to fire away. Holloway doesn’t look much like a freshman out there and we are only just seeing the beginning.

Most impressive stat: 41.7% – This is shooting percentage from the field the Patriots are allowing so far this year. Was better before the Northern Iowa game but still good for 42nd in the nation.

Worst stat: 46.0% - Per Kenpom, this is Mason’s team assist percentage, which is number of total assists divided by field goals made. This is ranked currently #304 in the nation and should surprise no one with how bad the point guard situation has been recently. On the other end of this, Mason opponents this season have averaged 61.2% against them in the same category. The current national average for this stat is 53.7% and I think this statistic shows just how choppy Mason ‘s offense has been this year.

Biggest Problem Area. Mason has a few different problem areas but the play from the point guard position has been the most glaring weakness. Granted, a lot of the younger plays on this team aren’t making Bryon Allen and Corey Edwards look good by mishandling numerous passes. And turnovers has been less of an issue this season but the issue this year seems to be getting the offense running smoothly. The assist percentage stat I posted above shows how just how little these guards are setting up plays. This has become a real problem in close games for Mason this season and it’s no more obvious then when they have to make a basket out of timeout. Allen and Edwards need to make better decisions and in some situations take more chances.

Rest of the season outlook. George Mason to date has blown all their chances for “good wins” and an at-large spot is out of the question at this point. The good news is that they seem to be still playing the best basketball out of anyone else in the CAA. Some of the roster issues will sort itself out and the younger guys will continue to grow, making this team more dangerous. Also at some point, Hewitt seems to think the team will buy into his offense, if that happens they shouldn’t have any problems in the conference. They will enter CAA play much more battle tested then the rest but their constant playing down to their competition could still be an issue. Drexel and Delaware seemed primed to battle Mason for first place in the conference, until actual games were played. The losses keep piling up for both those teams and squads like William and Mary are looking like they will be much tougher competition. Mason could not improve a bit on the season and still probably land the #1 seed in the CAA tournament. Finishing with a good conference record won’t be the issue but like always, winning the conference tournament will be. George Mason is the only program in this year’s CAA tournament that has won the autobid in the last five years with VCU gone and ODU not eligible.  Plenty of other schools will be licking their chops at a chance to earn their first one ever and it could be a more competitive tournament than people think.

  • GMU6

    You said it all and like everything else “We shall see”. At least they have no doubt what they have to work on. If they are really together as a team then they will.

  • James Hubbard

    Perhaps the best solution is to discard the notion of a point guard. There’s really no reason why one player has to handle the ball significantly more than anyone else. Two years ago, GMU used several different players to bring the ball up court, including Luke Hancock, ostensibly a forward. In half court sets, again there’s no obvious advantage to having one player handle the ball more than the others. In fact, if you believe that the best tactic is to keep the ball moving, it’s a real disadvantage to have one player hang on to the ball. (Think of Corey Edwards dribbling in place while looking vainly for someone to pass the ball to.)You could go back to the dark ages (the 1960s) and consider so-called five-man offenses like the shuffle, where every player was expected to handle the ball effectively. If that’s too ancient for you, you could consider variations on the Princeton offense where everyone is expected to pass well.
    It’s true that GMU packs an effective point guard, but the assist ratio is also low because many of the other players who are getting lots of playing time don’t pass or catch the ball well and frankly because Hewitt’s tactics don’t value good passes, particularly to the low post.