The non-conference portion of the schedule is over and George Mason now has 18 games to prepare to the CAA tournament; which will most likely determine their postseason chances. The CAA had a terrible time with their non-conference opponents this season and only achieved one Top 50 win. The Patriots will be looking to become the leader of the pack in the conference and earn that #1 seed. The #1 seed has the easiest path this year in the CAA tournament, getting a bye on Saturday and only needing to get a win on Sunday to go to the championship. Mason seems like a shoe-in for this #1 seed but they still have to get the work done.
First up is Northeastern, who despite their 5-7 record, have the conference’s best win so far this year against Belmont. Since that game though they have only won once and have been playing some of the worst defense in the conference. On average they are allowing teams to shot over 53% from the field, which is pretty staggering. On offense Joel Smith can light it up from behind the arch, so Mason will have to be careful to not let this one turn into anything like the Northern Iowa game. Jonathan Lee is another name to watch, the 6-2 guard is averaging 15 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 5 APG. If you keeping track at home, that’s more rebounds per game than what Erik Copes is averaging right now.
Mason will most likely have an easy time with the CAA slate if they keep up the intensity on defense. From what we have seen they are holding their opponents to low shooting numbers from the field and forcing turnovers. The perimeter defense still needs work but most CAA teams don’t shoot as well from there as some of the opponents they’ve already faced. Offensively they have had their struggles and sadly it might keep some conference bottom-feeders in close games with Mason this year. Sure, it seems like Sherrod Wright could beat some CAA teams by himself but he’ll be the focus of everyone’s defense and they’ll have to adjust.
I had thought the front court would be looking much better at this point but it’s starting to become their achilles heel this season. On paper Mason looks like they have a big advantage over most CAA teams but they haven’t been playing up to it. Guys fouling out early needs to stop and the post players need to work on their ball handling. Johnny Williams is struggling the most lately and he’s a guy Paul Hewitt raved about all off-season. Can’t blame it on rust any longer.
The Patriots should be plenty motivated to attack this CAA schedule and seem primed to win at least 13 or 14 conference games this year. We will now get a chance to see if those tough non-conference schedule losses helped mold this team.