The best of three CBI finals starts tonight at Santa Clara (10 p.m. tip-off) with George Mason being tabbed the underdog. The Patriots have been playing some inspired basketball lately and this should be a fun series to watch. Santa Clara’s Kevin Foster is a dangerously good shooter and is the school’s all-time leader scorer and three-point shooter. On top of that the Broncos have three other 1,000-point scorers on the roster, including skilled big-man Marc Trasolini. Foster’s been averaging 30 PPG during the CBI and will be drawing a lot of attention from the Mason defenders. The Patriots will have to rely on their versatility and balanced scoring to counter the Broncos strong one-two punch of Foster and Trasolini. Perimeter defense will be most likely be an issue for Mason and they need to not leave others open by focusing too much on Foster. Santa Clara however sends opponents to the free-throw line more than the other teams George Mason has faced so far in this tournament and they will need to continue to be aggressive in that area.
What’s been working in the CBI:
Points off turnovers – Mason has finally been playing more of that uptempo offense Paul Hewitt had been trying to initiate all season. The big part of that is guys like Bryon Allen picking off passes and creating a lot of turnovers. They have been more confident in running and looking for points in transition. Corey Edwards and Allen have made things run more fluid on offense and they have been tougher to defend.
Winning battle at the free-throw line – This one is interesting considering how all season the advantage was the opposite up until now. All year we saw the Patriots send opposing teams to the line way too often, running their efforts on defense. In their last two games they have gotten 26 and 28 attempts, well above their season average. Sherrod Wright has been a big part of this and it’s helped them maintain leads in this tournament.
Bryon Allen – It’s not secret Allen has been a big reason for this team’s success in the CBI. He’s been more explosive and using his size in the back court to make things happen, on both ends. Even his jump shot has come alive. He’s been averaging 7.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game in the CBI so far. Allen’s efforts on defense against Santa Clara might be the difference for George Mason.
[Photo by John Powell]