We are only 52 days away from the start of the college basketball season. George Mason ended last season on somewhat of a high note getting to the CBI finals. The disappointment of not reaching the NCAA tournament is still on the minds of fans. The Patriots will certainly have their chances to reach the big dance this season if they play well in the Atlantic 10. But the question of how well this team can perform in their new conference is just one of many surrounding them heading into the 2013-2014 season.
Will George Mason be able to compete in the A-10 this season?
Let’s be real for a second, the Patriots finished 5th last year in a conference that was ranked #24 in the country. And despite the programs that the A-10 is losing, it is still most likely a top 10 league with the potential to send at least three teams to the NCAA tournament. Mason had their moments at the end of last season but whether or not they have actually turned a corner will be the biggest question mark. It seemed that they played down to the level of competition a lot and hopefully now being in the A-10 gives them that kick in the butt needed to play at a higher level each night. Offensively they can definitely hang with the best in the A-10 next year but on defense it’s a different story. They had trouble stopping some pretty awful CAA teams from going on big runs and the A-10 definitely has more offensive firepower.
How big of a year can we expect from Bryon Allen?
Bryon Allen will be the team’s MVP this year, you can count on that. Sherrod Wright might lead the team in scoring but Allen brings a lot more to the table and had a big month this past March. For those who haven’t been following the Kenner League at Georgetown this summer, Allen has often looked like the best player on the court. This past weekend he did this while going against NBA lottery pick Victor Oladipo. Yeah it’s just summer league but still something worth noting. Playing off the ball more really helped him maximize his best abilities and we saw just how good he can be during the CAA tournament and the CBI. If Allen really takes off this year and builds on what we saw I think Mason could challenge for a top five spot in the A-10.
Will there be more stability at point guard?
It was no secret that the team played better with Bryon Allen not having to shoulder the point guard duties full time. However they were still times where Allen was used in certain situations over Corey Edwards. With the addition of freshman Marquise Moore, Hewitt said recently in an interview “now we don’t have to worry about Bryon at all at the point.” That statement needs to be true for Mason to have a successful year and get the most out of Allen. Don’t expect Moore to take over for Edwards in the starting lineup but hopefully he can help bring stability to the position.
Will post play be better with a healthy Erik Copes and Jon Arledge starting?
With Johnny Williams sidelined with an injury, Jon Arledge became an important front court scoring option for Mason. Erik Copes was hobbled by a hip injury all season long and the coaching staff would probably have red-shirted him if they knew what they did now. With a healthy Copes and Arledge as the starting tandem I think we will see much better play in the front court. Copes can be a force on the boards bruiser on defense when healthy, while Arledge seems to be developing a nice inside and out game. There’s a lot to like about Johnny Williams’ game but he was very inconsistent before his injury and at times, just awful on defense. Arledge has more potential at this point than Williams and he makes them more dangerous. As a whole, the number of passes this group dropped or mishandled was staggering and one can only hope this a focal point of summer workouts.
Will we see a more consistent rotation?
For all the talk of last year’s team being “deep” we saw a lot of different lineups and I don’t think it necessarily worked in the team’s best interests. With veterans Paris Bennett and Vertrail Vaughns both gone now I think we will see much more consistent rotation. Patrick Holloway will be playing more and will be the team’s sixth man. Also I think the staff has a better idea now on when to use Marko Gujanicic. Anali Okoloji’s role became very spotty down the stretch and while Jalen Jenkins is still raw, we might see more of him than Okoloji. The wildcard is Vaughn Gray, who everyone thought would have transferred after seeing such little action last season. The difference this season is that they have a legit backup point guard in Moore and they know who their sixth man is, Holloway. Both of those areas were question marks at this point last year.
[Photos by John Powell]