We are almost there, the season opener against American is a week away. Erik Copes’ suspension puts a damper on things but hopefully his absence won’t have a major impact on this portion of the schedule. A strong start could go a long way this season as the Patriots will be facing a much tougher in-conference slate of games.
I am curious to see what the front court rotation will be like without Copes. Will we see more of Marko Gujanicic, Johnny Williams, or Jalen Jenkins alongside Jon Arledge? Williams had a decent start to the season last year during Copes’ three game suspension but he hasn’t played in a game since last January. The game they struggled the most without Copes was against Bucknell, who had a 6’11″ center Mike Muscala. He ended up being selected in the second round of the NBA draft this past June. Mason could not do much to contain him and as a result Williams, Arledge, and Gujanicic all fouled out of the game. The difference this year is that Arledge will be noticeably tougher up front and hopefully some of the freshman mistakes Gujanicic made last season are behind him. Williams is still a bit of mystery entering this year as I would imagine he need some time to get back to game speed. Arledge on the other hand could have a big year if he’s the focal point in Hewitt’s four-out, one-in motion offense, but he will need surrounding guys to do the dirty work inside.
A strong start for George Mason however, will hinge on how well Bryon Allen and Sherrod Wright play early on. They will need to help Corey Edwards get their teammates involved in the offense and be more efficient. It was no secret the offense overall was more efficient once Allen started playing an off-the-ball role. Edwards did a much better job taking care of the ball in his sophomore season and his outside shooting was a pleasant surprise. Now they have to build on this because at times in the CBI tournament all the shots seemed to be falling for them when the uptempo offense was in full effect:
When things were going well Allen almost looked like a different player, on both ends, and I think his play will continue to be infectious throughout the rest of the team:
It was also very noticeable that Sherrod Wright was attacking the rim and crashing the boards a lot more. He’s definitely at his best when he’s doing this:
Something else I also took away from the end of the last season was that the press seemed to be working more for Mason. We saw a lot of mid-court steals that Mason turned into easy points, which is every coaches dream.
They are not without their problems and we need to see their overall defense take a big leap from that of last season for them to contend in the Atlantic 10. But remember this is a team that lost a ton of close games last year. In fact 7 of their 8 conference losses were by 10 points or less. Cleaning up their fouling could really change how they finish in close games this season. Something that will hopefully come with the experience this team now has on their side.
[Photo by John Powell]