George Mason hosts South Florida looking to continue their winning streak at the Patriot Center this season. Both teams are very familiar with each other as the two head coaches traded assistant coaches in the off-season, Eric Skeeters and Mike Wells. Mason lost at South Florida last season by four points and this season’s Bulls squad seems improved with experienced players. They have size in the front court and a very good defender in the back court in Anthony Collins.
Skeeters mentions that on defense Mason’s biggest problem could be 6’9″ forward Victor Rudd:
Mason’s biggest problem on defense may be 6-9 senior Victor Rudd, averaging a team-high 14.2 points. “He’s one of those guys that plays at a high level, when he’s on the top of his game,” Skeeters says. “The guy can put his chest on the corner of the backboard; he can put his chest on the rim. Shoots an NBA three. When he wants to be, he’s special.”
Erik Copes, Jalen Jenkins, and Johnny Williams will have their work cut for them and will need to work on staying out of foul trouble. Speaking of which, expect a lot of free-throws in this one as both teams get to the line at a high rate. Sherrod Wright has been setting the tone on this for Mason and has been more aggressive in the lane lately.
Protecting the ball continues to be Mason’s number one priority and they did a great job of improving on this against Rhode Island. They didn’t cough it up a lot in the first half and it allowed them to maintain a lead for almost the entire game. I don’t like that Bryon Allen continues to own most of the point guard duties but they may need to keep going with what is working. Hopefully Marquise Moore will return from his minor injury and share some of those duties.
Jalen Jenkins breakout game against URI just shows how dangerous this kid can be. His rebounding and defense have been so desperately needed on this team, especially with Erik Copes’ health and suspension issues. Now that Copes is back in the mix the team’s overall toughest in the paint should continue to improve. The team’s rebounding margin has already been much improved over last season.
The Bulls will use their size advantage in a zone defense against Mason and try to keep them out of the lane. If the Patriots settle for a ton of early outside jumpers and don’t connect, this could be another one of ‘those games’. Other teams have had success mixing up a zone and man coverage against them and forced them into bad shooting situations. Three-point shooting hasn’t been strong all year for Mason and with South Florida trying to make this an ugly game it behooves the Patriots to stick to their game plan of attacking the rim.
Kenpom prediction: GMU 70 USF 65 (Mason with 71% chance of winning)