George Mason is on their way to Hawaii to compete in the Diamond Head Classic tournament. They will be facing one of the best teams in the country in the first round, #17 Iowa State. The Patriots are coming off two unsettling losses to USF and Oklahoma have had a lot of time to prep for this tournament since they had no games during their final exams period. The big question is how this team will respond from their recent losses as they attempt to get this season back on track.
The Cyclones are an offensive machine. They lead the nation in scoring (90.9 PPG) and their effective field goal percentage is 12th best according to Kenpom. They like to score in transition, have very short possessions and have a balanced attack overall on offense. Mason can’t do what they did against Oklahoma and leave the lane open for easy shots or else this be an epic blowout. Northern Iowa recently went to overtime against these guys despite committing 17 turnovers. They may be the only encouraging news for Mason heading into this one.
How can George Mason win this game? Well for starters ISU is a very small team, something that helps them out on offense but can be a liability on defense. Interior scoring hasn’t exactly been the Patriots’ strong point this season but it might be something they look to early with Marko Gujanicic and Jalen Jenkins. A slowed down, half court game and feeding the ball inside would probably be their best bet. A high possession game will be their undoing
Rebounding is another big key for Mason. They can’t afford to the Cyclones out-rebound them and they have to put the effort in on the offensive glass. They were absolutely embarrassed on the boards against Oklahoma, a 51-to-29 margin. They need Erik Copes to be more of a force in this area.
Offensively for the Patriots, they need more consistency than just Bryon Allen and Sherrod Wright. They’ve become to reliant on these two guys free-lancing and it’s not difficult for opposing teams to defend against. Mason averages only 10 assists a game, near the bottom of the NCAA division I. To put that in perspective there’s a guy on LIU-Brooklyn who averages that many by himself. We should be seeing more of Marquise Moore at the point, he seems to have makeup of a guy who can get others involved on offense. The offense has been so erratic they need to find anyone that can help settle it.
On defense they have really been hurting themselves recently. Letting players literally walk in the lane for a easy two is starting to become a routine thing for them. They have looked pretty good playing zone this year but you’ll only see it for glimpse. This team just doesn’t have any solid on-the-ball defenders and their man-to-man defense, which Paul Hewitt seems to prefer, can be scary as a result. It looked a lot better at the beginning of the season and I’m not sure how this group regressed so much in that area.
No one is expecting them to beat Iowa State but we need to see some fight in these guys. I still believe they are better than they are showing on the court and hopefully the BB&T Classic was the final gut punch needed for this season. This tournament is great opportunity to get back on track and three games from which they must build on.