George Mason and VCU, back playing each other as conferences opponents once again. VCU and GMU fans love to debate whether this is a rivalry or not. Who cares, it’s a series that has history and is usually competitive. Currently George Mason isn’t on the same planet as VCU in terms of national prominence in the college basketball world, but if there’s one game this season the Patriots should be up to play, it’s this one.
The last time these two teams met is a poster child of the Paul Hewitt era at George Mason. The Rams blasted the Patriots to start the game with a 32-4 run. Mason clawed back late to make the final score of 74-64 look respectable but they were never in that game. It was also the fourth consecutive time that VCU had eliminated Mason from the conference tournament. To the seniors Johnny Williams, Bryon Allen, and Sherrod Wright, who have more history against VCU, it has to sting and this could be their last chance at some redemption. Sherrod Wright needs to return to that guy that hit the game-winner against them back in February of 2012.
In terns of match-ups, I don’t think George Mason could be in a worse position then they are against VCU. The numbers per Kenpom.com paint the picture (numbers next to percentages are national rank):
A team with a very high turnover percentage going up against the country’s number one team in forcing turnovers. Essentially what the Rams do best is something that is the Patriots’ biggest flaw. Their press will give Mason big problems, guys like Jalen Jenkins and Marko Gujanicic have to help get the ball over half court. Freshman Marquise Moore will probably start at point guard but expect Bryon Allen to bring the ball up plenty.
VCU’s game plan is this, as Rob Dauster states: “they gamble that they’ll be able to get more steals than you’ll get layups, and that in the process they’ll wear you down.” Everything feeds from their press on defense and an opposing team has to slow things down in a half court offense to beat them and even that doesn’t always work out well.
For George Mason to have any chance in their first official Atlantic 10 conference game, they will need to pretty much need to be the opposite of what they’ve been doing. They need to limit the turnovers, limit fouls, pack the lane to prevent easy lay-ups, and run an effective half-court offense. Their plan on offense needs to be Sherrod Wright and Bryon Allen drawing fouls in the lane and kicking the ball to Patrick Holloway for three-pointers. That’s their best shot based on what I’ve seen this season.
On defense they will really have to stay out of foul trouble in the front court with Juvonte Reddic. He is a force and they will need to limit his touches in the paint to survive. I would think the game plan on defense for Mason would be to slow the game down and force VCU to beat you at the three-point line. Keep them off the offensive glass and don’t let them walk in the lane for easy lay-ups They aren’t as good as they were last year from there and Mason is better off taking their chances letting them shoot from there.
I want to be more excited for Mason’s chances in this game but they’ve done nothing this season to make me believe they can hang with a team like VCU. So far this season George Mason has played against some very good offenses, Oklahoma, Iowa State but have yet to face a team this good on defense. They looked confused against ODU on the road, imagine what the Siegel Center will be like for them Thursday night.