RealGM gives a lengthy preview of the upcoming 2014-15 Atlantic 10 basketball season based on statistical projections and historical data. They have George Mason in the “Hoping for the NIT” category and give a pretty accurate assessment of this upcoming season’s team. It certainly is one of the more detailed season outlooks we have seen so far as they point out strengths, weaknesses and question marks.
First they talk about the front court:
“George Mason has incredible depth in the frontcourt. It starts with former Top 100 recruit and Georgia Tech transfer Julian Royal who is debuting this season. But don’t overlook the slightly undersized Jalen Jenkins and Eric Copes, who were outstanding shot-blockers and rebounders last year, though Jenkins is the better offensive player. And while ESPN, Rivals, and Scout had mixed reviews, Scout gave a very high ranking to freshman Therence Mayimba. The difference in recruiting ranking probably comes down to potential vs ability. Mayimba is a great athlete and rebounder who is raw. Meanwhile Top 100 JUCO recruit Shevon Thompson is a true 7 footer who should make an impact right away. I honestly keep waiting to hear that incumbent junior forward Marko Gujanicic has transferred. That’s what tends to happen in these situations. And I don’t know why three star forward Trey Porter chose George Mason over George Washington when he’s almost guaranteed to redshirt at GMU.”
No argument here as the strength of this year’s team in without question in the front court. However, suggesting Marko should transfer and Trey Porter is “almost guaranteed” to redshirt is a bit a stretch. On paper it might seem like a crowded group but they are a also a versatile group and it’s not like Marko was logging big minutes at the end of the last season. He’s still here and I think he understands his role. And for Porter, it’s easy to say he’s going to redshirt based on his skinny physique but Paul Hewitt mentioned his toughness and ability to jump in the fray with the big boys and come out unscathed. We haven’t seen much from him to go off of but it seems like he has a unique skill set that could help this year’s team. I don’t have any inside information and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did actually redshirt but I also think he could have a role in the rotation if they chose to go that path. My gut feeling though is that Hewitt doesn’t have the luxury to redshirt anyone at this point.
As we continue on in the article there is not as much praise for the outlook of next season’s backcourt:
“The backcourt has one true asset, lights out three point shooter Patrick Holloway. But Vaughn Gray is a weak backup and there are no other obvious three point-shooters on the team. The PG spot is also very shaky with either turnover prone Marquise Moore, turnover prone Corey Edwards, or freshman Isaiah Jackson taking the reins. Most importantly, Paul Hewitt checks in as one of the worst player development coaches in my data set. He’s a solid recruiter, but his offenses rarely live up to expectations.”
This is why it is difficult for me to have much faith in this team winning in the A-10 this season, the uncertainty of the backcourt players. They don’t have proven shooters outside of Holloway and we will have to wait and see if guys like Julian Royal, Therence Mayimba or Eric Lockett can develop into one. And then there’s the fact that the point guard situation is a huge question mark. Marquise Moore is recovering from surgery (minor but still a concern) and freshman Isaiah Jackson is essentially a small forward who is now a converted point guard. The last sentence quoted in the above paragraph though is plucked straight from the minds of any Mason fan who has watched the Hewitt era unfold.
Also, this team had real trouble defending perimeter players last season and that was with seniors at the starting guard positions. Even if they clean up the turnover problem on offense, this is still a huge separate issue that cost them a lot of close games last year. Some of the freshmen are better known for their aggressiveness and intensity on defense (Mayimba) but it’s certainly asking a lot to expect a turnaround in this area based on that.
The statistical projections and historical data don’t really paint a clear picture for this year’s squad because there are too many unknowns and new players. This is the first season where essentially the entire team is made up of guys hand picked by Hewitt and his staff. Will that have a big impact on the season in terms of them running his system?
There are also a lot of “ifs” heading into the season that could swing the performance of the group either way:
If Julian Royal can step in and contribute scoring in a variety ways, the offense should be more efficient than last year. Especially with the improved play from frontcourt players Jalen Jenkins and Erik Copes.
If the team can find some sort of stability at the point guard position between Moore and Jackson they will be much more balanced. Together if the two can get the team’s overall assist numbers up and run smoother plays they will be a much more difficult team to defend.
If Patrick Holloway can develop into a legit starting two-guard and provide confidence in the backcourt on both ends of the court. They are really counting on him this season and they need more then just three-point shooting.
If team’s new influx of athletic and defensive ability among the freshmen class can quickly materialize into a cohesive unit that ramps up their efficiency on defense; they can certainly win more than four conference games.
So you can see a lot is riding on the team’s new fresh look that is providing a new identity heading into ’14-’15. Whether or not that translates into more W’s for Paul Hewitt in his fourth season is what we are all eager to see.