Previewing the season opener against Colgate

11-11-2015 9-25-19 AM

George Mason opens the season against Patriot league member Colgate in what will be an interesting first look at this year’s team. Now that they are without senior guard Patrick Holloway for six games, we will get to see a lot more of the freshmen in the back court. Freshman Otis Livingston was probably going to be in the starting lineup anyway but now it seems that we will see a lot of him and fellow freshman guard Kameron Murrell. Junior Marquise Moore will have to be a solid┬ádefender in the back court. The hope is under┬áthis new staff he can get closer to being an “elite defender” as Dave Paulsen keeps saying. But the strength of this year’s team is in the front court with a very solid rotation including double-double machine Shevon Thompson, Marko Gujanicic, Jalen Jenkins, freshman Danny Dixon and Julian Royal. The team has size and a legit presence in the middle with Thompson but can they use that enough to their advantage to overcome the struggles they may have in the back court? That’s probably going to be the most interesting story line to follow for this year’s team.

Colgate enters this season in a similar situation with a bunch of new players after they graduated six seniors who helped rebuild the program and return only one player with any sort of significant experience. One advantage they have though is that they got to practice early this off-season and play together in Spain. Mason still has the overall experience over the Raiders even with the loss of Holloway and have a huge advantage inside with Thompson. Colgate only has two guys on their roster over 6’7″ and both of them are freshmen. So expect a steady diet of Thompson, Jenkins, and Marko up front on offense.

In the back court Colgate’s best player is probably going to be point guard and two-year starter Austin Tillotson. He’s not a big scorer but he was fifth in the Patriot League last year in assists and shot over 40% on three-pointers. Mason’s back court could be unstable to start this game so the match-up of Tillotson against either Moore or Livingston will be one to keep an eye on. Moore should be able to cause problems for the Raiders back court with his ability to get to the rim. Paulsen loves to run ball screens so I’d expect Moore to get some opportunities from that right off the bat.

Here’s my projected depth chart heading into Friday’s opener:

11-11-2015 10-48-44 AM

I’d expect a lot of the scoring to come from Thompson and Marko based on what I’ve seen in practices and scrimmages. The problem is will they get too one-dimensional without enough outside shooters? Hopefully some of the freshmen can emerge as shooters because now there is really a void with Holloway sidelined. Also, they need Jalen Jenkins to get back to his freshman form when he was rebounding and scoring more around the basket. So far it looks like Marko is thriving better in Paulsen’s system but Jenkins has a higher ceiling and more overall talent.

This year’s team should be a lot more disciplined but we will still see some of the sloppiness that plagued them over the last two seasons. Shevon Thompson is good enough to overwhelm some of the teams on their non-conference schedule by himself but he will get doubled a lot this year. They will have to be careful to not rely on him too much and he will need to limit his turnovers when he does get the added pressure. I think when they look good this year they will have very good low post scoring, limited turnovers, points off ball screens, and solid rebounding. When they will look bad will be when the back court coughs up the ball too much, they are turning over the ball out of the post, and having trouble defending perimeter players.

  • mkaufman1

    Couple of questions/points

    1) Do you see Jalen potentially getting time at the 3 above Abram? From my understanding, Abram is raw. At the same rate, I suspect Paulsen wants more of a “shooter” there, which is why Grayer is there at least to start. I think Jalen played the 3 under Hewitt but you know how that goes.
    2) I know Livingston is going to log a lot of minutes at the point, but starting Marquise at the 2 when he can’t shoot much sorta kills me. Unfortunately Livingston is probably too short to really play the 2. I gather there will be some improvising at the 2/3 where the team is obviously thin and inexperienced without Holloway.
    3) As much as there is experience up front, I don’t really think there is at the 5, because Royal hasn’t played much the last two years between injuries, redshirting, and being jerked around with minutes. I suspect Thompson is going to play a good 85% of the time at center. Isn’t Relvao potentially redshirting too? At least against Colgate and shorter opponents, Thompson should be getting the ball a lot.

    Going to be an interesting but tough year especially once they get into league play.

    • gmuhoops

      1) Jalen and Marko played the 3 at times under Hewitt, neither are good there. Paulsen has said and they have been practicing in a rotation up front and I think that’s better fit for their skills. Jenkins can’t shoot from the outside and isn’t fast enough off ball screens to play the position in this system. With Holloway out are they forced to play either of them at the 3? Maybe, but it looks like it’s basically a four man rotation up front and then group of guards that includes grayer and abram in the back court. I’m sure we will see a lot of different lineups early on. Unlike Hewitt I can see Paulsen opting for more small ball lineups if needed.

      2) Yeah Moore still can’t shoot but they have no other choice. He can score though and can blow by a lot of these low and mid major guards. I can see he and Otis switching between the 1 & 2 but can Otis guard a bigger shooting guard? It’s a really a mess until Holloway returns.

      • WB

        I’ve always been really impressed by Moore’s ability to get to the basket. He’s quick, handles well, and has the body to finish. Agreed his shot is, let’s say “unorthodox”, but there were a few games last year where that shot was falling, and keeping us in games.

        • G-n-G

          I agree with you, WB. Moore wasn’t much of a jump shooter as a freshman, but he was much more credible last year. He shot 31.5% (6 of 19) of his 3s last year and got better as the year went on. He took and missed his only three 3s in the first half of the season, but in the second half he hit 6 of 16 for a respectable 37.5% (including two games toward the end of the year when he hit 2-of-4).

          Anyone who could hit 79% (87 of 110) of his free throws has a capable shot. He might just need more confidence and encouragement to take jump shots.

          As for unorthodox, anyone remember Vertrail Vaughn’s catapult shot? It didn’t prevent him from being effective.

          • WB

            I think if Moore can just get reasonably consistent with, say, a 15 foot jumper, it will force the defense to play up on him, rather than defend him just for the drive. Yup, I remember Vaughns… not intended in a mean way, but I always thought he had some sort of shoulder or neck issue that contributed to the unique release. Either way, dude could definitely heat up.

  • WB

    Hey, great job on the blog. I’ve read it the past few years to stay informed and see what other folks think. I think it will be an interesting year, obviously with so many transfers and freshman, it may not translate into many victories, but I’m really interested to see how the new Coach implements his system and coaches up his players. Not bad mouthing the previous coach, but maybe Paulsen is able to tap into the players in a more productive way.

    • gmuhoops

      Big difference is Paulsen talked about how he changed his offense 3 times at Bucknell to fit his personnel and to get the most out of the talent they had. Definitely a change from Mason’s last staff which seemed like they were trying to force a square peg into a circle.

      • WB

        Yeah, agreed. I know it’s easy to bash the previous coach, but I try not to because I’m sure it’s a tough job and the guy was doing his best. It just struck me though, how the roster seemed to make less sense year after year… the further we got from the coaching change (2010), the fewer and fewer shooters we have. I’ve been to many games the last 4-5 years, so I feel like I’m sorta invested in these players, really hope their upsides can get maxed out. I think they can all be solid college players, and have some success.

  • vienna fan

    So Colgate’s Tillotson hit 40% of his threes last year, huh? Under our old regime he probably would have had a career night, like so many of our opponents did. Here’s hoping Marquise and Co. will correct that this year.
    Just one of the many reasons we racked up so many losses.
    GO PATRIOTS!!

  • Chris Hirsch

    Marko has some serious resiliency, I thought he would have been a bench warmer about two years ago.

    • mkaufman1

      He always starts the season off as a starter and fades it seems. Its gotta be the hair that everyone loves.

  • famousdave2015

    Great win over Mississippi today and Shavon woke up. Seeing progress.