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 defender in the back court. The hope is under this 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:
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.