George Mason shocked many this past week by reaching the final of the Charleston Classic against #6 Virginia. After losing to Colgate and Mercer, they weren’t given much of a shot to do anything in this tournament. UVA was lights out on offense last night and Mason was hanging with them for about three quarters of the game. Mason’s youth and lack of depth finally caught up with them but the exciting thing to take away was how much better they looked compared to the season’s first two games. This no longer looks like a team that will end up in the Atlantic 10 basement.
Shevon Thompson was dominate in the post and earned all-tournament honors scoring 50 points and grabbing 41 rebounds in three game span. Freshmen Otis Livingston and Jaire Grayer were big threats on the perimeter and shot the ball extremely well. They both displayed a ton of confidence that helped carry the team. Veterans Marquise Moore and Marko Gujanicic are benefiting big time from Dave Paulsen’s system. Moore is getting a lot of assists and making the offense run smoothly. Marko has finally found his stroke on the three-point perimeter and is making smart plays in and out of the post. He’s also knocking down mid-range jumpers, something this team has been missing for years.
There are still a lot things Mason has to work on going forward. Teams doubling the post against Thompson is still creating problems and turnovers. Ole Miss and Oklahoma State didn’t do this as much because they thought they had the size to match-up but Thompson went off. UVA clamped down on him and didn’t let him become a factor on offense. Expect most of their opponents to do this from now on.
The lack of depth was masked in the first two games in this tournament because the starting five was playing so well. Thompson was dominating down low and guards were hitting outside shots. Against UVA they couldn’t get any stops, which is understandable considering their offense right now is one of the most efficient in the country, but it showed a Mason weakness. They had trouble guarding the wing and didn’t have anyone to go to on the bench. They subbed in Abram but he looked like a freshman and wasn’t effective. Also when Thompson got flustered and Paulsen pulled him that left Jalen Jenkins, who isn’t having a great year so far, and freshman Danny Dixon. Those two are a big drop off from what Thompson can do in the post and that take a big hit when he’s on the bench for that long.
Mason only had 18 bench points during the entire Charleston Classic, that puts a ton of pressure on your starting lineup. Patrick Holloway and Julian Royal coming back will help the bench be in better shape. I mostly agree when people say depth is overrated and yes this starting group is playing great but some of them are still freshmen and some depth is better then no depth.