So it now comes down to the fact that George Mason almost certainly needs to beat George Washington if they want to finish in the top half of the Atlantic 10 this year. The Colonials have won two straight while the Patriots have lost their last two with only three games remaining on the regular season. The Revolutionary Rivalry is alive! Well sort of. Mason desperately needs to bounce back and win at GW after two tough games against URI and Dayton. Perhaps the five day lay off between games will serve them well as their starters have been logging a ton of minutes towards the later half of this season. It certainly looked like they may have run out of gas against Dayton on Tuesday despite playing hard. But we’ve seen this team bounce back many times this year, especially on the road, and it’s no better time than now for that to happen again.
Fans of both George Mason and VCU can argue all day about the validity of this being an actual rivalry. Who cares? Whether it’s a true rivalry or not it’s a big game for both programs, especially with Mason’s big upset over the Rams at the end of last season and the overall history of the series. Most of the time it’s a great game no matter what the standings or records show at the time. Both teams are 10-3 heading into Friday night’s game and looking like they will be fighting for the top of the Atlantic 10 standings. This will be VCU’s third road game after beating Liberty and ODU by a combined margin of eight points on the road earlier in the season. The Rams have had a much tougher non-conference slate but have not been consistent on offense and have struggled with turnovers and rebounding.
George Mason is currently riding a six game winning streak after a win over Penn State Wednesday night. A game in which dominated the paint and the glass despite giving up a lot of size to their opponent. The game further reinforced that this team can rebound and attack the paint with four and five guard lineups no matter who they playing. Marquise Moore and Otis Livingston II are currently playing at a high level and the freshmen getting minutes are more confident each game. With better shot selection and ball protection they are a much more efficient offense then what we saw through the season’s first couple of games. Now it’s on to Penn for a Saturday afternoon game at the historic Palestra to see if Mason can make it seven in a row.
George Mason will be in Happy Valley tonight and will have another chance to get a top 100 win and extend their longest winning streak since 2011-12. Penn State (#99 Kenpom) has won their last four but have been up and down so far, losing to Albany and coming within 10 points of Duke. This will be one of the toughest defenses Mason has seen so far this season and they have been holding teams to shooting under 44% from the field. On offense Mason has been shooting the ball better lately and have a big rebounding advantage over the Nittany Lions if they keep doing what they’ve been doing. You might remember the last time these two teams faced it was in the NIT back in 2009 and Penn State won in OT on a late three-pointer.
Coming off an impressive run in the Charleston Classic George Mason heads to Manhattan next, the last of their five road game swing. There’s a lot more confidence in this team heading into this game then there was prior to their last true road game at Mercer. Shevon Thompson is a bigger part of the offense and they are shooting well from the outside while being much improved from behind the three-point line. Last year in this home and home series Mason beat Manhattan with the help of a full court heave from Jalen Jenkins. Let’s hope they don’t need that kind of luck tonight.
After back to back wins against BCS teams, George Mason now finds themselves in the Charleston Classic final on Sunday against 6th ranked Virginia. This team has looked reborn in this tournament from what we saw in their first two games. Shevon Thompson’s dominance on the boards and in the post is opening things up for everyone. Freshmen Otis Livingston and Jaire Grayer are exceeding expectations in the back court and giving this team a real outside shooting threat. Marquise Moore is benefiting big time from their play and setting up the offense to run more smoothly. When was the last time he had 8 assists in a game? Grayer’s big day shooting the ball included 5-for-7 on three-pointers and he’s now the team’s leading scorer. Overall the balanced offense has returned to Mason as five guys are averaging 9 or more points a game heading into Sunday’s final.
Mason played a lot better against Mercer than they did against Colgate but blew an 11 point lead in the second half to fall to 0-2. Free throws again played a big part, as the Patriots barely went to the line at all and Mercer went 16-16 from the there in the second half as Marquise Moore and Jalen Jenkins fouled out. Three-point shooting was poor again and for a coach who stated “we aren’t a great three-point shooting team” many times this off-season, they are certainly taking a lot of attempts from there. They are taking a lot of attempts because they are getting plenty of open looks and have struggled to get the ball into their bigs. Marko Gujanicic had a good night shooting the ball but that was because he taking outside shots. Shevon Thompson struggled so much passing and holding on to the ball in the post that he was benched for most of the second half.
George Mason looks to bounce back from the home opener loss to Colgate at Mercer tonight. Mason had trouble getting any sort of consistency on offense against Colgate and the front court advantage most thought this team would have going in, looked non-existent. The veteran forward trio of Marko Gujanicic, Shevon Thompson, and Jalen Jenkins struggled against a smaller front court, yikes. They rebounded well enough but looked lost far too often when Colgate packed the paint on defense. Opposing teams are going to do this all season long against George Mason, essentially daring them to shoot from the outside. We got a glimpse of their long range shooting without Patrick Holloway in the lineup and it wasn’t pretty. They need to find ways to get the ball into the post quicker and put their front court players in better positions to score.
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.
The regular season ends today at VCU for George Mason. Regardless of the days outcomes within the Atlantic 10, they will face Fordham in the #12/#13 game in the conference tournament next week. Boy wouldn’t it be satisfying to upset the Rams on their home court tonight with the way this season has gone? The Rams have struggled without Briante Weber and are coming off a loss at Davidson that was one of their worst losses ever in the Shaka Smart era. They are still a lock for the NCAA tournament as most project but another bad loss would certainly make them sweat a little on Selection Sunday.