On Saturday afternoon, George Mason will be taking on St. Louis in EagleBank Arena for the chance to be above .500 in Atlantic 10 conference play. The only other time in program history was in 2014-15 when the team beat La Salle in the conference opener.
For George Mason (12-5, 2-2), this initially appears to be an easy matchup as the Billikins (4-12, 0-4) are one of the worst offensive teams in the country.
At 0.92 points per possession, there are only ten teams in all of Division I that have a worse offensive efficiency. Although the Patriots are not known to have an aggressive defense, when opposing teams turn the ball over more, Mason is 5-1
Now is not the time though for George Mason to overlook Saint Louis, after all, they are the team that kicked Mason out of the Atlantic 10 tournament last season.
In Atlantic 10 play, the Billikins have cut their turnovers and are shooting more effectively from the field than they have all year. Their last matchup with Duquense, the team lost 73-66 but shot 40.7 percent from the field; the game prior they shot over 47 percent against Davidson.
Losing their leading scorer, toward the end of non-conference play, St. Louis relies on guard Davell Roby and forward Reggie Agbeko for their production.
When these two teams met in Brooklyn last year, Roby had 18 points off the bench, including three for four from behind the arc. As a starter this season, Roby averages 10 points and under two threes a game, his percentage on the year from long range is 36. Once again it will be the job of Marquise Moore to guard the opponent’s best player.
Agbeko in his senior season has developed into one of the more underrated post players in the conference. Just shy of a season double-double, 9.9 points and 8.1 rebounds, his interior looping hook shot is his biggest weapon.
At only 6’7” he is shorter than most other post players, but with Elliott Welmer at 6’9” in the lineup, it poses another mismatch for the Patriots. Lone forward starter, Jalen Jenkins will likely split duties covering whichever big resides in the lane, because the team still likes to run a spread offense. Welmer is actually the second best three point shooter on the team.
Expect Ian Boyd (5.5 points per game) to get his third straight start to combat the size in the paint compared to the smaller Justin Kier (6.4 points per game). There will times for Jenkins (10.9 points) to get involved in the offense too if the Patriots clear out the post. Agbecko and Welmer tend to get out of position down low.
For the Patriot faithful, look for the fast break to be unleashed.
The Billikins are slow to get down the court. In their last game, they allowed 10 fast break points and 11 points off turnovers. With the ample amount of turnovers expected, the Patriots should be able to easily take advantage.
With two of the fastest guards in the league, Moore and Otis Livingston II can get to full speed before the opponents realize their pocket was picked. Not only is Livingston (14.3 points/ 3.2 assists per game) quick, but his vision is incredible which could lead to transition threes from Jaire Grayer (24 3pters on the season) and Kamari Newman (10 points in the last game).
LAST GAME: MASON KNOCKS OFF REIGNING A10 CHAMP
Keys for George Mason will be to capitalize on turnovers, draw fouls in the paint, and force St. Louis to shoot over them (33 percent on the season).
If the Patriots were to win this contest, they would hold a 4-4 all-time record against the Billikins. When these two teams get together, they do happen to go to overtime; three of the seven games went the extra distance with the Green and Gold losing all three.
Prediction: George Mason 74 St. Louis 58
Prediction Record: 12-5