Returning home after nearly shocking the No. 16 team in the country, George Mason (1-1) is ready for one of the toughest stretches of their season.
Playing the first of four games in seven days during the Cancun Challenge, the eight-man rotation will be put to the test with their endurance, resiliency, and mental toughness. Fortunately for George Mason, all four games are winnable with Fresno State being, potentially, their toughest match-up.
On Thursday night they begin the tournament, hosting Binghamton at Eagle Bank Arena. This contest, as well as their match-up on Saturday vs. California State University, Northridge, has no bracket implications on how the Patriots do in the preseason tournament. Win or lose, the team will play Louisiana Tech for the right to play in the championship in Cancun.
Throughout the first two games of the season, we have seen three of the four returners get off to strong starts.
Junior Jaire Grayer, has really began to crash the basket similar to how Marquise Moore dominated opponents last season. There was flashes of this in conference play last year, but now he has fully taken Moore’s place. Against No. 16 Louisville he recorded his second career double-double (20 points, 10 rebounds). On the season he leads the team in points (18.5 per game) and rebounds (9.5) at only 6-5.
(We would be impressed if Moore hadn’t raised our expectations last year at 6-2)
Sophomores Justin Kier and Ian Boyd have been pleasant surprises as well. The first two games of the year have been the highest scoring of Kier’s career with Mason. Shooting 65 percent has really benefited that. While he is receiving the fewest minutes of the starters, Boyd has made the most of the minutes he has been put in. His style of play is not one that would take over a game, but he is consistent every night. Gathering his averages, 11.0 points on 50 percent shooting and 4.0 rebounds is perfect for the Patriots.
This leaves one remaining returner, Otis Livingston II. As the point guard, he has the worst shooting numbers of the starters (none of the bench players have made a basket). Fittingly enough, as Livingston has struggled, so has the team at the free throw line. The team is 55 percent on the year, absolutely atrocious except for Kier (11/12). Against an opponent like the Bearcats, Mason could really focus on getting the 5-11 junior on track and hitting freebies.
Coming to Fairfax, Binghamton (1-1) has had an interesting start to the year. They beat a Morgan State squad that was supposed to be the banner program for the MEAC this season and dropped a close one to Cornell. This season they are preseason ranked sixth in the nine-team America East conference. Now the America East conference is no joke of a league, this year two teams could very well make the trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Five starters return to the Bearcats from the previous season, always a good sign at the start of the year. While they haven’t completely abandoned their three-point game, 54 percent of their point have come through the paint. Center Thomas Bruce is coming off of a 28 point, 11 rebound performance, leading the team in both categories. Standing at 6-9, they will attempt to fed the ball inside based on the height miss-match. In both of their early contests Mason has been real effective at swamping the interior of the court, challenging teams to take three point shots. Make it three in a row and I will certainly be convinced for the remainder of non-conference play.
There is no one specific weakness of this Binghamton team. They do however shoot the rock really well, shooting just under 50 percent from the field. Contain their shooting inside and it appears that George Mason is a far superior team.
Here are three things to watch for vs. Binghamton:
- Justin Kier; he has been a beast so far, clouded by Grayer’s performances. Will he slow down or continue his hot streak?
- Mason’s bench; zero points, 10 rebounds, zero assists, nine turnovers in 49 combined minutes. To keep from overworking the starters, somebody has to do something.
- Thomas Bruce/ Binghamton’s interior; I promise if Mason proves me wrong again I will take it off the list until A10 play.
Today I got an assist from Leonard Pumphrey, talking about Livingston’s assists, with the latest #MasonRecords:
@theTylerByrum remember with 1 assist tomorrow Otis will tie George Evans at #22 with 226 assist with two he takes over #22 alone Next on the list #21 Luke Hancock with 239.
— Leonard Pumphrey (@FCHSBandAlumni) November 16, 2017
Overall three pointers:
Jaire Grayer (109) is nine three pointers behind Brian Miller for 13th all-time.
Otis Livingston II (94) is two three pointers behind Amp Davis for 17th all-time.
Prediction: Mason 85, Binghamton 74
Prediction Record: 2-0
My top tweet of the week:
Hearing Dave Paulsen shouting over the announcers during a TV broadcast >>>>
— Tyler Byrum (@theTylerByrum) November 12, 2017