Enter another program that the George Mason Patriots have never played before.
On Saturday evening, George Mason hosts Cal State Northridge wrapping up play before they head to Cancun for their preseason tournament.
This is a game that the Patriots really need to prove that they can distance themselves from inferior opponents. While Mason was able to match a talented Louisville squad earlier this week, their other two games this season should have been won by more than two and eight points.
While each game had their own set of reasons in why the Patriots (2-1) were unable to pull out comfortable wins, in the grand scheme of things a win is a win. But it is not opening weekend anymore, these guys (three of which started last season) need to put together a complete game performance. This is more than to ease some worry from the fan base; they need to prepare for what is up next.
This is their second game of five during a seven game stretch. Against Binghamton it was a perfect opportunity to get some guys rest, but playing from behind forced all five starters to play more than 30 minutes. The beginning of the season is notorious for players suffering horrific injuries. Jumping right into a season with a lighter offseason workload have taken victim some marque players (look no further than E.C. Matthews). Adding a ton of minutes in early games will compound the issue.
Now Mason has never seem to have an issue when it comes to early on in the season (knock-on-wood), give credit to the Patriots training staff. More importantly though, George Mason cannot rely on five guys night-in and night-out. The starters have been killing it so far, all averaging double figure scoring through three games. Justin Kier, 15.3 points per game on 57 percent shooting, has been a pleasant surprise.
Fun @MasonMBB fact, through 3 games all 5 starters are averaging double figures:
— Tyler Byrum (@theTylerByrum) November 18, 2017
The three bench players though have scored six points combined. Through three games they’ve accounted for 13 percent of Mason’s minutes on the court (78 of 600). Bottom line they need more time playing, for their overall improvement, and to bail out the starters down the road. But to do that, it all starts with the starters.
Now it is time to face the Matadors (1-1), another team to finish with a sub-300 RPI from last year (like Lafayette and Binghamton). They play in the single bid Big West conference and were projected to finish seventh out of nine schools. They do present a challenge that the Patriots are not accustomed to seeing this season. CSUN can shoot from deep.
With a 47 percent three-point mark, there are multiple players that the Matadors can strike with. First there is the flex-forward Tavrion Dawson, a big man that plays outside and in, able to strike from all areas of the court. This year he was an All-Big West preseason selection. His deep threat will keep the Patriots honest from behind the arc, but he is big and powerful down low. Through two games he is averaging 12.5 points and 4.0 rebounds. The other is their leading scorer, freshman Terrell Gomez. Behind the arc he is hitting 67 percent and scoring 16.5 points a contest. He is not a threat to drive, but his stroke is smooth.
Here are three things to watch for vs. CSUN:
- Jaire Grayer; things looked off on Thursday for Grayer. Hopefully that was a one game thing.
- Tavrion Dawson; a new challenge for Mason, a new challenge for Goanar Mar/ Ian Boyd
- Bench production; clearly scoring points will not come easy for the bench, but that not always is a bad thing. Meaningful minutes go a long way.
CSUN barely turns the ball over, averaging only 4.5 turnovers a game this year. Mason has barely utilized turnovers they’ve forced this season, but in this contest if the Patriots fall behind a comeback is less likely unless someone gets hot.
For their own sake, the Patriot starters have to keep the Matadors quiet from deep, especially early. George Mason has a real chance to make a run in the Cancun Challenge, but not if the front lines are tired out.
Overall three pointers:
Jaire Grayer (110) is eight three pointers behind Brian Miller for 13th all-time.
Otis Livingston II (99) is eight three pointers behind Sherrod Wright for 15th all-time.
Otis Livingston (231) is eight assists behind Luke Hancock for 21st all-time
Prediction: Mason 71, CSUN 64
Prediction Record: 3-0