Welcome back to the weekly rundown! As is tradition, we’ll run through some good things, some not so good things, and some generally interesting things from this week in Mason basketball. Let’s get to it.
An apology to Jaire Grayer
A reader rightfully called out that I totally forgot to mention Jaire’s play in this space last week. This injustice must be rectified immediately. We’ll start with all of the statistical categories where Jaire leads the team:
Made threes (28)
Win shares (1.3)
And move on to the categories where he’s second:
3 point % (40%)
Usage rating (22.7%)
Given how he’s relied upon to defend the post, rebound, and how much he loves to shoot threes, he’s essentially playing a stretch four role for the second consecutive year. His outside shooting plays a critical role for a team that lacks shooting threats, and his ability to rebound above his size is vital for a team at such an unusual height disadvantage. During the three-game stretch of JMU, Auburn, and William and Mary, Jaire averaged 19.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2 steals, and threw in two blocks for good measure. Mason’s four-guard lineup isn’t viable without the 6’4” power forward, and I promise not to ignore him again.
1,000 points for Otis
Congratulations to our man Otis Livingston for hitting 1,000 career points against William and Mary. Just for giggles I want to take a look at Otis’s chances of hitting other milestones in his career. For all of these estimates I’m assuming he has 23 games left this season (21 regular season games this year, plus a guess that we get two in the A10 tournament) and 36 games to play next season for a total of 59 games left in his career. He’s currently at 1,024 points.
1,500 points: Otis needs to average about 8 points per game to get here. Barring serious injury or the Nerdlucks coming down from Moron Mountain and stealing his basketball powers, he’s definitely hitting this one.
2,000 points: This is the more interesting question. It took Otis two seasons plus nine games to get to 1,000, which means he gets two seasons minus nine games to get another 1,000. He needs to average about 16.5 points per game to get there. Odds are against it, but it would put him in sole possession of third place in the Mason career record books. As it stands, he’s almost a lock for fourth, needing to average a shade under 10.5 points per game to catch Robert Dykes. For context, Otis averaged 11.9 points his freshman year, 14.3 points his sophomore year, and is at 15.4 points per game this year:
- Carlos Yates: 2,420
- Kenny Sanders: 2,177
- George Evans: 1,953
- Robert Dykes: 1,642
- Ryan Pearson: 1,626
I say it’s unlikely he hits 2,000 and that’s a good thing – scoring should be more spread out next year with the addition of Jarred Reuter and a year of seasoning for Mar, Greene, and Wilson – but he should be pretty close and I’ll be rooting like hell for him to get there.
Otis is also up to 262 career assists, which puts him in sole possession of 17th all time. Should his 5.1 assist per game average from this year continue for the rest of his career, he’ll finish around 562, which would put him in second place all-time in Mason history. Curtis McCants is the all-time leader at 598 and Myron Contee is in second at 411. Otis needs about 5.7 per game to catch McCants and just 2.6 per game to pass Contee.
PS – if you think this stuff is interesting follow fellow GK writer @thetylerbyrum on twitter. He tracks movement on #Masonrecords after every game.
Guarding the post
Back in my GIF’ing days I would have loved to demonstrate the way Mason defended the post against William and Mary, and then how strategy changed against NCC. William and Mary was a disaster because Mason kept switching ball screens with little resistance. Over and over again W+M’s Nathan Knight would set a screen for the ballhandler, Goanar Mar (guarding Knight) would switch onto the ballhandler, and Otis, more than once, was stuck guarding Knight in the post. Knight ended the (k)night with 27 points on 10-15 shooting.
I was apoplectic after the game because I thought it was obvious the strategy should have changed; most options are better than having your 5’11” point guard attempt to defend a legit 6’10” scorer in the post. Paulsen’s scheme requires a lot of switching, and that’s fine, but William and Mary kept getting the ball to Otis’s man and having Knight set the screens so they could get Knight switched onto Otis. Letting the opponent continually get such a plus matchup is a coaching issue, as far as I see it, and while there might have been legitimate reasons for trying it (like shutting down W+M’s excellent three-point shooters) it was a mistake to stick with it all game.
Against NCC the strategy changed for the better. Instead of switching, the bigs would hedge hard and then recover to the paint. This leads to some time with the opposing big uncovered, but the ball needs to move very quickly in order for the opponent to take advantage (St. Bonaventure’s Denzel Gregg had a big night against Mason last year due to this action). NCC’s Raasean Davis still scored 21 on 7-13 shooting, but the rest of the NCC team was only 15-45. More hedge and recover, less easy switches in the future.
Bench contributions rising
According to KenPom, Mason is dead last in the country in bench minutes at 18.1%, tied with only Toledo. Mason’s bench played exactly 24% of the minutes in each game this week (yes, that includes the walk-ons getting a minute apiece against NCC), but 24% would still only be good for 330th in the nation. Of course, the minutes aren’t as important as meaningful contributions. The bench has eaten some minutes without much production in the early going, but that appears to be changing.
Together they chipped in 12 points against William and Mary and 17 against NCC. Javon Greene had a very quiet week of solid contributions, scoring 12 points on 9 shots, adding 5 assists with no turnovers, with a block and a steal to boot. Calixte had 5 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks. AJ Wilson had 11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, and one very nice assist from the high post that led to an Otis three-ball. This Mason team doesn’t need the bench to light the world on fire – continued improvement, some rebounding, and some more AJ dunks will be plenty.
Some quick hitters
- AJ Wilson isn’t consistently contributing yet, but on the offensive side of the ball he’s shown the ability to put it on the floor and get to the rim, post up his man, and shoot from outside. We talk all about his defense for good reason, but he’s got the requisite tools in his toolbox to become a very complete offensive player.
- Teams are starting to sag off Justin Kier on the perimeter the same way they did Marquise Moore last season. Kier is 0-11 from three on the year and needs to start hitting from deep or else the team will sacrifice spacing to keep him on the floor. He tallied 14 points and 5 assists against NCC, but the disappearance of his deep ball is a concern.
- Mason has a brutal stretch coming up, hosting very good Georgia Southern and Penn State teams next week, followed by cupcake Morgan State the Friday before Christmas, then starting A10 play with away games at Rhode Island and upstart UMass. Things might get ugly, but it will be a good opportunity for the freshmen and sophomores to step up.
Last thing – it’s a long season and sometimes it can be a struggle to find things to write about. Feel free to leave questions in the comments to spark some debate, or hit me up on twitter (@peteybuckets).
I’ll see you back here next week. Until then, go Mason!