Alright, the ugly one is out of the way for George Mason. Aside from St. Bonaventure, the team does not play another team in conference that should blow them out by 20+ points.
Key word: should.
This week the Patriots stay in the northeast to continue the start of Atlantic 10 play. Heading to the Mullins Center, the team will play Massachusetts led by new head coach Matt McCall.
LAST GAME: LOST IN RHODE ISLAND
Early on the Minutemen (7-7, 0-1) have been easily the biggest surprise of the conference. In a familiar situation for George Mason, six transfers left the program after the new coach was introduced. Unlike the Patriots, the Minutemen were losing a lot more production. Dante Clark, the team’s leading scorer last season (12.6 ppg) left to go to Coastal Carolina. Two more of the players, now sophomores DeJon Jarreau and Brison Gresham, highlighted the 27th best recruiting class in the country for Massachusetts.
With the changeover there was enough of the roster from a season ago to give McCall at a chance for success. Growing pains were a huge part of the first month of the season, but in December the team made the most of their opportunities. Taking apart Providence and Georgia at home, the expected rebuild was on the fast track.
Luwane Pipkins is one of two sophomores that remained from the mass exodus. It is a good thing he did because he has put up all All-Atlantic 10 second/third team numbers during their non-conference stretch. He leads the team in points (18.1 ppg), is second in assists (3.1 apg), and has the most steals with 23.
Another guy that will get attention from Dave Paulsen and his scouting crew is big man Rashaan Holloway. As one of the few centers in the conference, he is a monster standing at 6-11, 310 pounds. The junior gets 9.7 points and 4.5 rebounds a night. Numbers are slightly below what they were last year, but he is more productive in his limited time on the court.
A match-up nightmare, there is one transgression in his game; his endurance makes him a liability against a quick running team.
As such, it is not likely that the Minutemen will apply full-court pressure like all of Mason’s other opponents so far. UMass is coming off a 20-point loss to one of the league banner-men, like the Patriots. St. Bonaventure knocked them off 98-78 in their A10 opener.
George Mason (6-8, 0-1) is going to have to figure out their scoring bumps if they want to have a chance. In three of their last four games, Mason has not broken 65 points. The Minutemen average 71.6 on the season.
One player that could do that is point guard Otis Livingston II. In three games against the Minutemen in his career, the junior averages 18.3 points on 47.5 percent shooting. Taking over a game is not the style of the 5-11 guard, he is more of a facilitator and commander of the offense. But it is time for him to start taking control when the rest of the offense is stagnant. As one of two juniors, he needs to demand more and if he generates more opportunities for himself, it is easier for the young bloods to rally around.
Against Rhode Island the talented passer had a single assist for the third time in his career. Traditionally, he rebounds better than anyone after a sub-par performance. On the season he averages 14.2 points and 4.1 assists in 35 minutes a contest. Nearly every possession he does look for opportunities to push the tempo, this game might be one for him to act on those instincts.
Greg Calixte will have his hands full down low going against Holloway. Anticipate A.J. Wilson to get some extra minutes just to give Calixte a break defensively.
Similar to their last handful of opponents, the Minutemen are over aggressive on defense. In none of those contests did Mason taken advantage. Livingston, and Goanar Mar (11.9 ppg) are the two players that are comfortable playing through contact so hopefully they get a majority of the touches.
Here are three things to watch for vs. Massachusetts:
- Taking advantage when Holloway is not on the court; he averages under 18 minutes a game, the post will look like an open highway when he is off compared to when he is on.
- Fouls; this is the second straight game that this is on the list. Mason needs to get to the line where they are 73.3 percent on the season.
- Second chance points; UMass gets a lot of them, Mason doesn’t.
Last year, Mason was 2-0 against the Minutemen. Since joining the Atlantic 10 conference, this has always been a competitive series; five of the six games have been decided by six points or less.
As many have alluded to, No.’s 4-14 is wide open in the conference. This game will show where the Patriots actually stack up in the Atlantic 10.
If the game is close, it is worth noting that the Green and Gold is 3-0 in games decided by five points or fewer on the season.
Otis Livingston II (1,067) six points away from Jesse Young for 30th all-time.
Overall three pointers:
Jaire Grayer (138) is four three pointers behind Patrick Holloway for 11th all-time.
Otis Livingston II (111) is seven three pointers behind Brian Miller for 14th all-time.
Otis Livingston (273) is 10 assists behind Jamel Perkins and Troy Mans for 14th all-time.
Jaire Grayer (61) is three blocks behind Shevon Thompson for 19th all-time.
Prediction: Mason 75, Massachusetts 73
Prediction Record: 11-3