A George Mason preview that has nothing to do with the Patriots.
- What: #VCU (21-9, 11-6) vs. George Mason (9-20, 4-13)
- Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center
- When: Saturday, March 7th at 5:30 PM
- Watch: NBC Sports Network
- Listen: Rams Radio
Since winning twelve games in a row and starting the conference season 7-0, HAVOC! has fallen off the rails and lost six of its last 10 games. At first it was easy to blame the stumbles on the loss of Briante Weber, the injury of Treveon Graham, or just the brutality of an 18-game conference schedule. Now it’s impossible to even guess why VCU, a model for consistency, has struggled so mightily over the past month. One thing is clear: it now has little to do with who the Rams are facing on any given day.
In VCU’s 82-55 loss to Davidson, the hustle was lacking, VCU looked like they hadn’t scouted the team, and several of the Rams lost their poise in the face of frustration and disappointment. Add in an opponent peaking at the right time and the energy of senior night and things got ugly. But even after the worst losses, talented and capable teams are still talented and capable teams.
Coach Smart has coached 215 games in his career. He’s won a jaw-dropping 158 of those games. A freak amount have come by five points or less and nine times out of ten, VCU is within reach at the final buzzer.
Under Coach Smart, the Rams have only lost seven games by 14 or more points. They are 6-0 in the games following those losses. In 2010, Coach Smart lost the second game of his career 83-67 to Western Michigan. He responded with an 82-69 win over then-ranked #17 Oklahoma.
In 2011, George Mason dismantled VCU 71-51 in the Stuart C. Siegel Center. The Rams responded with a 68-67 victory over Wichita State in what may be the most underrated game in VCU history. Less than three weeks later, VCU topped George Mason by 16 points before going to the Final Four.
In 2013, Saint Louis topped VCU 76-62 in a lopsidded dismantling more embarassing than the margin. VCU responded by overcoming a 17-point deficit to top Xavier 75-71 in the Cintas Center where the Musketeers had lost one conference game since 2006. The next game, VCU obliterated Butler 84-52 before topping Richmond by double figures. Then there was the Michigan game, but the first rule of the Michigan game is no talking about the Michigan game.
Even this season, there are plenty of examples for the Rams. VCU topped Oregon 77-53 (23-8, 13-5) after being dominated by Villanova 77-53. And VCU’s most impressive victory of the season, a double-overtime win over Northern Iowa, came on the heels of a 74-57 loss to UVA.
There are even examples from outside of VCU. Last night, Davidson looked like a juggernaut capable of beating 350 of the 355 teams in the country. On January 17th, they lost to Richmond 89-63. Last season, Connecticut won the national championship after losing to Louisville 81-48 on March 8th.
This is not to say that VCU is about to win eight straight games like Davidson or the Rams are primed to make a run at the national championship. Dozens of teams lose six out of ten games and even more lose games by double digits. But with more parity, younger players, and more dramatic systems, variance is more prevalent than ever. Capable teams are just as capable of dominating an opponent on one day as they are to losing to another opponent by 14 plus points on the next day. Who knows what’s going to happen against George Mason on Saturday, and that in itself, is an amazing reason to tune in and appreciate the roller-coaster ride that is college basketball.
THE STAR: #14 Shevon Thompson
12.7 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 1.1 BPG
The Jamaican-born junior college transfer is George Mason’s leading scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker, and he is the only Patriot shooting above .500. He ranks third nationally in offensive rebound percentage and 12th in defensive rebounding percentage while also shooting .517 from the field. That’s incredible. The Patriots throw up a lot of bricks, so Thompson is their most effective offensive weapon when he grabs offensive boards and scores second chance points.
Recently, Mo Alie-Cox and Justin Tillman have overcommitted to blocking shots which has affected the Rams’ defensive rebounding. “Mo Says No” is energizing, but Thompson can and will make the Rams pay on the glass.
#13 Corey Edwards (PG, Senior) • He’s a decent play-maker but his 28.2 TORate should have even a Briante Weber-less HAVOC! drooling.
#22 Marquise Moore (PG, Sophomore) • He’s a physical guard who is an effective driver despite lacking a jump shot. He attempted 42 free-throws over a four game stretch in early December.
#44 Isaiah Jackson (G/F, Freshman) • It’s been a rocky campaign for the freshman, but he caught fire and hit four out of five 3-pointers against Saint Louis last Saturday.
#31 Jalen Jenkins (F, Sophomore) • He’s an effective shot-blocker and he’ll draw plenty of fouls, but at 5.9 fouls per 40 minutes, he’s a huge driver of the Patriots’ struggles to keep opponents off of the free-throw line.
#1 Vaughn Gray (G, Senior) • The senior has fallen out of favor, but he scored 10 points on senior day against GW and was fairly effective.
#3 Patrick Holloway (G, Junior) • Originally one of the most important players on the team, his role has been limited by
KenPom picks VCU to win 75-60 with a 93% chance of victory.
George Mason PROFILE
- Location: Fairfax, VA
- Enrollment: 33,300
- Conference: A-10
- All-time Series VCU leads 32-18.
- Last Meeting 2/4/2015. VCU won 72-60.