Colonial Athletic Association (23-10, 10-6)
Big Wins: 11/17 Dayton (67-56), 11/22 vs Kansas State (87-77), 1/29 VCU (63-51)
Bad Losses: 12/2 vs East Carolina (65-68), 1/2 at Georgia State (64-66), 1/9 at Delaware (68-73)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2006, Final Four loss to Florida
Coach: Jim Larranaga (4-3 in 3 NCAA appearances)
Dre Smith, Junior, Guard, 8.6 ppg, 1.4 apg
John Vaughan, Junior, Guard, 12.6 ppg, 2.2 apg, 4.0 rpg
Folarin Campbell, Senior, Guard, 15.9 ppg, 3.3 apg, 4.5 rpg
Louis Birdsong, Sophomore, Forward, 6.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg
Will Thomas, Senior, Forward , 15.8 ppg, 10.5 rpg
Cam Long, Freshman, Guard
Jordan Carter, Senior, Guard
Vlad Moldoveanu, Freshman, Forward
Why They Can Surprise:
George Mason is just two years removed their improbable run to the Final Four. A few pieces remain from that team, but this is an experienced group any way you look at it. Will Thomas was a starter on that Final Four squad and the senior is looking to make a little more history this time around. Thomas averages 15.8 points and a team high 10.5 rebounds. Thomas will have a double-double more often than not, but it is not just his ability in the paint that makes this an intimidating frontcourt. Louis Birdsong will not score nearly as much as Thomas, but he is a solid rebounder.
The Patriots only commit 12 turnovers per game. It does not really matter what they do poorly if they can hang onto the ball like that. At the least, GMU will have opportunities to put points on the board. Guards Dre Smith and John Vaughan can take some of the credit for the few turnovers. However, everybody has to play a part to keep the number that low. Neither Smith nor Vaughan will put up great assist numbers, but they are both solid ball handlers who can do plenty of scoring as well.
Why They Can Disappoint:
George Mason has enough weapons that they could get by in the Colonial Athletic Association without hitting a lot of three-pointers. But in the tournament there will be more athletic teams and bigger teams that the Patriots will have to beat if they want to make another magical run. Without the long ball, GMU might have trouble keeping pace with those teams. Vaughan, Smith and the team’s leading scorer, Folarin Campbell, will hit some shots from beyond the arc, but nobody is very consistent.
Who To Watch:
Campbell not only hits the occasional three-pointer, he does everything. He is a great scorer around the basket and gets to the charity stripe about six times per game. And of course, once he is there, he hits nearly 74 percent of his attempts. But scoring is not all he does. Campbell averages 4.5 rebounds per game and leads the team with 3.3 assists per contest. He has a team high 1.2 steals per game and can even occasionally block a shot. With Campbell, Coach Jim Larranaga has an experienced player who can do anything his team needs.
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