Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Five pregame thoughts: George Mason

1.) Mo Cassara wasn’t thrilled with how the Flying Dutchmen responded to prosperity during the non-conference season. Well, they weren’t half as prosperous then as they are now after the big win over Drexel. The last time the Dutchmen were feeling pretty good about themselves, Florida Atlantic snapped their four-game winning streak with a 63-59 win Dec. 11. George Mason is a lot better than Florida Atlantic. How do we know that? Mason beat Florida Atlantic 66-51 Thanksgiving weekend. While dopes like me were jumping up and down yesterday over the Drexel win, my guess is Cassara was all business and reminding the Dutchmen that any good vibes generated Monday will disappear with a poor outing tonight.

2.) George Mason is good—really good. There. I got my one compliment out of the way. That cursed, wretched Final Four run in 2006 opened up a whole new stream of players to Sensei John Kreese, err, coach Jim Larranaga, and he’s taken advantage of it by recruiting some top-flight Cobra Kais, err, Patriots. Mason is the most talented team in the league and the Dutchmen absolutely have to avoid the first half fades that were so frequent in November and December. Mason is almost unstoppable when it’s feeling good, playing from ahead (so to speak) and bursting with momentum, as Mason proved in shooting better than 50 percent in wins over Radford, Florida Atlantic, UNC Wilmington, Loyola, Liberty and Delaware. The Dutchmen must produce the same defensive effort they produced Monday, because if the Patriots get rolling, it could be a long night and I could have plenty of time to come up with mean things to say about how they’re running up the score.

3.) The Dutchmen will likely again have to figure out a way to win without filling it up from outside. Like Drexel (which is limiting opponents to 24.8 percent shooting from 3-point land), Mason is dominant on defense beyond the arc 28.6 percent. That means plenty of midrange jumpers from David Imes (8-for-8 against Drexel) and Greg Washington (3-for-4 against Drexel) and the usual slashing and driving from Charles Jenkins and Mike Moore.

4.) Play a complete game. Mason’s talent makes it the closest thing the CAA has to a BCS team—a squad that can win by turning it on in the final 10 minutes. That’s what happened in Fairfax last January, when the Dutchmen squandered a late seven-point lead and fell by four. Not only do the Dutchmen have to avoid a first half fade, they have to avoid a second half one as well. Forty minutes.

5.) Keep it close and hope Mason’s immaturity crops up late. Yes, yes, we know, everyone’s a year older and more mature, and the 1980s sitcom-esque trip to Italy this summer (seriously, didn’t I see that on an episode of The Facts of Life?) bonded the Patriots. But the fact is Mason set an unofficial record for suspensions on a single team last season and Luke Hancock and Ryan Pearson have picked up technicals this season. Keep it close, respond to every Mason flurry and hope the Patriots get flustered, which will likely manifest itself at the free throw line, where Mason is shooting just 64.7 percent.

5b.) Make me a happy Dutchman by winning, damnit. Five straight losses to these guys sucks. And if not for me, do it for Hall of Fame Flying Dutchman Bert Blyleven!!!

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