Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Could we have seen this coming?

By now, we know who the real George Mason was, the most famous George Mason alumni, and just about every other random factoid you ever wanted to know about them. By the time Saturday rolls around, I suspect we'll even know what shampoo GMU coach Jim Larranago uses (my guess: Pert Plus), and you'll also hear about as many bad 'Patriot Act' puns as you'll ever want to hear. But this doesn't answer some questions about the Patriots, such as, how did they get here? Could we have seen this coming? Let's take a look at the past coupld of years of Patriot basketball.

Last year, George Mason was a middle of the pack CAA team, posting a 10-8 conference record and a 16-13 overall record. They lost their last 3 games on the way to an early exit in the CAA Tournament. Obviously, they were nowhere near a postseason tournament.

From what I can tell, they came back with much of the same as far as the roster is concerned. Their top 3 scorers are seniors. However, this year didn't start out much better than last year finished.

They started out with a win over UC-Irvine, and then lost to Wake Forest. At the time, this was an understandable loss... then Wake Forest went on to finish last in the ACC. In their next game they lost by 20 vs. Creighton. By early December they were 4-3. They proceeded to go 24-4 the rest of the way, and are now 4-0 in the tourney. Let's check the numbers of this year's starters last year compared to this year:

2004 Stats
Jai Lewis - 13.0 Points, 7.5 Rebounds, 1.9 Assists
Tony Skinn - 14.4 Points, 2.9 Rebounds, 2.2 Assists
Lamar Butler - 15.7 Points, 2.4 Rebounds, 2.4 Assists
Will Thomas - 5.7 Points, 5.6 Rebounds, 0.8 Assists
Folarin Campbell - 6.4 Points, 2.2 Rebounds, 1.3 Assists

2005 Stats
Jai Lewis - 13.7 Points, 7.7 Rebounds, 1.9 Assists
Tony Skinn - 12.6 Points, 3.5 Rebounds, 2.8 Assists
Lamar Butler - 12.0 Points, 2.5 Rebounds, 2.0 Assists
Will Thomas - 11.8 Points, 7.3 Rebounds, 1.2 Assists
Folarin Campbell - 11.0 Points, 4.3 Rebounds, 3.5 Assists

From the looks of the numbers, the 3 seniors (Skinn, Lewis, Butler) have all been about equal statistically, but the improved play is coming mostly from the sophomores. Of course, this is mainly to be expected, as typically that is when the most improvement occurs, and because Campbell and Thomas didn't start last year while the other three did.

So this doesn't really tell us anything. How about their schedule this year? Hiw did they fare against tournament teams?

Well, they did go 3-1 against tournament teams, with those wins against Wichita St., Manhattan, and UNC-Wilmington. Good wins, but nothing really to hang your hat on. Consequently, 6 of their 7 losses came against Non-Tourney teams, with the exception being UNC-Wilmington, whom they split with.

Could anyone have really seen this coming? Maybe this guy, but I'm guessing his was more of a lucky guess or joke pick. All the signs pointed against them going far. They had a tough road (the last two National Champs as well as a talented Michigan St. squad), they most likely don't have anyone that will play in the NBA, their second leading scorer was suspended for the first game of the Tournament for throwing a cheap shot, they had exactly 2 wins against the RPI Top 50, and they didn't have any type of momentum (they had lost to Hofstra twice in the last 2 weeks, including in the Quarterfinals of the CAA Tournament). Yet here they are, one of 4 teams left in the NCAA Tournament, making perhaps the best run ever in the NCAA Tournament, the first Mid-Major to make the Final Four since Larry Bird and Indiana St. in 1979, and tied for the lowest seed ever in the NCAA Tournament.

Sometimes, you just never know.

12 comments:

Ian C. said...

I think you hit it when you mentioned how long these guys have been playing together. They might not have as much talent as the bigger schools, but they have more experience, especially when it comes to playing together as a team. Maybe that's the big difference.

The Armchair Quarterback said...

Good analysis of George Mason. Teams with chemistry in this tournament are going to go far. Having said that I think Billy Donovan (at least I think it was him) was right when he said if you reset the tournament another 4 teams would probably end up in the Final Four. Momentum and a few breaks can make a huge difference.

Tim Moore said...

I am still tripping out about George Mason. I cant beleive their run.

I am glad to see other UCLA fan bloggers out there, U-C-L-A!

my blog's url is http://spsports.blogspot.com i would like to exchange links with you, if thats cool.

Tim Moore
-----------
GO BRUINS!

Reb Butler said...

Interesting footnote...I live in central Mass., where Holy Cross gets a lot of buzz. They field a consistently good team in the Patriot League and, if you recall, have scared some #1 seeds in the past few years. We were visiting family in DC over Christmas and having a night without plans, I checked out the local hoop listings to find Holy Cross at...yup, George Mason. So off we went - I'm telling my sister how Holy Cross is usually pretty good etc. etc. Well, George Mason absolutely destroyed HC - I think it was a 15-20 point margin at the half and it got worse after that. As I recall, Lamar Butler set some school record for 3's that night.

So just on that night alone, I picked GM to get to the Elite Eight this year. Turns out I was at least one win short....

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