Monday, March 27, 2006

Super Patriots

Last Thursday in my article, I had this to say about George Mason's chances to crash the Final Four:

"The big question surrounding the Patriots' inclusion was this: should GMU be in without suspending point guard Tony Skinn in the first round? George Mason answered that question by dispatching Michigan State with relative ease without their floor general. With Skinn back in the lineup, they sent defending national champion North Carolina packing in the second round. This team has been for real all season long, and they are letting the world know it in this tournament.

Why they can get to Indy
The Patriots also do it with defense. They have the #15 rated Defensive Efficency in the country, including the 9th-best field goal percentage defense. GMU defends in the half-court about as well as anyone. In fact, opponents are shooting just 38.6% against Mason this season, including a paltry 32% from three-point range. They like a slow, methodical pace and they love to pound it inside to wide-bodied Jai Lewis (13.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg) on offense.

Why they will fall short
Much like Bradley, GMU will have to play above their offensive means (#67 Offensive Efficiency) to get to Indianapolis. They have the defense to slow down just about anyone, but to beat the top teams in the land, they are going to have to make shots and that is not their forte. So far in the tourney, guards Falorin Campbell and Lamar Butler have stepped up to have big nights in the team's first two games. One or both of those two will need to keep up the good work to keep the Patriots moving in the bracket.

If GMU has a more pedestrian offensive outing, they will be in trouble against Wichita State or the winner of UConn/Washington."

Well, there have been no pedestrian outings. We know GMU is a terrific defensive team and that they have quality post scorers in big Jai Lewis and Will Thomas. The difference between the excellent regular-season Patriots and the NCAA Super-Patriots is the outside shooting. GMU had three players make more than 16 three point FG's during the regular season:

Lamar Butler (69-185, 37.3%)
Tony Skinn (53-156, 34%)
Folarin Campbell (31-92, 33.7%)

GMU had no player that would be considered a great 3-pt shooter. But take a look at what these hombres have done during their four NCAA Tourney games:

Lamar Butler (11-22, 50%)
Tony Skinn (5-13, 38.5%)
Folarin Campbell (8-16, 50%)

When you add a huge spike in three point-shooting efficiency to a great team with a quality defense (#7 nationally in effective FG % defense), you have a buzzsaw on your hands. Michigan State, defending champ North Carolina, Wichita State, and now UConn have all learned that lesson.

Read more about Mason from their official site, CBS' Gregg Doyel, the Chicago Sun Times, and their hometown Washington Post. Or, just about any hoops blog on the net.