The George Mason Patriots had a pretty difficult start to the regular season; it seemed this team may be headed for the bottom of the league as it lost 3 of its first 4. George Mason lost brutal home games to Towson and Mount St. Mary’s. This team started the Gulf Coast Showcase on a bad note; the Patriots got killed by the Houston Cougars after getting destroyed on the boards and really struggling shooting the basketball.
But after a 37 point loss to Houston, things turned around drastically for this team. The Patriots would go on to finish the Gulf Coast Showcase 2-1 and rattle off 9 straight wins to finish non-conference play. While a lot of A-10 teams have struggled out of conference, the Patriots have responded to a rough start and look like one of the better teams in the Atlantic 10 as we approach league play.
George Mason has two big wins that stand out in my mind. Road victories over Northern Iowa and Penn State seem like the biggest wins for this Mason team, though the former doesn’t look as good as it did earlier in the season. The UNI Panthers were one of the better mid-major teams in the nation when George Mason took them down, but since losing to the Patriots, they’ve lost 3 of their last 5. This shouldn’t undermine a great road win that George Mason was able to score, but you’re going to root on the Panthers in MVC play if you’re a Mason fan.
A road win over Penn State also looks great for this team. The Nittany Lions are a top 100 team according to Kenpom, and Dave Paulsen has to be thrilled that his Patriots beat a Power 5 team on the road. And “beating” is quite an understatement. Rather, the Patriots thumped Penn State by 19 points in University Park.
The third good win that George Mason notched was on the road against Pennsylvania. The Patriots really showcased their ability to go on the road and beat quality opponents. They followed up a 19 point road win over Nittany Lions with a 19 point road win over the Quakers. In both contests, George Mason looked like the dominant team and played like it belonged. Marquise Moore has been one of the most underrated players in college basketball this year. He’s proven to be an explosive scorer and rebounder in his senior season.
George Mason’s worst loss was to Mount St. Mary’s. This team ranks 271st according to Kenpom, and to have the Mountaineers come into Fairfax and steal a win hurts this team badly. Mount St. Mary’s is off to a 1-11 start to the season with its only win coming against George Mason. This one stings, but good road wins later in the non-conference season help make up for this loss. The only other bad loss is against Towson at home. This is not a horrible loss, but given the trajectory of this team so far, you can’e help but think George Mason could’ve easily won this game. A loss to Houston isn’t a bad loss, but the Patriots did get killed in that game.
Non-Conference Grade: A-
You’ve got to give this team some credit. Not many people saw the Patriots going 10-3 in non-conference play, and even if they did, they certainly didn’t see them beating Northern Iowa and Penn State. A couple of early losses keep this team from getting an A, but this George Mason squad has more than exceeded expectations in late November and early December.