As we count down the days to the start of the 2018-19 season, A10 Talk will be bringing you its preseason power rankings, as voted on by its team of writers. We continue the countdown with #4 George Mason Patriots.
Returnees to Watch
George Mason is the only team in college basketball to return 100% of its scoring from last season, so there’s reason to have lofty expectations. Otis Livingston II (17.3 PPG) and Jaire Grayer (12.3 PPG) return as the two seniors fit to lead the Patriots to the Big Dance. These two have been Mason’s most dominant scoring options from three as well — the Patriots were actually 4th in the conference in 3P FG% last season, an area where they tend not to excel. Goanar Mar feels like the player poised for the biggest jump; as a freshman, Mar averaged 10.9 PPG but had 16, 18, and 26 point performances consecutively in the month of February, proving he’s ready to erupt as a scorer. Justin Kier and Ian Boyd will need to be more reliable on both ends of the floor in their junior seasons. Sophomores Greg Calixte, A.J. Wilson, and Javon Greene all showed signs of promise as freshmen, especially on the boards, given limited playing time.
Newcomers to Watch
Jarred Reuter clearly stands out as the most prominent newcomer. The junior transfer from Virginia is built like a linebacker and already posted a double-double in Mason’s exhibition win over Johns Hopkins. Reuter fills the role of a traditional center in the post who can rebound like his life depends on it, something Mason has arguably lacked since the graduation of Shevon Thompson. Freshmen may play an impact for the Patriots this season, though given the depth of experienced juniors and seniors, I wouldn’t expect that impact to be significant. Jamal Hartwell is arguably the Patriots’ most talented recruit — a 3 star point guard according to 247 Sports from Los Angeles, California. While he could see some time at the 1, Otis Livingston II, Justin Kier, and Javon Greene are expected to carry the bulk of the backcourt duties. Guards Jordan Miller and Jason Douglas-Stanley round out the incoming class of freshmen for Mason.
Games to Watch
A reasonable (yet difficult) expectation for George Mason this season will be making the NCAA Tournament. If the Patriots want a chance at that, without winning it all in Brooklyn, non-conference play will be pivotal. The Patriots have very sneaky difficult games on the road against Georgia Southern and William & Mary, two mid-majors that took down GMU at home last season. Those have to go down as wins in my book. A game against Cincinnati in the Emerald Coast Classic presents a great opportunity, and the Patriots will face either Ole Miss or Baylor in the 2nd round. Finally, Kansas St. presents a very challenging road test, but don’t expect that to be a game GMU takes from the Wildcats unless it is absolutely on fire.
I like the direction Dave Paulsen has this George Mason program moving in, but the Patriots need to get out to a good start this season if they want to reap postseason benefits. We saw this team steadily improve as the 2017-18 campaign marched on, but dropping some brutal non-conference losses (and barely sneaking away with a few close wins) is not the recipe for success. George Mason can’t come out of the gates cold; it has to establish a precedence in November so that it enters NCAA Tournament conversation in March. The talent is there for GMU; this team just has to prove it.