Three years ago at this time, I wrote an article titled Two Years in a Row, George Washington Comes Apart Down the Stretch. I wrote this as a frustrated life-long Colonials fan who had, for the second consecutive year, watched GW come apart in the final weeks of the season that hurt not only the Colonials’ A-10 Tournament seeding, but kept them out of the NCAA Tournament as well. What once seemed like a promising season, and a team that seemed like a lock for a top-four seed in Brooklyn just couldn’t win key games in the final stretch of the season. Does this sound familiar?
George Mason has lost back-to-back games, and four of their last six games. In the span of one month, the Patriots have fallen from first place all the way to sixth place. Before the season, Mason was in the conversation for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but that all was undone by an 0-3 start to the season, losing to Penn, American and Georgia Southern.
Yet all of that was seemingly forgotten, as Mason got off to a 7-1 start in the A-10, and stood alone in first-place on February 1st. The Patriots fell in consecutive games to VCU 79-63, and Richmond 81-67. Both were road games, but George Mason wasn’t really all that competitive in either game, especially in the game against the Spiders. They did right the ship with wins over La Salle and UMass, but two more back-to-back loses at the hands of St. Bonaventure and now Duquesne has seen the Patriots plummet through the standings.
Granted, Mason has been bitten by the injury bug big time. Ian Boyd and Greg Calixte have both missed the last several games. Jaire Grayer and Goanar Mar have both been out for the season since New Year’s, and Jamal Hartwell II left Mason’s last game with an injury and did not return. It’s almost maddening to think how different this season could’ve been if George Mason could’ve only stayed healthy.
Now just four games remain in the regular season: Richmond, at Saint Louis, VCU and at GW. As a GMU students, I am not entirely confident in any of those games.
Richmond is a team that simply took Mason to the woodshed, dominating the Patriots 81-67 in the Robins Center on February 6th. Mason just had no answer for Jacob Gilyard, who dropped 28 points on Dave Paulsen’s bunch, while Grant Golden and Nathan Cayo combined for 27 more points. The Spiders lead by as many as 22 points with just 7:44 left in the game, and a late Mason rally was only able to cut the deficit to 10, never closer.
Playing at Saint Louis is never an easy task, and the Patriots have not won at Chaifetz Arena since 2016, when it took an overtime effort for Mason to claw out a 79-77 victory. This is a game that George Mason certainly has the capability to win, but I don’t think many fans are feeling confident heading into this one.
While Mason was able to hang with VCU for about 30 minutes in the first meeting, the Rams’ press really caused GMU issues. If Mason is still down Ian Boyd and Greg Calixte by this time, this is going to be even more of a difficult outing. Granted, AJ Wilson did not play in the first game against VCU, and his energy may be the spark the Patriots need in this game. But George Mason is going to have to handle the pressure better if they are going to hang around in this game.
And look, I get George Mason beat George Washington at home this year. But the fact still remains, the Patriots have never won at the Charles E. Smith Center. In the first meeting this season at EagleBank Arena, GW shot just 37%, had 18 turnovers and missed some key free throws down the stretch. If George Washington can hit some more shots and take care of the ball, I think George Mason could be in trouble. Plus, in what perhaps may be Maurice Joseph’s last home game as head coach, you’d have to think he’ll have the Colonials up for this game.
Look, I’m not trying to say that Mason will go 0-4 over their final four games and finish in eight place. I’m not saying the sky is falling, nor that everyone should be fired and to start from scratch. On the contrary, I think George Mason has some very good pieces on their roster. I think the emergence of Justin Kier as a star will help make up for the loss of Otis Livingston II after this season. I think there is some real potential in Jamal Hartwell II as the point guard of the future. All these factors just make it all the more frustrating that George Mason has come undone the way they have this season.
While it still is mathematically possible for Mason to finish in fourth, they are going to need a heck of a lot of help to do so. Losing to St. Bonaventure and Duquesne back-to-back means Mason is 1-2 in the mini-group of the three teams at 9-5. Here’s a better look at the tiebreakers:
— Daniel Frank (@n1a2v3y4) February 24, 2019
The Bonnies and the Dukes do play head-to-head on Wednesday, which guarantees one of those teams will fall to 9-6. The outcome of that game will have significant implications for George Mason, as well as if the Patriots are able to get a win against Richmond. If the Patriots themselves fall to 9-6, then it’s all over in hopes of a double-bye. Mason will realistically need to go 3-1, if not 4-0, in their final four games.
Look, I get it. This is still a very good George Mason team. They have the ability to win-out, and even perhaps try to make a run in Brooklyn. But the ship needs to be righted now. This has been a crazy up-and-down season for Mason fans, and you’ll forgive me for feeling frustrated. I guess only time will tell if the Patriots can put the pieces back together, or if it’s “wait ’till next year” yet again.