Amidst a rather tough non-conference season for the Atlantic 10, there has been one particularly unlikely shining star in the bunch: George Mason. Who would’ve thought that come mid-December, we’d be talking about the Patriots as the hottest team in the conference? Well, believe it or not, George Mason has won 6 in a row after a rather concerning start to the season, and in the process, it’s won two very tough true road games.
George Mason looked like a lost cause after losing 93-56 to Houston in the first round of the Gulf Coast Showcase. The Patriots got crushed on the boards and allowed the Cougars to go off from behind the three point line. At that point in the season, Mason was 1-3 with its only win coming against Lebanon Valley. George Mason had also lost home games to Mount St. Mary’s and Towson. There was a lot of doubt as to whether or not the Patriots would outperform last season’s brutal 11-21 finish. But something changed, and all of a sudden, this team is back on its feet and looking like it belongs in the top half of the conference.
George Mason went on to finish the Gulf Coast Showcase 2-1, get two great road wins over Northern Iowa and a Power 5 team in Penn State, and win two home games against James Madison and Mercer. In what’s seemed like the tougher part of its schedule, George Mason is significantly outperforming its expectations. I’m not sure anyone saw this team going into Cedar Falls and stunning a very good Panthers team.
A lot of guys have stepped up for Mason since its difficult start to the season. Marquise Moore has had 4 double-doubles in Mason’s 6 game winning streak, and he’s been great distributing the ball as well. For a team that lost a lot of rebounding in Shevon Thompson, it’s gotten quite a bit back with Moore’s ability to clean up the glass. Otis Livingston II is really stepping up his game as well. He’s hit at least 2 three pointers in 5 of George Mason’s last 6 contests, and the sophomore guard has 10 assists and 0 turnovers in his last 2 games. Even freshman Justin Kier has been making a positive impact, as he’s had double digit rebounding numbers twice in Mason’s last 6 games.
Perhaps things are just starting to come together for this team. The Patriots have a lot of young talent, and even though a lot of guy struggled at the start of the season, everyone’s starting to make his contribution and add to a successful movement in Fairfax. This team isn’t shooting the ball quite as badly as it did last season, which is definitely a good sign, and the Patriots are the 23rd best team in the nation at keeping teams off the glass on the offensive end. Limiting second chance opportunities for the opposition has been Mason’s forte, and it continues to be dominant in that category.
It’s been a roller coaster type of a season for the Atlantic 10, and the Patriots could be the biggest surprise so far. This team’s got a tough road game against Penn this weekend and then two pretty easy home contests to finish off the non-conference slate; then comes the Atlantic 10. The whole league has looked shaky this season, which means it could be the year for an underdog to take a major step forward. The way things are looking right now, George Mason has a shot at being one of the better teams in the league this year.