2008-09 George Mason Basketball Preview: #102

    
August 14th, 2008

George Mason Patriots

Overall Rank: #102

Conference Rank: #4 Colonial

2007-08: 23-11, 12-6, 2nd

2007-08 postseason: NCAA

 

 

George Mason’s experience led them to a run in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament which took the team back to the NCAA Tournament. But now their senior leaders and the last of the holdovers of the Final Four team are gone. Is the new group of seniors ready to become the leaders or will this be the year the Patriots magical 2006 becomes a distant memory?

 

Who’s Out:

Forward Will Thomas and wing Folarin Campbell made this team tick. Thomas averaged a double-double, tallying 16.1 points and 10.4 rebounds per contest. Campbell added 15.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.1 steals during his senior campaign. Nobody else on the team averaged over four rebounds, 2.1 assists or one steal last season. Certainly there are players who can step up and fill some of that production, but the leadership and importance of Thomas and Campbell cannot be overstated. Guard Jordan Carter, who started 11 games in 2007-2008, has also run out of eligibility.

 

Who’s In:

George Mason continues to build off the Final Four appearance as far as recruiting is concerned. However, for this year at least, the return of Darryl Monroe is more important than any of the newcomers. Monroe missed last year with an injury after starting 19 games and averaging 6.1 points and 3.9 rebounds during the 2006-2007 campaign. At 6-7 and 260 pounds, Monroe is a big body who will battle in the paint and hit the glass effectively. Kevin Foster, Michael Morrison and Ryan Pearson will add depth up front. That group provides a ton of versatility as all of them are solid athletes who can run the floor and score inside and out. In the long run, point guard Andre Cornelius might be the best of the bunch. The 5-10 (which is probably a little generous) point guard has plenty of speed. He will work his way through traffic and find his teammates or get to the basket. He has a surprising knack for scoring and can put up big numbers in a hurry.

 

Who to Watch:

For now, Cornelius will be asked to play a pretty big role off the bench. The Patriots will not depend on him to contribute too much, but the more he can, the better. John Vaughn and Dre Smith will be starting in the backcourt and both could develop into solid senior leaders. At 6-3, Vaughn can use his size and strength to get to the basket. Smith will hang out on the perimeter more. Smith made headlines last year with his 10-for-10 shooting from beyond the arc in a single game, but he ended the year in a huge slump. If Smith cannot find his stroke, Vaughn is the only other proven long range shooter on the team…and he only hit 33.6 percent of his attempts last year. The Patriots know what they will get for the most part from Vaughn and Smith, but how will Cam Long perform if he ends up in a starting role? Long has the unenviable job of taking over Campbell’s old spot. Nobody expects Long to replace Campbell, at least they better not, but the team needs production out the position. The 6-4 Long is a solid all-around player. He will work hard on the glass, he can pass the ball and he can knock down the outside shot. He sounds a lot like Campbell in that regard, but he has a long way to go.

 

Final Projection:

The return of Monroe helps, but Louis Birdsong carries much of the burden of the frontcourt. The 6-6 junior averaged 6.1 points and 3.9 rebounds in a starting role last year and the team will look to him to become more of a leader now that he is an upperclassman. Vlad Moldoveanu and Chris Fleming will battle with the newcomers for minutes off the bench. The frontcourt simply cannot be as dominating as it was with Thomas and that was what gave the opposition in the CAA fits. With an above average, but not dominating frontcourt, the Patriots weaknesses will be easier to expose and it will take another miraculous run for George Mason to even get back to the NCAA Tournament.

 

Projected Post-season Tournament: none

 

Projected Starting Five:

John Vaughan, Senior, Guard, 12.3 points per game

Dre Smith, Senior, Guard, 8.4 points per game

Cam Long, Sophomore, Guard, 4.1 points per game

Louis Birdsong, Junior, Forward, 6.1 points per game

Darryl Monroe, Senior, Forward, DNP last season