George Mason Patriots
Overall Rank: #38
Conference Rank: #1 Colonial
2006-07: 18-15, 9-9, 5th (t)
2006-07 postseason: none
One of the best candidates to be this year’s George Mason is none other than George Mason. The Patriots return their top six scorers and all six of those players started at least 13 games last year. Experience will not be a problem with a roster full of upperclassmen and Coach Jim Larranaga has another opportunity to get his team back to the NCAA Tournament. The goal for GMU should be to win the conference and reach the NCAAs and once they get there, who knows what will happen.
Wing Gabe Norwood was seventh on the team in minutes and scoring last season and his absence will hurt the overall depth a little bit, but who really cares with five starters returning? The only other departure is Tim Burns. The guard saw a few minutes as a sharpshooter off the bench.
At 5-10 and 150 pounds, Jay Threatt is a small point guard. Yet, he will use his diminutive stature and quickness to get to the basket. Isaiah Tate and Cameron Long will bolster the backcourt depth. Tate is a solid shooter from long range and will probably be the best free throw shooter on the team the minute he steps on the court in Fairfax, Virginia. Long, who can play either guard spot, will need some time to adjust to the level of play, but could make a contribution off the bench this year. The most highly touted recruit is Vlad Moldoveanu. The 6-10 Romanian is a great shooter and obviously has good size for a guy who is most comfortable playing small forward. Moldoveanu will probably see the most minutes of the newcomers and is expected to be a prolific scorer before his collegiate career is through.
Who to Watch:
Jordan Carter performed well after taking over the starting point guard duties last season. He is a good shooter on the rare occasions he puts it up, but Carter will concentrate on finding his teammates, taking care of the ball and playing stellar defense. Carter is the point guard, but Folarin Campbell is the leader. Campbell was moved from the point guard spot to the wing when Carter proved to be a viable option. That allowed Campbell to concentrate on what he does best…scoring. The 6-4 senior still led the team in assists, but it was his 13.9 points per game that made him invaluable to the Patriots. Campbell will take a few too many outside shots and he needs to develop more consistency with his shot if he wants to take GMU back to victory lane in March. Dre Smith and John Vaughan will fight it out for the starting shooting guard spot. Both are decent scorers and split starts last year. Smith is a more consistent shooter from long range and Vaughan is a little better on the glass.
The Patriots return a whole slew of forwards. Will Thomas is the post presence. The 6-7 senior will score with his back to the basket and averaged 13.3 points last season. He is also a solid rebounder and had a team high 6.9 rebounds per contest during the 2006-2007 campaign. Darryl Monroe started 19 games his first year in the program after spending some time at Central Florida Community College. Monroe may step back into a starting role, but he will have some fierce competition from sophomore Louis Birdsong. Birdsong is not as imposing of a presence as Monroe, but he is extremely tough and a quality scorer in the paint and around the basket. Birdsong is full of potential and this could be his breakout year. Chris Fleming and Jesus Urbina did not log too many minutes last year, but do provide more options for Coach Larranaga. VCU will be a formidable opponent and the CAA might not be strong enough for two NCAA Tournament teams this year, so jockeying for position heading into the conference tournament will be crucial. George Mason will need to do more than win the regular season to reach the postseason and they will have to start strong in the non-conference schedule if there is any hope of an at-large bid.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Jordan Carter, Senior, Guard, 13.9 points per game
John Vaughan, Junior, Guard, 8.6 points per game
Folarin Campbell, Senior, Guard, 4.8 points per game
Darryl Monroe, Senior, Forward, 6.4 points per game
Will Thomas, Senior, Forward, 8.9 points per game