David Banks-US PRESSWIRE
Maryland faces George Mason in the BB&T Classic, perhaps the last time the Terps are involved in the tournament.
What: Maryland "hosts" George Mason in the BB&T "Classic" where "airquotes" tell you the "importance" of this "event" .
When and Where: 2:30 p.m. at the Verizon Center.
Where to Watch: MASN.
Line: Maryland -5.5.
Notes / Storylines
One last non-conference test. After a dominating 20-point win against Northwestern, George Mason is the last of three (including Kentucky) non-conference opponents on Maryland's schedule who could contend for an at-large tourney berth. This game is an important one for Maryland's tournament resume, as it's their last chance to make a (good) impression before the conference season (they will have plenty of chances to make a bad one).
The end of Maryland in the BB&T? Mark Turgeon certainly hinted at it yesterday, and as Ben B. points out, that would only be good news. The "tournament" (sarcasta-quote makes it triumphant return) is now just a single day event, and without Georgetown it's fairly useless for the Terps.
Rivalry-ish? I almost went with "Rival Without a Cause" for today's headline, but there hasn't even been a forced rivalry narrative being forced on this game. The two schools are close, geographically, but that's about it. Still, I'm sure some of the Patriot players have a chip on their shoulders for not being recruited by Maryland, so it will certainly have a different feel than most non-conference games.
Dez Wells. Well, I was wrong. The sophomore had a huge game against Northwestern, posting a career-high 23 points on 9/11 shooting with three rebounds and three assists. Against a very stout George Mason defense, his presence will be important for Maryland.
Alex Len. As rumors of a possible first overall draft selection are tossed around, Len continues to excel. He posted 13 and 13 against Northwestern, and is averaging 15.2 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, both still team-highs.
Another low-scoring affair. George Mason is scoring under 60 points per game, but have one of the stingiest defenses in the country (33rd by KenPom). Both teams have moderate tempos, but don't expect too many points to be put up on the board.
The Opponent (An Overview)
George Mason is 5-2 this season, defeating Virginia in their season opener 63-59 at home. Since then they've lost to Bucknell and New Mexico while defeating Mercer, Quinnipiac, Boston University and Rhode Island. All but one of their games has been decided by six points or less, and four of them were one-possession affairs. Despite this, Mason has a better RPI number than the Terps, ranking 55th to Maryland's 88th. KenPom feels differently, with the Terps at 69, twelve places higher than the #81 Patriots.
Junior Bryon Allen is the point guard for George Mason, and he is one of three returning starters on this Patriots team. The 6'3" Maryland native is averaging 7.3 points and 3.1 assists per game, on par with his totals from last year, but has significantly improved his shooting. Allen has jumped from 40.7% to 48.8% from the floor and 16.7% to 30% from three. He has also averaged nearly one less turnover per game.
The improvement in Allen's play can be attributed in part to the emergence of Sherrod Wright as the Patriots' dominant scorer. The 6'4" guard is averaging 14.9 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, nearly doubling his shot output while keeping up his 50/40% split from last season. Vertrail Vaughns, their third returning starter, comes off the bench this year at guard, and is averaging 4.6 points per game.
Instead of Vaughns, the Patriots have been starting sophomore forward Anali Okoloji, a 6'8" transfer from Seton Hall. Okoloji and Vaughns play similar minutes, and the former is averaging 3.4 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.
At forward is Johnny Williams, who redshirted last season while recovering from surgery. The 6'8" junior is averaging career-highs across the board, including points (9.3) and rebounds (5.6). Joining him up top is Copes, a 6'8" sophomore from Philadelphia who is averaging 5.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks (tops on the team by far) per game.
Besides Vaughns, two key players to look out for off the bench are freshmen Patrick Holloway and Marko Gujanicic. Holloway is the team's sharpshooter, making 8-17 three-point attempts in just 66 minutes of play. Gujanicic, a 6'8" forward from Serbia, is averaging 5.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. The Patriots also have sophomore guard Corey Edwards, who stands at 5'11" but is second on the team in assists, averaging 2.1 per game.
Expected Starting Fives:
|Pe`Shon Howard (Jr., 6-2)||Bryon Allen (Jr., 6-3)|
|Nick Faust (So., 6-6)||Sherrod Wright (Jr., 6-4)|
|Dezmine Wells (So., 6-5)||Anali Okoloji (So., 6-8)|
|James Padgett (Sr., 6-8)||Johnny Williams (Jr., 6-8)|
|Alex Len (So., 7-1)||Erik Copes (So., 6-8)|
Matchup to Watch:
Nick Faust vs. Sherrod Wright. Wright is George Mason's only consistent scoring option, and we'll get to see Faust's defensive skill put on display this afternoon.
Maryland doesn't have the same fire that they did against Northwestern, and almost give this one away. Strong late play by Alex Len gives them the victory, and Terps win 71-65.