I jotted down some thoughts a few weeks ago on where I felt like we were at the mid point this season and wanted to get some feedback from y'all. The target audience is who I imagine the average Mason fan is at this moment (unsurprised with results, indifferent, think things are going "okay"). I wanted to approach it using statistics in a manner that isn't overwhelming for your casual fan. I've got thick skin so tell me what you like, don't like, think completely sucks, was written by an illiterate 3rd grader, etc. All feedback is good feedback. Note that the stats used are all out of date at this point but at some point were accurate. Thanks! Green and Fools Gold A Slightly Too Early Mid Way Point Look at Mason Hoops TRIGGER WARNING: If you are the type of person who doesn’t like to hear some honest truths about what’s going on in Eagle Bank Arena this season, this article probably isn’t for you. If you find yourself questioning other fans commitment to supporting the program for publicly highlighting areas that need improvement, I implore you to stop reading, this will hurt your feelings. With COVID cancellations and rescheduled games up in the air and unlikely to happen, we are probably past the midpoint mark of the 2020-2021 basketball season. To the casual observer, Mason hoops this season has probably looked about average, in line with expectations, and at the very worst “meh”. I wholeheartedly believe that this season has been a complete and total dumpster fire, and here is why: Record Why it looks good: At the time of writing this, we are 8-6 overall, and .500 in the conference, putting us smack dab in the middle of a giant log jam of 3 and 4 loss teams, good for 8th overall. A couple of things go the other way in that Dayton game, and we are sitting in 6th with a few more winnable games coming up on the schedule (UMASS, who we have terrorized the last 6 years, and GW who is terrible but seems to have our number) to put us in the neighborhood of top 4. Going into the dog days of A10 play on paper it looks like we will end up just outside of getting that double bye in the A10 tournament. Why it’s a dumpster fire: As is tradition with under Paulsen, our strength of schedule is abysmal. Lets recap how we got here: squeaked out a 1 point win against D2 Queens in our season opener. Let that sink in. I don’t care if Queens is the best D2 basketball team in the history of D2. There is absolutely no excuse for why an A-10 team, one of the best non P-5 basketball conferences in the country, should be hanging onto 1 point victories against a team that is quite literally in a division below us. This isn’t basketball elitism, it’s just facts. This should have been the fire alarm to let everyone know that this year wasn’t going to go the way we all thought it would. We then went on to destroy a terrible Howard without their star player, and drop a winnable game against Belmont, a team that has turned out to be pretty solid. Then we all watched in slow motion as the figurative wheels came off during nonconference play. Following a COVID pause, we squeaked out a 2 point win against VMI and a 5 point win against Towson. These teams are perennial bottom feeders in their respective conferences. Since then, VMI has gone 3-4 in a wildly unimpressive SOCON this year, while Towson is sitting at 2-3 in a nearly unimpressive CAA(remember that lesser basketball conference that we left for greener pastures in the A-10?), good for bottom 4 in that league. The implosion took its full majestic final form against Norfolk State, a game that we lost on our own floor by 3 against a MEAC school that has amassed just a 3-3 record in their conference. There is absolutely no reason we should EVER lose to a MEAC school in Eagle Bank. That should nearly be a fireable offense on it’s own. In a game that we scheduled as a final tune-up, we looked lost and uninterested, and got taken to task in the second half by a team that had no business being in the gym with us. Looking at conference play we won a double OT game in a dog fight against a UMASS team that’s record is much better than their play on the floor, dropped a game against a very beatable team (that even Fordham managed to get a W against) at Dayton, and lost by 6 at home against VCU in a game that the final score line was not indicative of how much they (should I even say they? It was really just Bones Hyland having his way with us) dominated us in that game. We got dogged twice on national television in 20 point losses against Richmond and URI in which there appeared to be no game plan at all, or we couldn’t follow it for a full 40 minutes (more on that later). Most recently, during a home and home with St. Joes we required double OT to steal a game that we should have probably lost in regulation, and won fairly comfortably by 9 at Hawk Hill. Let me just remind you, St. Joes sole win of the season came during a last minute buy game against Albany, a bottom feeder America East school. St. Joes is terrible, and we almost split with them. All in all, outside of the UMASS game, we have only been able to beat the dregs of the A-10, and have looked largely uncompetitive against teams with similar skill levels or better. Looking at the schedule, it’s hard to point out four more games that we will win in conference play, and we will likely be fighting to stay out of the dreaded Wednesday night pillow fight come tournament time. Offense Why it looks good: Scoring is up over 3ppg from 67 to 70 from last season, we have recruited a legit 3 point shooter in Tyler Kolek, our roster is the most experienced it has been in 6 years under Paulsen and at our level, senior experience translates into wins. There isn’t a single person out there who can convince me that Tyler Kolek isn’t the real deal. He is having one of the best freshman seasons in the conference, is a shoe in for all freshman honors, and gives us something that fans have been clamoring for for the last six season – reliable outside shooting. Unfortunately, even with what Kolek has brought to the table, and our senior laden roster, things aren’t going swimmingly on that end of the court. Why it’s a dumpster fire: Game in and game out, I always find myself asking the exact same question: What was the plan tonight? We completely lack an offensive identity. We aren’t an uptempo team, our possessions per game will tell you that. We aren’t a lights out perimeter shooting team, the 3pt% will tell you that. We aren’t a get to the rim and win it dirty through layups and free throws, our shot chart and horrendous FT% (bottom of the conference and among the worst in D1 at the time of writing this article) will tell you that. So offensively, what are we? What are we trying to do? Our assist numbers tell you that we try to run a pro style, 1v1 offense that is entirely predicated on our guards being able to beat their man and open up the floor from there. Watching our games tells you that we run a lot of high ball screens and handoffs to try to create penetration, but end up dribbling and passing the ball around the perimeter aimlessly for 20 seconds before either throwing our head down and driving to the hoop, or heaving a desperation 3 with less than 6 on the shot clock. What we are seeing is our coaching staff try to smash the metaphorical square peg through the round hole. Our roster is absolutely not built for the offense we are trying to force them to run. Looking at our shot chart, we lead the conference in long two point attempts per game. What that means, is we are overly reliant on mid range jumpers, vs getting to the rim or shooting threes. This is still a bit divisive at the college level, but generally speaking, teams want to limit their contested mid range jump shots and instead get to the rim and try to draw contact, or shoot an open three and try to grab a long rebound for an extra possession. All of this adds up to Mason being in the bottom four in the A-10 in offensive efficiency, making it incredibly difficult to win conference games. You have to watch our games and wonder, why is the coaching staff not taking an honest look at our players skillsets, and putting them in the best position to score every time down? Why are we not forcing Jordan Miller to take more shots, as he has far and away been our most efficient scorer? Why are we forcing Josh Oduro, the big with some of the best offensive footwork in the league, to catch the ball on the high post and have to face up rather than staying back to the basket on the low block? Why aren’t we running Kolek off a million off ball screens a game to get him more open looks rather than relying on him to bail us out with a desperation 3? If we are going to rely on PG penetration, why isn’t Javon Greene running point and getting things going (even though it’s not his natural position, but more on that later)? And for the love of basketball God, CAN SOMEONE THROW AJ WILSON A PROPER LOB PASS AT THE RIM SO WE CAN HAVE SOMETHING TO YELL ABOUT??????? I won’t even get started on our lack on inbounds plays, because that is an article of it’s own.