These Positive Trends Shouldn’t Be Overlooked

Posted In Blog, News - By Alan Kelly On Friday, February 28th, 2014 With 0 Comments

Not much has gone right for the George Mason Patriots this season. Fans will disagree over who shares what portion of the blame for the disappointing season, but we can all agree that the results, in terms of raw wins and losses, have been underwhelming.

However, there are some obvious bright spots — such as Jalen Jenkins’ terrific rookie season and Patrick Holloway’s continued development as a scorer — and some less obvious ones, too. Following are three reasons to be optimistic about the recent and future performance of these Patriots.

1. Erik Copes’ shooting percentage

It’s largely flown under the radar, due to recurring foul trouble and the fact that he’s only averaging 3 field goal attempts per game, but Erik Copes has quietly been the best shooter on the team, at 61.9% (Jalen Jenkins is a distant second at a still-solid 51.1%). Copes was benched early in the GW game after picking up two quick fouls, but in the seven games since, there has been a direct correlation between his productivity and the team’s success.

In the three wins plus the overtime loss at St. Louis, Copes has averaged 29 minutes, 6.5 field goal attempts, and 8.3 rebounds, while largely avoiding foul trouble. In the other three losses, he has fouled out while averaging only 17.7 minutes, 2.7 field goal attempts, and 4.7 rebounds. Seven games is a very small sample size, and Mason’s success or failure is much more complicated than one player, but Copes has clearly been providing some value when he’s able to stay on the court.

2. Marquise Moore’s ball handling

Marquise Moore has brought stability to the point guard position, playing with a poise beyond his years and experience. Starting a freshman at the point can be one of the riskiest things a coach can do, but instead of a frustrating, painful learning process, he’s proven his ball handling ability.

But how does he actually compare to his recent predecessors Bryon Allen and Corey Edwards, both of whom struggled early in their careers after being thrown into the fire much like Moore had been? I gathered games played, minutes, assists, and turnovers data for Moore, and compared it to the freshman and sophomore seasons of Allen and Edwards in the table below. Among the three freshmen seasons, Moore has played the most minutes, while producing a comparable number of assists, and 30-50% fewer turnovers. More impressively, his rookie campaign also compares favorably to their sophomore seasons.

Class Year MPG APG A/40 TO/40 A/TO
Moore Freshman 22.1 2.7 4.8 3.0 1.6
Allen Freshman 5.8 0.7 4.8 4.3 1.1
Edwards Freshman 15.2 2.2 5.9 5.9 1.0
Allen Sophomore 27.7 3.7 5.4 3.9 1.4
Edwards Sophomore 20.4 2.8 5.4 3.4 1.6

3. A shorter, more consistent player rotation

Coach Hewitt has finally found a more settled, stable player rotation, with the bench shortened to his top eight players, plus one additional player, if needed and depending on matchups. I don’t know how to prove whether an 8-man rotation is better than a 13-man rotation, but any rotation where there is consistency and players know their role has to be a positive improvement.

Hewitt has used the exact same starting lineup of Moore, Allen, Wright, Jenkins, and Copes for the last 11 games, along with major contributions off the bench from Holloway (22.5 mpg in the last 11 games), Williams (16.3 mpg) and Gujanicic (12.9 mpg). Meanwhile, Edwards, Gray, and Okoloji have played sparingly or not at all, combining for the remaining 8.5 mpg.

Looking ahead …

With three games remaining in the regular season, and their first home Atlantic 10 win finally in the rear view mirror, the time is now for this Mason team. They still have the opportunity to end a disappointing season on a high note, and set a winning tone going into next month’s Atlantic 10 tournament. But if the Patriots are to redeem themselves in March, they will need continued improvement and consistency from Copes, Moore, Jenkins, the coaching staff, and everyone else.

About - Alan Kelly is a 2010 and 2013 graduate of George Mason University and a former member of the Patriot Platoon. He had the memorable experience of being in the middle of the college decision process as George Mason's Final Four run unfolded. He currently resides in Northern Virginia.

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