Remember George Mason (5-4), who was a representative of the 2006 NCAA Final Four? While they haven’t been in the national spotlight much since, they’ve been a contender in the Colonial Athletic Association, finishing in the top five every year since making it to the national semifinals.
This year hasn’t started off well, and on paper, Iowa State (8-0) looks to have the upper hand in almost every category, but road games will continue to be the Cyclones’ kryptonite until they can finally become consistent away from the friendly confines of Hilton Coliseum.
Dec 2, 2013; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Fred Hoiberg looks over some notes during a timeout during their game against the Auburn Tigers at James H. Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
(17)Iowa State Cyclones vs George Mason Patriots
Stan Sheriff Center | Honolulu, HI
Diamond Head Classic | Quarterfinals (Game 1)
Tip-off: Sunday, 4:30 PM CT | TV: ESPNU
If this was a seeded eight-team tournament, this game would represent the one vs. eight seed matchup. The Patriots are completely anemic on offense, averaging just 66.3 points and 10 assists per game. Both of those are ranked 300th or worse nationally. Even worse for GMU: Iowa State averages 24.6 more points and 9.8 more assists per game.
The two questions coming into the game is when the Cyclones will have their letdown game and can they avoid playing with George Mason. One thing the Patriots have been able to do is force teams to play their style; their defensive averages mimic their offense. It’s an easy trap for a letdown game, but it would a horrible way for ISU to start their 3-day event in Honolulu.
However, Iowa State seems to be taking care of business and winning the close games. They have the advantage in nearly every category, it’s up to them to either continue their undefeated streak or suffer a bad loss on the resume.
What to watch for
Turnovers are a problem for George Mason, averaging 15 per game. Two of the major culprits are sophomore forward Marko Gujanicic and senior shooting guard Sherrod Wright; both starters have combined for 50 turnovers.
Dec 8, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; George Mason Patriots guard Sherrod Wright (10) points to a teammate during the first half at Verizon Center. Oklahoma Sooners defeated George Mason Patriots 81-66. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
That being said, both players are extremely valuable. Gujanicic leads the team in rebounds (58) while Wright has 40 rebounds (2nd-best on the team) and has hit 50 of 109 field goal attempts; he’s also 33 percent from the perimeter.
Both players will need to step up their game in order to compete with Iowa State. Senior point guard Bryon Allen has 18 turnovers, but has a positive margin when adding in his 30 assists. He’s also the most dangerous weapon from the perimeter with a team-high 37 3-point percentage (making 10 of 27 shots).
For Iowa State, it will be fun to continue watching the emergence of Dustin Hogue. The transfer has become a star, leading the Big 12 in rebounding and posting double-doubles in his last three games.
George Mason can’t hang with Iowa State offensively. It’s a blatant mismatch in scoring and rebounding. An advantage they have is senior experience in the backcourt, but they have to make their shots and cannot turn the ball over as much as they have. Getting to the foul line and making free throws is also incredibly important for a team that makes just 68.4 percent of them.
There’s too much talent on Iowa State to cough up this game, even if they end up with a bad performance. The Patriots don’t have an answer in rebounding and can’t come back from a deficit with next to no production from the 3-point line. The Cyclones have no reason to not breeze into the second round.
IAST 90, GMU 65 (Odds: N/A)