Penn at George Mason
When and Where: Tuesday, Nov. 6, EagleBank Arena, Fairfax, Va., 7 p.m. EST.
A season of high expectations for George Mason begins Tuesday night when the Patriots host reigning Ivy League co-champion Penn.
The Patriots are now 13 years removed from their stunning run to the Final Four and eight removed from their last NCAA Tournament appearance. But fourth-year coach Dave Paulsen returns all five starters to mix with some promising newcomers in bid to finish above. 500 in the Atlantic 10 for the first time since joining the conference in 2013.
Penn might not be pushovers in season debut
The Quakers, coached by former point guard Jerome Allen, return four starters from a 24-win team that shared the Ivy League title with Harvard and then beat the Crimson in the tournament final to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2007.
All-Ivy selections Ryan Betley and AJ Brodeur lead the returnees for Penn after averaging 14.1 and 13.3 points in 2017-18, respectively. Betley made 84 3-pointers while shooting 39.1 percent from beyond the arc last season while Brodeur had a team-high 7.2 rebounds and was second on Penn with 2.5 assists per game while making 53.8 percent of his shots.
Ryan Betley takes home the lunch pail on this beautiful Sunday afternoon! In addition to recording an impressive offensive rebound in practice, Ryan worked hard and grinded it out all practice #Whānau pic.twitter.com/ghwvYvdLZX
— Penn Basketball (@PennBasketball) November 4, 2018
“My first two years, I was thinking what can I do to help us win an Ivy League championship,” Brodeur told Philly.com. “We’ve done that, but we can’t just be happy winning that one Ivy League. We can get more.
“Now, I’m thinking how can I improve and help us win the first game in the NCAA Tournament, how can I help us get to the Sweet 16.”
Betley is joined in the backcourt by Antonio Woods, who averaged 7.7 points and 2.1 assists, but will need to pick up more of the playmaking duties with the graduation of Darnell Foreman.
Penn coach Steve Donahue has put together a challenging non-conference schedule beyond this game, as the Quakers will also play in the Paradise Jam, Big 5 rivals La Salle, defending NCAA Tournament champion Villanova, Temple and Saint Joseph’s. There is also a home game versus Miami and a trip to The Pit in Albuquerque to face New Mexico.
Balanced Patriots hope Reuter is difference between good and great
George Mason returns four players who averaged in double figures last season, paced by Otis Livingston. He averaged 17.3 points and 4.4 assists in 2017-18 while hitting 38.2 percent of his long-range attempts.
Livingston has increased his scoring average in each of his three seasons, and another such effort would put him over 2,000 points for his career. Paulsen is hoping the 5-foot-11 senior can find a slightly better balance between scoring and facilitating after posting a 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“He has worked incredibly hard and improved so much,” Paulsen told Blue Ribbon Yearbook. “Last year we just had to turn him loose and we won some games that way … but you’ve got to have more balance.”
Goanar Mar is coming off an impressive freshman campaign in which he averaged 10.9 points and 4.4 rebounds while knocking down 35.7 percent of his 3-point shots. Mar can play either forward position and plays as an undersized four when the Patriots go small.
But what everyone is waiting to see is the contributions Jarrod Reuter can provide after sitting out last season following his transfer from Virginia. Reuter averaged just 3.8 points and 2.2 rebounds in 2016-17 for the Cavaliers, but Paulsen is expecting big things from the 6-7, 260-pound junior.
— Mason Men's Basketball (@MasonMBB) November 4, 2018
One area George Mason must improve to meet these higher expectations is on the defensive end. The Patriots allowed 75.7 points per game in 2017-18 as opponents shot 51.5 percent from inside the arc.
Paulsen, though, may be relying on his team’s offense to be his defense while being a year older and a year wiser, noting that “sometimes the best way to be better defensively is to score more consistently and make teams play against your 5-on-5 defense.”
George Mason is:
- 0-4 ATS in its last four non-conference games.
- The over is 10-2 in its last 12 games as a favorite between 0.5 and 6.5 points.
- The over is 11-5 in its last 16 home games as a favorite.
- The over is 16-6 in its last 22 games as a favorite.
- No trends of note.
- The over is 10-4 in its last 14 non-conference games.
- The over is 4-1 in its last five games vs. Atlantic 10 teams.
- The over is 4-0 in its last four road games as an underdog between 0.5 and 6.5 points.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
While at some point it may kick in that George Mason is in fact a better team than a season ago and contend in the upper half of the Atlantic 10 race, facing a veteran-laden Penn team coming off a NCAA Tournament appearance is not an ideal way to start a season, either home or away.
Betley and Brodeur should be able to find their spots against a Patriots defense that is still largely unproven, and if Paulsen’s statement about his offense being George Mason’s best defense, the Quakers have the offensive structure to make it a long evening.
Prediction: Penn +5
Full-Game Total Pick
George Mason’s defensive shortcomings have been addressed, and Penn’s defense also had its struggles and allowed 69.7 points per game in non-conference play. Both teams have well-structured offenses that could be well ahead of their respective defenses, and it would not be surprising to see both teams around or above 50 percent in this game.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 148 points
Full-Game Prop Bet
The Quakers led at halftime in seven of their 13 road games last season, were tied in two and trailed by three or fewer points in two others. This is a veteran-laden team that does not gets fazed and should be able to match up fairly evenly with George Mason.
Prediction: Pick: Penn +2.5
Half-Time Side Pick
Penn was 49th in the country last season in 2-point shooting at 53.8 percent and 45th with an assist-to-turnover ratio (1.30). With its top two scorers returning and George Mason’s entire squad coming back, both offenses should hum in the season opener for the over to deliver.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 70 points