George Mason enters the 2018-19 season as the ultimate sleeper in the Atlantic 10. Last season they nearly held that same title, but road struggles and lack of size kept them in the middle of the conference. With a majority of their core returning and a transfer adding size to their front court, George Mason is in position to land a top 4 spot in the Atlantic 10. Can they live up to the hype? This is the best team they’ve had since the early 2010’s.
Below is a roundtable previewing George Mason. Contributors are:
@peteybuckets, By George Podcast and giantkiller.co writer
@kallan441, Schmidt Talking Podcast
@AlecWalt, Schmidt Talking Podcast
1.) Where does George Mason rank in the Atlantic 10?
@peteybuckets: I think they’re definitely in the top four. I have very little separation in the top four (George Mason, Saint Louis, Davidson, and Saint Joe’s in no particular order) so I’ll be conservative and say third.
@kallan441: Right now I have George Mason at number four in my Atlantic 10 power rankings. I originally had them at number five but I think they could edge out my Bonnies (unfortunately) to get the last bye in the Atlantic 10 tournament. After some evaluation, Otis Livingston II really has a great opportunity to be the best player in the conference this season. He finished last season averaging 17 ppg and finished conference play averaging nearly 20 points per game. With Jarred Reuter being a huge addition to their frontcourt, it’s going to take pressure off what Livingston will be able to do and really open up the floor for his game. That’s something that couldn’t be said for last season. Mason has some HUGE non-conference opportunities to build their resume with games against Cincinnati, Ole Miss or Baylor (depending on tournament results), Vermont, then at Kansas State. All of these are huge opportunities for resume-boosting wins.
@AlecWalt: I believe George Mason is fourth in the Atlantic 10. The Patriots have four returning scorers who averaged 10 or more points per game. All three of them are guards who are juniors or older. They also have eight players returning who averaged 10 or more minutes per game. This team has the experience, especially at guard, to make some major noise in the Atlantic 10.
The teams I have ahead of them are Davidson, Saint Louis and Saint Joseph’s. I need to see Dave Paulsen win at the level of Bob McKillop, Travis Ford, and Phil Martelli before ranking his team above theirs.
2.) How many points per game will Otis Livingston II average this season and where will that rank in the Atlantic 10?
@peteybuckets: An efficient 17-18 per game, right where he was last year. Mason shouldn’t need a points per game increase from him to reach their potential. My guess is 18 per game finishes behind guys like Pipkins, Stockard, and maybe one other guy. Should be top four in the Atlantic 10 in points per game.
@kallan441: I think Otis Livingston will average 20 points per game this upcoming season. My prediction is that this will rank second overall in the conference behind another stat-stuffing season from Luwane Pipkins who is coming off a season averaging 21.2 ppg. Four of the top six players in Atlantic 10 scoring graduated last season so this is a huge opportunity for two guys who are looking to take home the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year crown.
@AlecWalt: I think Otis Livingston II will average 18 points per game this season. It’s a slight increase from last season, but his team is too talented for him to reach 20. Jaire Grayer, Justin Kier, and Goanar Mar return having averaged 10 or more per game last season and look to post similar numbers. That will place him fourth in the conference in scoring. I think Luwane Pipkins, Kellan Grady, and Pookie Powell will finish the season top three in scoring.
3. Who is the Patriots role player no one is talking about?
@peteybuckets: Javon Greene. You’ve heard of most of the other guys, but Javon is a lanky, athletic guard who was heralded as a scorer coming out of high school. His shot didn’t fall last year. Talk to anyone in the program and they’re kind of baffled by it – he lights it up in practice but his scoring ability only rarely translated into the game. He’s already a very good defender and rebounder, so he has the potential to be a complete player if and when his shot starts falling.
@kallan441: I think a role player no one is talking about is Ian Boyd. Boyd made 12 starts last season, was very reliable from the free throw line averaging 77%, and was just an overall solid player for the Patriots. He led the bench with the most minutes played at 24.8 mpg, and was clutch for the Patriots last season with two (!!) buzzer beaters. Hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds left and finished with 12 points at Saint Joseph’s on Feb. 21 and nailed his second-straight buzzer beater with an overtime lay-in vs. Massachusetts on Feb. 24. These are the type of players you’re going to need in close games and Boyd can really be relied on!
@AlecWalt: The role player no one is talking about is Greg Calixte. The 6-8, 230 pound forward played out of position as an undersized center last season. After landing Virginia transfer Jarred Reuter, he enters this season with a lot of physical pressure off his shoulders. Calixte can now play his natural position as the four alongside Reuter. His new role should lead to a statistical jump.
4.) George Mason landed Virginia transfer Jarred Reuter two summers ago and he’s eligible to play this season. What type of impact will he have in his first season?
@peteybuckets: He changes everything. Mason’s “big” lineups last year always had either AJ Wilson or Goanar Mar at the 4, but they’re both skinny 6’7″ guys more suited for wing positions. Greg Calixte had a very promising freshman year but he’s not a post scorer yet. All last season Mason had very little scoring out of the post and was undersized defensively. Now they’ll be able to play two bigs at the same time (Calixte and Reuter), have at least one legitimate big on the floor most of the time, and adjust based on matchups.
@kallan441: It’s tough to really predict what type of impact he will have right away just because it will be his first college season in two years, but we have seen what big-time incoming transfers can do for a team. We all know what type of defense is taught under Tony Bennett at UVA, so he will immediately bring an inside presence on the defensive side of the ball. The only real solid big they have returning is sophomore Goanar Mar so Reuter will have a huge reliance on both sides of the ball. Mar stretches the floor with his 35% three-point shooting so like for Reuter to have his biggest impact on the low block.
@AlecWalt: His role isn’t clear yet, but Jarred Retuer provides a lot of what George Mason lacked last season. Of the eight returning players, Greg Calixte is the only one who weighs more than 215 pounds. Reuter weighed in at 260. This gives the Patriots a big body in an undersized front court. He also has experience playing tough road games and tournament basketball. During his time at Virginia, the Cavaliers won 52 games and made two NCAA Tournament appearances. If George Mason wants to make noise this season, they need to significantly improve their 5-7 road record. Reuter’s size and experience should land him a spot in the rotation.
5.) BONUS: What Atlantic 10 team will disappoint this season?
@peteybuckets: Great question. I’ll say Rhode Island. Lots of talent but there’s definitely a scenario where they don’t finish in the top 7 in conference.
@kallan441: I have Duquense as my disappointment this upcoming season. Not necessarily because of what they didn’t do to improve, more so because I just don’t think they will really be able to live up to the hype. It is always tough to tell this early in the season but with hopes of finishing near the top of the league, I think they will finish in the middle of the pack once again. They have two tough non-conference opponents in Pitt and Notre Dame, but also play some tough Atlantic 10 games to kick off conference play with three of their first six games being at Davidson, vs. St. Joesph’s, and vs. St. Louis.
@AlecWalt: Rhode Island. The Rams are now without five of their top eight scorers from last season and the head coach that’s had them dancing two consecutive seasons. Jeff Dowtin is also the only returning starter. David Cox received a much-deserved promotion, but I don’t think there’s enough experience on the roster this season. Give Cox another summer and he’ll have this team back in contention. He landed two four-star recruits this summer.