George Mason has been a bit of a surprise in the Atlantic 10 so far this season. The Patriots are 11-5, with wins at Northern Iowa, a 19-point win at Penn State, and a win over Penn to their resume. While Northern Iowa is really down this season (5-10), playing there is never easy. And Penn State has turned some heads in Big 10 conference play so far this year, including Saturday's win over Michigan State at The Palestra. George Mason started the year 1-3, with losses to Towson, Mount Saint Mary's, and an absolute beatdown by Houston. The Patriots proceeded to then run off a 9-game winning streak heading into Atlantic 10 play. In A10 play, they are 1-2, with a home win over UMass and losses to VCU and Saint Bonaventure.
The Patriots are led by senior guard Marquise Moore, who is playing at a First-Team All-League level at the moment. The New York City native is averaging 18 points and nearly 11 boards a game. That's nearly 11 boards as a 6'2 guard. Moore doesn't shoot it particularly well, and has yet to connect on a three-pointer this year. He's a solid-but-not-spectacular 69% from the free-throw line. He does just about everything else well though. Marquise had 25 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists in the blowout win over Penn State. Moore had 24 points, 9 boards, and 5 assists in the win over UMass. He got to the free-throw line 15 times in that game, and he did the same against Bradley. On the year, he is averaging 8 free-throw attempts per game. It will be interesting to see if St. Joe's uses James Demery on Moore or not. Demery is the Hawks' best defender, but they also can't afford to see him get into foul trouble. See the Rhode Island game if you're unsure on why. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Hawks use multiple defenders on Moore, including Chris Clover, Nick Robinson, and Charlie Brown. If the Hawks can find some success in shutting Marquise Moore down, they will have a much easier route to a win.
While Marquise Moore is unquestionably Mason's best player, he has a nice supporting cast. Linden, NJ native Otis Livingston Jr, a sophomore, is averaging 14.6 points per game, and is the Patriots' best shooter from three at 36% and from the line at 91%. Livingston is a slight 5'11, and will likely be matched up on both ends with St. Joe's point guard Lamarr Kimble. Livingston is a quick, active defender, and Kimble will have to protect the ball much better than he did Saturday at Fordham when he turned it over 8 times. That's a match-up to keep an especially close eye on.
Speaking of match-ups, I'm looking forward to watching Jalen Jenkins and Markell Lodge do work in the post. Jenkins is a physical force, at 6'7, 246 pounds. Like Lodge, Jenkins does his work close to the basket. The senior for George Mason doesn't have Lodge's athleticism, but he's got both some mass and some experience on Markell. Markell is coming off one of his best games of the season, a 10-point, 7-rebound game at Fordham. If he is unable to contain Jenkins in the post, look for Phil Martelli to use Javon Baumann off the bench on Jenkins.
For the Hawks, James Demery will be playing his fourth game since returning from injury. He came off the bench against both George Washington and Rhode Island, then was inserted back into the starting lineup for Fordham. He has scored 9, 17, and 25 points respectively in those games since rejoining the Hawks. I would look for him to have another monster game this evening.
St. Joe's and George Mason are two of the youngest teams in college basketball. Per Ken Pomeroy, St. Joe's is 302nd and George Mason is 304th in Division 1 in terms of experience. The Hawks start a freshman, three sophomores, and a junior. George Mason starts a freshman, two sophomores, and two seniors.
Tonight's game is a 7 o'clock tip at Hagan Arena. In Vegas, St. Joe's is a four-point favorite. The game can be seen locally on The Comcast Network. St. Joe's, with a win tonight, would be 9-6 at the halfway point of the season, which given all the injuries, Bembry's departure for the NBA, Miles, Ndao, and Brown graduating, and all other factors, would be quite the accomplishment. Phil Martelli's bunch is looking to improve to 3-1 in conference play tonight, while the Patriots are looking to even their conference record at 2-2.