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Penn State vs George Mason Preview: Nittany Lions Face The Other George

Penn State looks to build a winning streak against a better-than-expected George Mason team.

NCAA Basketball: Wright State at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Who George Mason Patriots
When: Wednesday, December 7, 7:00 PM EST
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
TV: BTN
KenPom Rank: 189
Record: 6-3, 0-0 A10
Vegas Line: Penn State -9

Penn State faces another opponent in George Mason, who comes in with a matching 6-3 record, a sub-200 KenPom ranking, and a win against Northern Iowa, who was ranked 69* on KenPom at the time (currently 85). The rest of their wins are are of lesser quality, but for a team that spent most of last season flirting with the 200s (and finished 11-21 on the season), this is a good improvement so far.

This is Dave Paulsen’s second season with the Patriots, and he seems to be on the same trajectory as Bucknell. His first season left a lot to be desired, then on his second season he turned it around to win twice as many games with the Bison. George Mason would need five more wins to match last season’s total, and with a decent, but not dominant Atlantic 10 this season, he might be able to push through.

Familiarity will be a theme in this game, as Paulsen and Pat Chambers faced each other three straight times during his Bison tenure, coming away with a win once in the three contests.

Scouting the Opposition

George Mason doesn’t go too deep, as there are about six guys who take most of the minutes. That list includes Otis Livingston, who takes 85% of the minutes at the point. He’s spelled by Marquise Moore, who splits time between the point and the two. They have an eFG% of 54 and 48.3, respectively. Fortunately, the Lions don’t need to worry too much about their ability to shoot from beyond the arc, as Livingston is the only player hitting over 35% of his three-pointers (38.9%), and Moore has only taken 3 shots this season. In fact, Livingston’s 38.9% average on the season is the highest on the team, which bodes well for a Nittany Lion squad trying to ramp up their defensive efforts.

The Patriots lack serious height, with Jalen Jenkins being the tallest player seeing significant minutes at center. Jenkins is 6’7”. This is an opportunity for Julian Moore and Mike Watkins to establish themselves inside, draw fouls, and open up the outside shooting for the rest of the cast.

Lastly, Jaire Grayer rounds up the list for the Patriots, as he comes in with a decent 42.2 eFG%, but doesn’t seem to excel at anything in particular. He does have a 4.1% block rate, and has taken 32 three-point shots so far this season (but has only made nine of them). If George Mason were to be the next team to have an uncharacteristically good night from beyond the arc, this would be the guy I’d peg to be the culprit.

What to Watch For

Can Penn State use their height to its advantage? If Moore, Watkins, and Lamar Stevens are able to play their game inside, it should be a long night for the Patriots. If Josh Reaves is able to contain Moore, and Tony Carr Livingston, it should be a long night for the Patriots. If Shep Garner and Payton Banks can get hot from outside early, it will be a long night for the Patriots.

If none of those things happen, it will be a long night for the Nittany Lions.

Prediction

These coaches have met frequently in the past, and I see that familiarity coming in to benefit both. This will be a closer game than the line indicates, and likely won’t be decided until the final three minutes of the game.
Penn State 88, George Mason 84