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Penn State vs George Mason Preview: Non-Conference Road Trip

The Nittany Lions look for payback, after losing to George Mason at home last year.

NCAA Basketball: George Mason at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

With the entire week off to focus on finals, Penn State will resume play on Sunday as they travel to Fairfax to face George Mason. It will be the team’s first and last road game of the non-conference slate. While a win isn’t going to do much for their resume, a loss to a team currently ranked 210th on KenPom would be brutal.

Opponent Summary

Who When: Where: TV: KenPom Rank: Record: Vegas Line:
Who When: Where: TV: KenPom Rank: Record: Vegas Line:
George Mason Patriots Sunday, December 17, 4:00 PM EagleBank Arena, Fairfax, VA 210 5-6, 0-0 A-10 tba

Fortunately, the team won’t be short of motivation after getting bludgeoned by the Patriots in the Bryce Jordan Center last year, 85-66. A lot of that was the product of freshmen playing like freshmen, and Tim accurately portrayed the result as: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Before predicting a role-reversal in the 2017 match-up between the two programs, let’s see what Penn State will be up against.

Scouting the opposition

Out of their top performers from last year, Otis Livingston returns while Marquise Moore graduated. Moore scored 25 points a year ago, so it will be nice not to worry about him. Livingston is the team’s primary ball handler and leading scorer, playing the point 87% of the time for George Mason and averaging 14.8 points per game. The Patriots struggles this year are a product of their lack of depth and experience. Their starting rotation features a pair each of Juniors and Sophomores, but the supporting cast is exclusively freshmen.

Goanar Mar leads this group of freshman as the team’s starting center (at 6’7”!). He was recruited by a few Big Ten schools out of high school, and was a high-end 3 star prospect. He’s fourth on the team in minutes, and one of three players on the Patriots averaging double-digit scoring so far this year. He’s shooting 33% from beyond the arc, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see head coach Dave Paulsen use him to open up the floor and try to lure Mike Watkins away from the rim.

Jaire Grayer is the third Patriot averaging double-digits, and also leads the team in rebounds with 8.3 boards per game. He’s not afraid to step outside either, and is currently hitting 3s at a 38% rate. Justin Kier and Ian Boyd, the two other starters, have contributed limited production. George Mason’s bench production is on a similar level as Penn State’s, which is to say: slightly above nothing. Three freshmen have received a decent amount of playing time, but haven’t been able to do enough to concern opposing fanbases.

What to watch for

Dominate the glass? - Without going into the talent of each player, Penn State comes in with a significant advantage in size. While this should translate to an advantage in rebounding, we thought the same thing last year and George Mason finished +15 in that department. Pat Chambers can’t let that happen again.

Experimenting with Lineups - Penn State’s lack of bench production is one of their biggest issues right now, and this game should give Chambers an opportunity to test out different lineups and see what works. With the Patriots lack of size, this is the perfect time to experiment with a small-ball lineup and see what happens with four guards on the court.

Taking care of business - A road win counts for something, even with George Mason’s struggles so far this year. The team needs to approach this game the same way they did George Washington: start hot, and make it clear by halftime who will be leaving with the W.


Penn State has had a few let-downs so far, but all coming against teams with superior talent than George Mason. If the offense does sputter, the defense is more than capable of locking down the Patriots during a cold stretch. With a sizable lead by halftime, we’ll see the bench players get some extended playing. I won’t say who, but one bench player will score double-digits. Penn State 77, George Mason 55.