When you lead the nation in offensive efficiency, three point shooting and come darn close in assist to turnover ratio as a sophomore, you tend to set the bar high for yourself in the time you have left. With the loss of Ovie Soko, the Dukes will have a large gap in their offense and most have been penciling Micah Mason in to fill the void even before his place in the national statistical picture really took shape. Expectations are through the roof now. The issue is Mason seemed like a great number two option last year. Can he carry the load as the number one?
I think the answer is a pretty simple yes, but with a few of caveats. First, he won’t be able to live on three pointers alone. He’ll need to do a better job creating his own jumper and getting to the hole. Good things will happen when he drives the lane looking for higher percentage shots. He’ll get to the free through line more where he’s deadly and he’ll keep defenders honest on the perimeter. If he plays one dimensionally as he did from time to time last season, opponents will be able to shut him down.
Second, the offense will need to focus on him more. Last year, the team was built around Soko and there wasn’t much room for anyone else at times. Mason deserves similar treatment this year. There were a fair amount of plays designed for him by the end of the season but they need to focus on getting him the ball. His possession percentage was 12.5%. For comparison, Darius Lewis was 11.2% while Soko’s was 31.3&. Simply put, he needs more touches and he needs to be taking more shots. One way they can do that is by letting him run the point at times as it’s unlikely that opponents will deny him the ball for the entire court. Next, they need to plan to use screens frequently. Thankfully for Mason, Jordan Robinson will set those picks he needs and LG Gill should be on the floor more.
Finally, other players will need to step up as viable weapons. Mason can burn the opposition don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think he can work through constant double teams. He’ll need some help to create space to work. On top of that, he’ll need players surrounding him that can take advantage of the space he creates for them. Opposing guards won’t be able to help inside as much inside. Can the bigs take their man one on one or find Mason when the double does come? Can the other guards take advantage of the space they’ll have in the lane or ball side opposite Mason?
Of course, none of the above is unreasonable as nobody at this level becomes the guy without the ability to help themselves, a favorable coaching system and the support of his teammates. Mason should have the last two, but he still needs to get better at the first. I’m excited to see what he can bring, and I think there are enough weapons on this team that they won’t need to over rely on him. It would be great if he becomes the guy, but it will be even better to have back up plans until he does.