#48 George Mason Patriots: College Basketball 111 in 111

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Welcome to The Sports Bank’s second annual college basketball season preview series.  Last year we looked at 99 teams in 99 days.  This year, we are being slightly more aggressive and expanding to 111 teams in 111 days.  We will rank the 74 power conference teams and top 37 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

I didn’t intentionally put three Colonial Athletic Association teams back-to-back-to-back in my  rankings.  George Mason was just knocked down several spots due to the suspension of senior point guard Andre Cornelius.  Now, the CAA figures to be a tightly contested conference with George Mason, Old Dominion, and VCU all in play to win the league title with Drexel as a potential sleeper.

GEORGE MASON PATRIOTS
1st, 16-2 in CAA, 27-7 overall
Predicted CAA Finish: 1st

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Mike Morrison (Sr)/Erik Copes (Fr)/Jonathan Arledge (So)
F: Ryan Pearson (Sr)/Paris Bennett (So)/Johnny Williams (Jr)
G/F: Sherrod Wright (So)/Vaughn Gray (Fr)
SG: Vertrail Vaughns (So)
PG: Byron Allen (So)/Corey Edwards (Fr)/Andre Cornelius (Sr)

Gone: SG-Cam Long, SF-Luke Hancock (transfer-Louisville), G/F-Isaiah Tate, SG-Rashad Whack (transfer-Mount St. Mary’s)

paul hewitt george mason

2011-2012 Outlook:
Cornelius has been suspended indefinitely after being charged with credit card fraud and larceny.  There is a real possibility that he may not be reinstated at all which would be a huge blow for first year head coach Paul Hewitt as he already loses starting wings Cam Long and Luke Hancock.

Hewitt now inherits a very young backcourt that will be asked to play major roles.  Vertrail Vaughns and Byron Allen played sparingly as freshmen but could end up as the Patriots’ starting backcourt this season.  In his limited action, Vaughns proved he can shoot the rock, hitting 33 of his 67 three-point attempts.  Freshman Corey Edwards will serve as the team’s lone back-up guard.

Sherrod Wright was a valuable reserve two seasons ago but missed all of last year due to a shoulder injury.  He should start on the wing and is at his best off the bounce.  Vaughn Gray is a versatile small forward who should see a decent amount of playing time especially when Wright is asked to slide over to the two.

Offsetting the uncertainty in the backcourt is the fact that GMU returns both starters up-front and welcome in a highly-touted freshman.  6-6 Ryan Pearson finished second on the team in scoring and lead the team in rebounds last season.  Though a bit under-sized, he brings physicality to the floor but can also step out and knock down jump shots.  Mike Morrison is the other returning starter and is known as more of a role player.

George Mason picked up a big-time recruit with the signing of 6-8, 240 pound Erik Copes.  He was a top-60 recruit in the country and should make an immediate impact.  Copes plays with great energy, can attack the glass, block shots, and is light on this feet despite his size.  Hewitt could elect to go with a bigger line-up at times by playing Copes, Morrison, and Pearson together in the frontcourt.  Paris Bennett and Jonathan Arledge saw limited action last year but provide of depth inside.  Junior Johnny Williams will likely redshirt this season after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery.

Hewitt also picked up a transfer in Seton Hall forward Anali Okoloji.  He will sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules but will add quality competition in practice.

For the first time since 1997 someone other than Jim Larranaga will be patrolling the sidelines at George Mason since Larranaga left for Miami, Fl this off-season.  Paul Hewitt had his fair share of success during his 11-year tenure at Georgia Tech but faces a different challenge with the Patriots.  How their young, inexperienced backcourt fairs will be the determining factor in whether or not Hewitt can lead Mason back to the NCAA Tournament.

Player to Watch: Ryan Pearson
Pearson and Morrison will be counted on to provide the leadership for George Mason this season, but it will be Pearson who must emerge as the team’s star player.  He is an aggressive scorer in the paint but also added range and consistency to his jump shot last season.

Key Non-Conference Games:
11/16 vs. Virginia Tech/Monmouth (Pre-Season NIT)
11/23, 25 possibly vs. Syracuse/Oklahoma State/Stanford (Pre-Season NIT)
12/6 at Virginia
12/30 at Charleston
2/17-19 vs. TBA (ESPN BracketBusters)

OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#49 Old Dominion Monarchs
#50 VCU Rams
#51 Kent State Golden Flashes
#52 Arkansas Razorbacks
#53 St. John’s Red Storm
#54 Northwestern Wildcats
#55 Georgetown Hoyas
#56 Miami Hurricanes
#57 Nevada Wolfpack
#58 Detroit Titans
#59 UCF Knights
#60 Long Beach State 49ers
#61 Virginia Tech Hokies
#62 Clemson Tigers
#63 New Mexico State Aggies
#64 Tennessee Volunteers
#65 Iona Gaels
#66 Murray State Racers
#67 N.C. State Wolfpack
#68 Fairfield Stags
#69 George Washingon Colonials
#70 Indiana State Sycamores
#71 Oklahoma State Cowboys
#72 Indiana Hoosiers
#73 UAB Blazers
#74 Iowa State Cyclones
#75 Creighton Bluejays
#76 USC Trojans
#77 Weber State Wildcats
#78 Maryland Terrapins
#79 Tulsa Golden Hurricane
#80 Minnesota Golden Gophers
#81 Western Michigan Broncos
#82 Dayton Flyers
#83 Stanford Cardinal
#84 Yale Bulldogs

#85 Georgia Bulldogs
#86 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
#87 Richmond Spiders
#88 Ball State Cardinals
#89 Utah State Aggies
#90 Arizona State Sun Devils
#91 Marshall Thundering Herd
#92 Oregon State Beavers
#93 Washington State Cougars
#94 Iowa Hawkeyes
#95 Ole Miss Rebels
#96 Nebraska Cornhuskers
#97 Oklahoma Sooners
#98 South Florida Bulls
#99 LSU Tigers
#100 Colorado Buffaloes
#101 DePaul Blue Demons
#102 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
#103 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#104 Seton Hall Pirates
#105 Providence Friars
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 South Carolina Gamecocks
#108 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#109 Penn State Nittany Lions
#110 Boston College Eagles
#111 Utah Utes

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.

You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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