In this space over the coming days weeks and months ahead you can expect to find all kinds of George Mason men's basketball features, blog posts and analysis from yours truly and others in the CSNwashington world. I'm personally looking forward to chatting up head coach Paul Hewitt at next week's Colonial Athletic Association media day (fingers crossed for some good grub and SWAG while we're at it), getting his take on subjects including:
The new season and Mason's challenging non-conference schedule.
The state of the CAA in light of various defections and potential additions.
Replacing frontcourt stalwarts Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison.
What we can expect from rising stars Sherrod Wright and Erik Copes along with new players added to the roster.
Until then, thought I'd give you a little flavor of what others from the college basketball world are saying about the Patriots...
Predicted order of finish in the CAA, Part 1...from Brian Mull of the Wilmington (N.C.) Star News, beat writer covering UNC-Wilmington and one of the most plugged in CAA beat writers around. After preseason favorite Drexel come the Patriots...
"2. George Mason Most forecasters will put Delaware on this line. And on paper, the Blue Hens have fewer questions and more answers. But I envision a breakout season for Sherrod Wright in the backcourt and either Jon Arledge or Erik Copes (perhaps both) in the lane."
Predicted order of finish in the CAA, Part 2...from the in-depth college basketball blog Rush the Court, which places Mason behind Drexel and Delaware...
"Development is the key word for Paul Hewitt. Eric Copes proved to be a defensive force on the backline, displaying athleticism and strength uncommon in CAA freshmen. He swatted 51 shots in just 405 minutes. However, Copes was a liability on offensenot uncommon. Jon Arledge showed he belongs on the offensive end, but allowed himself to be pushed around with regularity. If Copes is able to master a couple basic offensive moves or Arledge beefs up the toughness, George Mason becomes a very dangerous team. Whats more, Hewitts backcourt showed promise, but was also very sloppy at times. While Bryon Allen (123 assists, 89 turnovers) and Vaughan Gray played well, they were overwhelmed and committed too many turnovers. They will need to settle down. Hewitt does have the luxury of two gunnersVertrail Vaughans and Sherrod Wright can take over games offensively, but both disappeared at times last season. It seems like Mason has all the chess pieces, so developing the mode of play is critical."
Erik Copes, potential difference-maker...so says SI.com's D.C. based college basketball writer Rob Dauster, who included the defensive presence among his favorite players that could not only star, but fill holes for their respective teams this season...
"Erik Copes, George Mason: The Patriots are coming off of a 24-9 season that saw them finish third in the Colonial while riding the coattails of Player of the Year Ryan Pearson. But with Pearson, and his frontcourt counterpart Mike Morrison, graduating, Mason's strength will shift to the backcourt, where a handful of young and talented players return. The frontcourt will now feature seldom-used reserves Jonathan Arledge, Johnny Williams and Seton Hall transfer Anali Okoloji, but the guy that Paul Hewitt will be counting on to anchor his lineup will be sophomore Erik Copes. Copes was a top 75 recruit who followed his uncle, Roland Houston, to Mason. And while he had a decent freshman season -- he averaged 3.3 points, 3.7 boards and an astounding 1.9 blocks in just 15 minutes -- Copes was banged up for much of the year. If he's healthy next season, the Patriots will be looking to him not only to protect the paint at the defensive end of the floor, but to become an offensive weapon on the interior to help keep defenses honest."
How will George Mason replace their frontcourt...is a question posed and answered by national college basketball writer Jon Rothstein.
"By committee. Ryan Pearson was an easy guy to throw the ball to when you needed a basket and Paul Hewitt regularly said that Mike Morrison was an exceptionally intelligent player, but the Patriots have the pieces to replace their departed front court. Both Erik Copes and Jonathan Arledge appear primed for breakout seasons and Johnny Williams, who red shirted last season is down 27 pounds and ready to make a contribution. The real sleeper for George Mason is Marko Gujanicic, a 6-9 skilled face up forward who could play a big role as a freshman thanks to his versatility."
Paradise Jam 411...from SI.com's Andy Glockner, one of my favorite college basketball writers around and a must follow on Twitter. Glockner previewed the pre-Thanksgiving event among the early tournaments on the college hoops calendar to watch.
"Overview: Huh? Another seemingly lopsided bracket that has the event's two best teams -- George Mason and New Mexico -- in the same side, meaning a potential semifinal matchup. Whoever wins that matchup, should it occur, should be favored to handle anyone coming out of the bottom."
"Matchup to watch: Mercer-George Mason. With Mason maybe having one eye on the Lobos, could the Bears spring an opening-round surprise? They bring back most of the talent from last season's squad that won the postseason CIT tournament, winning at Old Dominion, Fairfield and Utah State to do so. This is a dangerous game for Mason to overlook."