College hoops preview: George Mason

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College hoops preview: George Mason

There is no point in pretending otherwise: from program defections to the loss of several key graduating players, the CAA men's basketball league is not entering the upcoming season with the sexiest of mid-major reputations. Programs hoping to enhance their NCAA Tournament at-large hopes by picking up those much-needed RPI victories in conference could be left holding the NIT bag.

Clearly, Paul Hewitt did the math. In turn, George Mason's coach stacked the Patriots upcoming non-conference schedule with one resume-boosting opportunity after another.

While the Sherrod Wright-Erik Copes led Patriots are expected to remain in the regular season title mix, no CAA team outside of favorite Drexel figures to land serious national preseason attention. Perennial power Old Dominion appears headed for a transition campaign. Delaware has the look of a dark horse candidate, but the program's lack of roundball tradition makes the Blue Hens a wait and see scenario. VCU now calls the Atlantic 10 home.

Obviously, the Patriots must navigate the always-tricky conference waters in winning style, but a strong effort before CAA play tips off could make the conference tournament title not become an all-or-nothing scenario.

The Patriots have two ACC teams on their schedule, starting with the regular season and home opener against Virginia on Nov. 9. An NCAA Tournament team last season, the Tony Bennett coached Cavaliers remain formidable, but may be without starting guard Jontel Evans for the in-state meeting.

On Dec. 2, George Mason faces Maryland at the Verizon Center in the Patriots first matchup against the Terps since 2004.

Mark Turgeon's aggressive recruiting effort has the College Park program headed in the right direction, but uncertainty exists when looking at the transitioning roster. Also potentially helping Mason's cause is the game will be played on what is essentially a neutral court - Maryland fans haven't exactly packed the Verizon Center in recent years.

Other notable foes among the 12 non-conference games -- all scheduled before New Year's -- include Big East program and 2012 NCAA Tournament participant South Florida, Atlantic 10 schools Rhode Island and Richmond, Missouri Valley stalwart Northern Iowa and perennial Patriot League power Bucknell.

The true wild card in the scheduling lot comes with a beachfront view. George Mason will participate in the Paradise Jam on the island of St. Thomas November 16-19.

The three-game stint starts against Mercer. Beating the Atlantic Sun program won't offer much help from the number-crunching perspective, but with a little luck, the Patriots could leave the island with exactly that. New Mexico, another NCAA Tournament team last season, stands as potential semifinal opponent while Connecticut and Wake Forest loom on the other side of the bracket.

In a comparable scenario last season, the Patriots fell to upstart Florida International during the NIT tipoff. Rather than facing Virginia Tech, George Mason met Monmouth followed by Brown and Albany in the consolation round. That's an RPI tradeoff no bracketoligist can embrace.

Home games against Boston University and UMBC round out this season's out-of-conference matchups.

George Mason opens CAA play Jan. 3 against Northeastern then end the regular season March 2 at Delaware. Drexel comes to the Patriot Center on Jan. 31 -- the Patriots only home date in a five-game span -- before George Mason returns the favor with a trip to the City of Brotherly Love on Valentine's Day.

Putting a number on the amount of non-conference wins needed to separate themselves from the at-large pack would just be a guessing game. We can say that simply putting the Mercer, Boston and UMBC contests on the good side of the ledger is not enough.

We can also say that Hewitt's scheduling has given his squad more than a puncher's chance at being in that at-large mix. If the Patriots can deliver a few knockout blows early on and then clean up in the CAA, there's a good chance George Mason will indeed pick up some bracketology attention.

Virginia guard Marial Shayok transferring from program

Virginia guard Marial Shayok transferring from program

By Ben Brown

Following a disappointing end to a once-promising season, Virginia guard Marial Shayok and forward Jarred Reuter will transfer to another school, head coach Tony Bennett announced Wednesday. 

"Marial and Jarred informed me today that they are leaving the Virginia basketball program and are looking to transfer to other schools," Bennett said. "I thank Marial and Jarred for their hard work and contributions to our program, and wish them success in the future."

Shayok was the Cavaliers' second-leading scorer at 8.9 points per game, despite playing only the fifth-most minutes and regularly coming off the bench. The Ontario product scored a career-high 23 points in Virginia's win over UNC-Wilmington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 

Reuter averaged 10 minutes a game and averaged 3.8 points per game. 

Shayok and Reuter transferring comes at the end of a very disappointing season for Virginia. The Cavaliers began the season in the top 10 of the AP poll, and halfway through conference play they were near the top of the standings in the ACC. But that was before the team went into a major funk as they lost four of their last seven games, which dropped them to sixth in the conference standings. 

Virginia lost in the second round of the ACC Tournament to Notre Dame, and then got blasted by Florida by 26 points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. 

In addition to the losses of Shayok and Reuter, London Perrantes, the team's best player and leader, is graduating. 

After a rough regular season, Virginia's offseason is off to a rocky start as well. 

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VCU reportedly wastes little time finding Mike Rhoades, Will Wade's replacement

VCU reportedly wastes little time finding Mike Rhoades, Will Wade's replacement

BY TYLER BYRUM, @theTylerByrum

Less than 24 hours after VCU saw yet another head coach in Will Wade, take off to a Power 5 school, the athletic department has already found a replacement, according to a report. 

Wasting no time, or allowing any speculation to build, the Rams have hired Mike Rhoades, the head coach of Rice, as Will Wade's replacement.

Rhoades will be the 12th coach of the men's basketball program in VCU history. 

The announcement was first reported by CBS's Gary Parrish:

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Rhoades is a former VCU assistant and associate head coach for five seasons. During his time with the Rams he helped the Shaka Smart led team to four NCAA Tournament appearances, including the Final Four run in 2011.

After Smart's departure to Texas, many considered Rhoades to be on the short list of coaches that VCU would contact. His familiarity with the program and the culture was exactly what VCU was looking for in order to have continued success at the school. The athletic department went on to hire a former assistant, but instead hired Wade. 

In 2014, he took on the head coaching position at Rice where he has been for the past three years. His overall record with the Owls is 47-52 with this past year being the only one to finish above .500. Receiving a bid to the CBI Tournament, it was the Owls first postseason appearance since 2012. 

If Rhoades does not work out for the Rams, there is only one more assistant remaining from the Final Four team that has yet to take over the program. Mike Jones is currently the head coach of Radford and has been there ever since that season. 

Wade's departure was yet another in a long line of talented, up-and-coming coaches using VCU as a springboard to a high-major position.

Jeff Capel began the trend in 2006, when he left for Oklahoma after returning the Rams to the NCAA Tournament in 2004 for the first time since 1996. His replacement, Anthony Grant, led the Rams to two NCAA Tournaments before leaving to take the head coaching job at Alabama. Grant's replacem,ent, Shaka Smart, led the Rams to five straight NCAA Tournaments, including a trip to the Final Four in 2011. 

Wade led the Rams to two NCAA Tournaments in his two seasons and is now headed to LSU to attempt to revitalize the program.