Maryland prepares to face George Mason

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Maryland prepares to face George Mason

Maryland impressed in their last game, a 77-57 victory over Northwestern in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Terps simply outclassed the Wildcats in a dominant second half.

Even in a season opening loss to Kentucky, the Terps have looked sharp for most of their non-conference schedule, running to a 5-1 record through November. On Sunday, Maryland should face its last true non-conference test, with a neutral court game against George Mason.

Though Mason plays in the CAA and Maryland the ACC, DC locals and college basketball fans need no introduction to the Fairfax, Va., school. George Mason made its name known across the country in 2006 with a run to the Final Four that included wins over college basketball bluebloods like UConn., Michigan State and North Carolina.

Mason's success came under former coach Jim Larranaga -- who bolted to the University of Miami prior to last season -- but Mason coach Paul Hewitt has plenty of NCAA experience.

As coach of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hewitt led his 2004 Jackets team to the NCAA championship game. Last season Hewitt led the Patriots to a 24-9 season, though the team was left out of the NCAA Tournament.

This game will be key for Hewitt and Maryland coach Mark Turgeon as they work to guide their teams back into the NCAA Tournament. Non-conference wins play a key part in tournament selection, and a win for either squad would be a boost for their resume come March.

After playing arguably its best 20 minutes of basketball in the second half at Northwestern, the Maryland team has momentum.

Center Alex Len continues to garner serious NBA Draft buzz, while sophomore transfer Dez Wells really showed his capabilities with 23 points against the Wildcats. The Terps look to have depth and frontcourt size befit of a Top 20 team, and a win over an always-pesky Mason squad could show that to poll voters.

Led by junior guard Sherrod Wright, Mason will be a tough opponent for the Terps.

Wright averages almost 15 points on the season, not to mention the 6'4" guard hauls in about five rebounds a game. Mason already registered a win over an ACC opponent earlier this year, beating UVa. in the season opener.

Mason will not come into this game intimidated by the Terps, and it will be interesting to see how Maryland’s young team responds to the challenge.

Maryland should enjoy a noticeable size advantage over the Patriots, who are led down low by 6'8" big man Eric Copes.

With Len at 7'1" and three big forwards in James Padgett, Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare, the Terps can play an aggressive style around the basket. A key to Maryland's early success has been winning the rebounding battle; something the team has done in impressive fashion every game this season.

Mason will have to make outside shots early to free up space in the middle, otherwise Maryland's big men could take over. With Wright at the helm Mason could have the advantage from the outside, though Maryland guard Pe'Shon Howard has been playing improved defense this season.

With a vocal crowd expected and fans of both schools on hand at the Verizon Center, the game could resemble an early-round NCAA Tournament matchup. A preview of a postseason experience both teams would like to achieve. 

College Football Playoff projections: From contender to pretender in just four weeks

College Football Playoff projections: From contender to pretender in just four weeks

There were high hopes for LSU at the start of the season. With the collection of talent the Tigers boast on their roster, there was no reason to think they could not challenge Alabama for SEC supremacy.

Even my preseason College Football Playoff projections at the start of the season had LSU as one of the four teams to make the playoff.

SEE THE NEW COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF PROJECTION HERE

The Tigers' championship hopes took a hit with an opening loss to Wisconsin. Now just four games into their season, Les Miles been fired and their playoff aspirations appear to be completely dashed after a devastating loss Auburn.

With Alabama looking as dominant as ever and what was believed to be their main rival already looking down and out, who else can challenge the Tide for supremacy of the SEC? Who else joins the Alabama in the projected top four?

Find out here in this week's College Football Playoff projection.

Jerod Evans' 4 touchdowns carry Virginia Tech past East Carolina

Jerod Evans' 4 touchdowns carry Virginia Tech past East Carolina

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) -- Jerod Evans said that he needed to clean up some things during Virginia Tech's upcoming off week.

The Hokies' fan base may be wondering what exactly that is. His play so far has been sparkling.

Evans, the Hokies' starting quarterback, threw three touchdown passes and rushed for one to lift Virginia Tech over East Carolina 54-17 on Saturday.

The Hokies (3-1) scored on their final five possessions of the first half, including all four of their second-quarter possessions, to overwhelm East Carolina (2-2) and snap a two-game losing streak to the Pirates.

Evans completed 13 of 20 passes for a career-best 282 yards and rushed for a career-best 97 more. He has thrown at least three touchdown passes in three of the Hokies' first four games and is completing 67 percent of his passes.

"I missed a couple of things here and there," Evans said. "I have a lot of things that I can get better at for sure."

Evans entered the game with an ACC-best 10 touchdown passes this season. Of more importance to Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente, he has thrown just one interception.

"I think he's pretty good," Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said of Evans. "He's been judicious with the ball and he's going to the right place most of the time. He's been pretty efficient."

Following a punt return for a touchdown by Greg Stroman and a touchdown run by Marshawn Williams that gave the Hokies a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, Evans threw touchdown passes of 24 yards to Isaiah Ford, 13 yards to Travon McMillian and 55 yards to Cam Phillips. That final score gave the Hokies a 38-0 halftime lead.

ECU quarterback Philip Nelson had 362 yards passing and two touchdown tosses to Jimmy Williams. The Pirates had 443 yards of offense, but committed three special teams mistakes, fumbled once and were sacked six times.

"We studied the film well and they had a lot of keys when they were sliding the protection," said Ken Ekanem, who had two of the Hokies' six sacks. "We had a lot of indicators and we knew when someone was going to be left one-on-one. We look forward to one-on-one matchups and pride ourselves on winning those. We did a good job of that today."

THE TAKEAWAY

EAST CAROLINA: Coming off a 20-15 loss at South Carolina and playing its third consecutive game against a Power 5 opponent, the Pirates looked a step slow and out of sorts from the opening kick. They went three-and-out on five first-half possessions. The Pirates hope to regroup now that they have finished the non-conference portion of their schedule.

"That was clearly the best football team that we have played," ECU coach Scottie Montgomery said. "The most physical. The biggest. The fastest. The strongest. The smartest. I thought they competed well in their scheme. They played great emotional football. They leaned on their crowd. They played a complete football game -- as complete as it gets."

VIRGINIA TECH: The Hokies dominated on special teams, scoring three touchdowns as a result of those units. Greg Stroman scored on an 87-yard punt return, and Cam Phillips blocked a punt that led to an Evans touchdown pass to Travon McMillian. A sack of ECU punter Worth Gregory in the fourth quarter led to a 1-yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Brenden Motley.

UP NEXT

EAST CAROLINA: The Pirates open AAC play next Saturday with a home game against UCF. ECU blasted the Golden Knights 44-7 last season for their first win in Orlando since 2008.

VIRGINIA TECH: The Hokies are off next week before taking on North Carolina on Oct. 8 and will be looking to avenge last year's 30-27 overtime loss. The Hokies have won nine of the 12 meetings with the Tar Heels since joining the ACC.