Mason, UVA battle for tempo in Commonwealth clash

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Mason, UVA battle for tempo in Commonwealth clash

Rather than do a traditional game preview for tonight's George Mason-Virginia matchup tonight at the Patriot Center, we're going notebook style...

*Without suspended center Erik Copes, the Patriots starting five won't look the same against UVA  - or the first three games - as it will the rest of the season. Barring injury setbacks, expect Paul Hewitt to trot out forwards Jonathan Arledge, Anali Okoloji and Johnny Williams with Sherrod Wright and Bryon Allen in the backcourt, the coach told CSNwashington on Thursday.

*As for a specific key to the Commonwealth Clash (catchy, right? Just made it up. Feel free to use it), look no further than the game's pace, which will be dictated on the defensive end. During the preseason, I wrote about Hewitt's desire for a more up-tempo offensive approach this season even though in 2011-12 the Patriots led the CAA in scoring with 70.4 points per game. Those plans will be tested against the half-court loving Cavaliers, who under coach Tony Bennett led the ACC in scoring defense last year, allowing opponents only 54.2 points per game. In last season's meeting in Charlottesville, Virginia did even better, holding George Mason to 48 points in a 20-point win. On the other side, the Patriots defensive designs won't include the shot-blocking Copes. Even with the physical center available in the previous meeting, Virginia shot 60.5 percent from the floor.

"It’s a case of case which team is more effective on the defensive end," Hewitt said. "Tony's teams historically don't give up a lot of points or easy baskets. We have to grind it out."

*So, the Patriots want to push the ball and have the scoreboard humming (or at least be semi-active).That means having a strong traffic cop of a point guard and one that limits turnovers. Allen had his moments during an up-and-down sophomore campaign -- led the team with 123 assists, but also tied Ryan Pearson with a team-high 89 turnovers -- but will need to find a happy medium against the consistently pesky UVA defenders. The good news is that after missing two weeks with what Hewitt called a pulled muscle in his back, Allen has "looked good over last 3-4 days."

*Virginia's starting lineup may include three freshmen, including former Montrose Christian star swingman Justin Anderson, center Mike Tobey and guard Taylor Barnette. The trio would likely join junior forward Akil Mitchell and junior guard Joe Harris, who takes over the scoring burden now that Mike Scott has moved onto the NBA.

"Joe Harris is obviously a terrific player. Terrific scorer, has size." Hewitt said of the 6-foot-6 who averaged 11.3 points and shot 38 percent from 3-point territory last season.

While the Cavaliers frontcourt lacks a scorer like Scott, a prolific double double machine, Hewitt says the unit "is deeper, more athletic."

*Last season Virginia finally made the long climb back to the NCAA Tournament. George Mason most recently reached the ultimate March Madness in 2011 and of course did the Final Four thing in 2006. Part of Hewitt's plan for getting the green and gold back in the field of 68 this season involved beefing up the non-conference schedule. The push starts Friday, for both teams.

"Great opportunity, but here we are here at the start of season, striving for same thing," Hewitt said. "People here remember '06 and '11. That's what were trying to do starting Friday."

*As for the suspensions to Copes and Vaughn Gray, Hewitt offered no specific details. "Student athletes probably today are probably under more scrutiny than in 25 years of coaching," Hewitt said. "Not an excuse, both made mistakes." Hewitt expects to have both plays back for the second round of the Paradise Jam tournament.

Virginia Tech to hold four satellite camps

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USA TODAY Sports

Virginia Tech to hold four satellite camps

The hot topic around college football this offseason has been satellite camps and now the Hokies are getting into the mix. Head coach Justin Fuente announced on Tuesday that Virginia Tech will have four satellite camps over the summer, two will take place in key regions in Virginia while the other two will be out of state in Atlanta and New Jersey.

Of the two camps in Virginia, one will take place in the "757"—the Hampton, Norfolk, Virginia Beach area—while the other will be in Northern Virginia. The 757 region is an incredibly fertile recruiting area that has caught the attention of southern powerhouses like Florida State. Northern Virginia is also a hotly contested area with competition from the University of Virginia and the University of Maryland, among others.

The ACC previously banned satellite camps and pushed for a ban by the NCAA. The NCAA did ban the practice altogther, briefly, but after a national outcry, the ban was overturned last month.

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For his part, Fuente is not a fan of these camps, but recognizes the necessity of holding them.

“There’s a lot of issues with camps right now that we’re all trying to vet through,” Fuente said via Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “In general, the whole traveling camp (idea) is not particularly good. It just opens up a lot of room for abuse. They’re not regulated at all. But I’m excited about being able to travel in our state.”

Going to Atlanta is an interesting move, but a necessary one if the Hokies hope to return to their former glory. Recruiting in the south opens Virginia Tech to more top-tier recruits. Obviously, it will be difficult to lure southern prospects away from the SEC powers, but being able to build a footprint in the SEC's backyard will greatly help Fuente's task of rebuilding the team into a conference contender.

The move to New Jersey also makes sense. The lack of a power program in the Northeast essentially makes the region up for grabs. Schools like Ohio State and Penn State have taken advantage of Rutgers' move to the Big Ten, but obviously the ACC maintains a presence throughout the east coast.

Virginia Tech's rather remote location makes holding these camps within the state important. The state was previously dominated by the Hokies in the glory days of the Frank Beamer era, but in-state recruiting has slipped in recent years. Holding Virginia camps will help Virginia Tech maintain its presence in the state.

“I think it’s certainly necessary in our state,” Fuente said. “We’re just going to dip our toe in the water of the other ones and see how that goes. I’m genuinely excited to do the ones here.”

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Virginia fires legendary lacrosse coach Dom Starsia

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(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

Virginia fires legendary lacrosse coach Dom Starsia

Virginia is making a change in leadership at the head of its lacrosse program.

On Monday the university announced that Dom Starsia, the all-time winningest coach in Division I lacrosse history with 375 victories, is being removed from his head coaching position, with a national search for a replacement to follow.

 

“Dom Starsia is a Hall of Fame coach and I want to thank him for all he has done for Virginia men’s lacrosse, UVA athletics, the University of Virginia, and the Charlottesville community,” Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage said in a statement. “In addition to winning 73 percent of his games at UVA with multiple ACC and NCAA championships, Dom was committed to the development of student-athletes as his teams were cited for their sportsmanship and academic achievements. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have worked with and learned from Dom."

Under his watch, the Cavaliers won the ACC regular season championship ten times, and led the program to four National Championships (1999, 2003, 2006 and 2011).

He took a program that had not made the NCAA Tournament in four consecutive seasons and had not won a national championship since 1972 and turned it into arguably the top program in college lacrosse. Virginia is not just a good program, nor is it just a great program. It is a blue-blood program, something that can only be ascribed to one of three or four programs.

But the firing of Starsia comes on the heels of a 7-8 record, the program's second in three years, capping a four year stretch in which the program lost at least five games a year, for a 34-27 record since the start to the 2013 season. Prior to 2013, Starsia's Virginia teams had lost five games in a season just five times since taking over as the head coach of the Cavaliers in 1993. Virginia has a 1-15 record in the ACC since 2013 and has dropped 12 consecutive conference games. 

It also ends two weeks of speculation for Starsia, the program and recruits. On May 17th, it was reported that the university would not be renewing Starsia's contract. Two days later on May 19, a report indicated a contract extension had been confirmed.

But now it is official: Virginia is in the market for a new lacrosse coach for the first time since 1992.

Frank Beamer seems to be really enjoying retirement

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USA TODAY Sports

Frank Beamer seems to be really enjoying retirement

Retirement doesn't seem to suit everyone, especially in sports. History is full of examples of players and coaches who get antsy soon after calling it quits. That doesn't seem to be the case with Frank Beamer.

Beamer stepped aside at the end of the 2015 season after a 44-year college coaching career that included 29 years as the head coach at Virginia Tech. After such a long and storied career, you could understand if Beamer struggled a bit to adjust to life outside of coaching, but he seems to be doing just fine.

Hey, when you lead a program to 22 bowl games, seven conference championships and one national championship game berth, you can enjoy retirement any way you want.

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