What they're saying about George Mason

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What they're saying about George Mason

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."

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.

Kurt Benkert rescues Virginia against Central Michigan, 49-35

Kurt Benkert rescues Virginia against Central Michigan, 49-35

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Kurt Benkert threw five touchdown passes, the last three after Virginia had squandered all of a 28-0 lead, and the Cavaliers gave coach Bronco Mendenhall his 100th career victory, 49-35 over Central Michigan on Saturday.

Benkert hit Olamide Zaccheaus with a go-ahead 82-yard pass after the Cavaliers defense forced its first punt since the opening quarter. Virginia (1-3) forced another punt, and Benkert hit Albert Reid for a 5-yard touchdown, capping a 73-yard drive. Taquan Mizzell also scored twice for Virginia on runs of 4 and 53 yards.

"That's a happy group of young men in that locker room," Mendenhall said. "I'm certainly not saying we've arrived, but it's a nice start."

The Chippewas (3-1), seeking their first 4-0 start since 1985, scored on four of five possessions after going behind 28-0 less than 20 minutes into the game.

Cooper Rush for 402 yards and two touchdown passes to Corey Willis, including an 85-yarder, and Amari Coleman read a screen pass perfectly and scored on a 47-yard interception return.

Mendenhall, in his first year at Virginia, was 99-43 in 11 seasons at BYU before coming east.

THE TAKEAWAY

Central Michigan: The Chippewas are a confident team, and showed it even when trailing by three touchdowns in a loud stadium. They used timeouts when Virginia had the ball late in the second quarter to stop the clock, and cashed in with two touchdowns in the last 4 1/2 minutes of the half to get within 28-14.

Virginia: Rush picked apart the Virginia secondary, which lost cornerback Juan Thornhill on the first play of the game. The unit also lacks speed and played off the Central Michigan receivers for much of the day, allowing several long completions that produced third-down conversions. Kareem Gibson was a frequent target, but acquitted himself with a fourth-quarter interception to set up an insurance TD.

UP NEXT

Central Michigan: The Chippewas head into Mid-American Conference play at home against Western Michigan.

Virginia: The Cavaliers, losers of 17 in a row on the road, will try to end that skid as they open their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule at Duke.