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George Mason basketball picked to finish second in the CAA

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The George Mason men’s basketball team, coming off a 27-win season and NCAA tournament appearance but facing roster questions while adjusting to a new head coach, was picked to finish second in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Drexel, which returned six of its top seven players from a 21-win squad, was selected first in a vote of the league’s coaches, communications directors and select media members.

Virginia Commonwealth, which last season became the second CAA team in six years to advance to the Final Four, was chosen third. Two-time defending CAA champion Old Dominion is No. 4, followed by James Madison and William & Mary in the 12-team league.

ODU senior guard Kent Bazemore, the league’s defensive player of the year last season, was named preseason player of the year. Joining him on the first team are VCU senior guard Bradford Burgess, Drexel senior forward Samme Givens, William & Mary senior guard Quinn McDowell and George Mason senior forward Ryan Pearson.

No other Patriots were named to the second team or honorable mention.

Paul Hewitt, the former Georgia Tech coach, is in his first season at George Mason after replacing Jim Larranaga last spring. Besides Pearson, who averaged 14.2 points and 6.7 rebounds last season, Hewitt’s roster includes senior forward Mike Morrison and potential big back-court scorers Sherrod Wright and Vertrail Vaughns.

However, Luke Hancock, the team’s assists leader and third-leading scorer last season, transferred to Louisville and senior guard Andre Cornelius, a starter the previous two seasons and the Patriots’ top three-point threat, is suspended indefinitely after being arrested last month.

Delaware, which returns its entire starting lineup, was the top pick in the women’s poll, followed by VCU, James Madison and Hofstra. George Mason was No. 8. Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne, a 6-foot-5 junior who averaged 25.3 points last season, was voted preseason player of the year. GMU senior guard Taleia Moton (Suitland) made honorable mention.

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