George Mason

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Monday, November 6, 2006

Coach: Jim Larranaga (166-105 in nine seasons at George Mason, 363-275 overall).

Last Season: 27-8, 16-4 Colonial Athletic Association, lost in NCAA tournament semifinals.

The Glue: With the departure of Jai Lewis, Tony Skinn and Lamar Butler, the Patriots will turn to their only returning starters, Folarin Campbell and Will Thomas, to guide a team that will attract widespread attention everywhere it visits. Larranaga will rely on Campbell, a 6-foot-4 junior guard from Silver Spring, for balanced contributions, such as his 21-point, 7-rebound, 3-assist effort against Michigan State in the NCAA tournament. Thomas, a 6-7 forward from Baltimore, shot 61 percent in 2004-05 and a CAA-best 58 percent as a sophomore. He also is regarded as the team's best defensive player. Contributions from sophomore guard John Vaughn, who missed last season because of a knee injury; senior guard Gabe Norwood; junior guard Jordan Carter; and sophomore forward Sammy Hernandez also will be crucial to GMU's cause.

Game to Watch: Nov. 25 at Creighton. While the Patriots should handle themselves just fine in the CAA, they are going to need to make an impression in their big nonconference encounters. The Bluejays have four returning starters from a team that routed the Patriots, 72-52, last year at Patriot Center.

Postseason Prospects (from 1 to 4 basketballs): 3. If the preseason predictions hold true and the Patriots finish second in the increasingly respected CAA, they will be in prime position for a third NCAA berth in seven years. At selection time, their Final Four portfolio will almost certainly help their cause.

36-4 Record at Patriot Center the past three years, including a 12-game winning streak since a loss to Creighton last November


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