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College basketball is far from perfect, but still worth following

Locally, Maryland already has been overlooked, which is usually when Williams is at his most dangerous. The Terrapins will miss the wild-and-crazy but extremely effective Greivis Vazquez, but as their young back court improves, so should their fortunes. This season, everything should go through the post, where sophomore Jordan Williams is ready to become a major star. Sean Mosley might be the ACC's most underrated player.

Georgetown has a lot to make up for after its remarkable NCAA tournament flameout against Ohio University. Even though Greg Monroe jumped to the NBA, leaving Coach John Thompson III without his best big man, senior guards Austin Freeman and Chris Wright will make the Hoyas dangerous in the Big East.

George Washington made the Atlantic 10 tournament for the first time in three seasons, but that's a far cry from the three straight NCAA tournament bids it ran off between 2005 and 2007. With Lasan Kromah reutrning with the rest of last season's freshmen, Coach Karl Hobbs's team should improve considerably.

American took a step down last season after back-to-back Patriot League titles but is again one of the league favorites with the best forward tandem in the conference in sweet-shooting Vlad Moldoveanu and Stephen Lumpkins. Navy regularly gets picked near the bottom of the conference and then finishes near the top, but the Midshipmen haven't been able to win a conference tournament game since 2001.

Howard fired Gil Jackson after his fifth straight 20-plus loss seasons with a 37-118 record. The new coach is Kevin Nickelberry, who grew up in the area and will bring a lot of energy to a place that desperately needs it.

And last but not least? George Mason. The Patriots lost six of their last seven to finish a disappointing 17-15 last season, but with plenty of talent returning including star guard Cam Long, this could be Jim Larranaga's best team since the 2006 Final Four squad.

So with all due respect to preseason polls and recruiting rankings and college basketball's aristocracy, that's why it's worth playing the games: because in the 21st century, George Mason has played in one more Final Four than Kentucky.

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