Point guard Jason Miskiri is gone, but every other key player returns from a team that overcame a 1-5 start to win the Colonial Athletic Association regular season and tournament championships and give the program its first NCAA tournament appearance in 10 years. It remains to be seen whether Miskiri's departure will have a big impact on the Patriots, who won 10 consecutive games -- five by seven points or fewer -- before losing to Cincinnati in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Other CAA coaches didn't seem to think so. They voted George Mason first in a preseason poll. But Patriots Coach Jim Larranaga said the verdict is still out.

"I think that's something that remains to be seen," he said. "We've been doing pretty well so far. But it's one thing to do it against yourselves or an exhibition defense. We'll have to see once the season begins."

Junior Tremaine Price will start the season at the point, but Larranaga said Price will be pushed by freshman Tyrone Tiggs, who won three Florida Class A state high school state championships and was named the state's 1999 Class A player of the year.

Larranaga is hoping for a breakout season from junior small forward Erik Herring, who averaged 10.3 points in 16 CAA games last season. The Patriots also have three-year starter Ahmad Dorsett at shooting guard, and the Patriots hope he can combine with Herring to help replace Miskiri's scoring.

Again, though, the featured player will be 28-year-old Gulf War veteran George Evans, who has been terrific in the low post the past two seasons while going from 1997-1998 rookie of the year to last season's player of the year (he led the conference with a .557 field goal percentage last season). But Larranaga said Evans will be asked to play an increased amount of defense away from the basket this season.

Senior Keith Holdan, a versatile 6-6 forward, rounds out the starting lineup. The reserves will be led by three players used sparingly last season, junior forward Terrance Nixon and sophomore forwards Rob Anderson and Quilninious Randall. Larranaga expects two freshmen -- including his son, Jon -- to play.

"Last year at this time we were probably questioning whether we had that much depth, then we ended up playing about 10 or 11 guys," Jim Larranaga said. "This year we're kind of starting at that point."

Data

Last season: 19-11, 13-3 CAA (NCAA tournament first round).

Coach: Jim Larranaga (third season, 28-29; 15th season overall, 226-198).

Top returning players: F George Evans, 6-7, Jr. (CAA player of the year, first in CAA in scoring at 17.2 ppg, second in CAA in rebounding at 8.5 rpg); F Keith Holdan, 6-6, Sr. (9.2 ppg, .441 FG pct.); G Ahmad Dorsett, 6-2, Sr. (8.7 ppg, 51 three-pointers); F Erik Herring, 6-5, Jr. (8.9 ppg, .439 3-pt. pct.).

Key departures: G Jason Miskiri (first-team all-CAA).

New faces: F Jesse Young, 6-10, Fr. (Peterborough, Ont.); G Tyrone Tiggs, 6-0, Fr. (Bascon, Fla.); Jon Larranaga, 6-6, Fr. (St. John's Prospect Hall).

Schedule

November

19 at Toledo, 7

23 at Delaware, 7:30

27 Coppin State, 7:30

December

4 at Coastal Carolina, 7:30

8 at Penn State, 7

11 vs. Rider*, 5

12 vs. TBA*, TBA

18 American, 4:30

21 Drexel, 7

27 at Maryland, 8

January

3 Bucknell, 7

5 at William & Mary, 7

8 at James Madison, 7:30

10 UNC Wilmington, 7

15 Old Dominion, 7

17 East Carolina, 7

19 Detroit, 7

22 at Va. Commonwealth, 7:30

26 at Richmond, 7:30

29 William & Mary, 7

February

2 at Old Dominion, 7:35

5 at American, 2

7 Fairfield, 7

10 Richmond, 7

16 Va. Commonwealth, 7

19 at UNC Wilmington, 7:30

21 at East Carolina, 7

26 James Madison, 4:30

March

3-6 CAA Tourn. in Richmond

*Conference Challenge at Maryland-Baltimore County