Coach: Jim Larranaga (124-85 in eight seasons at George Mason, 322-254 overall).
Last season: 23-10, 12-6 Colonial Athletic Association.
In Larranaga's seventh season as George Mason's coach, the Patriots won 23 games, the most victories in the 37-year history of the program, and had their first 20-win season in 14 years. They went 14-1 at Patriot Center, the best home record in school history, and won consecutive postseason games, albeit in the NIT, for the first time.
What can the veteran coach do for an encore? How about winning the Colonial Athletic Association tournament and the automatic NCAA tournament berth that comes with it? It won't be easy, even with two starters and seven lettermen back from last year's team, as well as Larranaga's best recruiting class. Drexel, Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth all return the nucleus of their teams, so the Patriots will again have to be on top of their games.
The Patriots will again be led by junior forward Jai Lewis, the leader in scoring (14.5 points per game) and rebounding (7.5 rebounds per game) last season. Freshman forward Will Thomas, one of the top prep players in Baltimore the past two years, also figures to get plenty of playing time. He averaged 18.3 points and 12.1 rebounds as a senior at Mount St. Joseph High.
Junior Lamar Butler led the Patriots with 78 three-pointers last season. Junior Tony Skinn (Takoma Academy) is the top candidate to replace Terry Reynolds at point guard, but he was a reserve in a loss to Memphis on Saturday. Freshman Folarin Campbell, a two-time All-Met from Springbrook High, averaged 28.4 points and 5.5 rebounds as a senior and will play a lot this season as well.