Mason-UVa men's basketball preview

Junior forward Jonathan Arledge (left) will be a key asset for the Patriots against UVA without Erik Copes (Photo courtesy of George Mason Athletics)
Junior forward Jonathan Arledge (left) will be a key asset for the Patriots against UVA without Erik Copes (Photo courtesy of George Mason Athletics)

With two major contributors, Erik Copes and Vaughn Gray, suspended due to student-athlete conduct violations, the challenge will be for the rest of the young team to pull out a win in tonight’s home opener against the University of Virginia at the Patriot Center at 7 p.m. 

The Virginia Cavaliers, who are in the Atlantic Coast Conference, are also missing their back court, with senior guard Jontel Evans out recovering from surgery for a stress fracture and redshirt freshman guard Teven Jones suspended for violating team rules. Luckily for Mason, Bryon Allen, who has been recovering from an upper back injury, will play tonight after missing the exhibition game against Bowie State.

Mason turned over the ball 20 times last season in their matchup against UVa, which is a strong defensive team. This season, Mason hopes to cut the number of turnovers down with more experience in the backcourt and the support of a playing in their home environment. This season, UVa has a much younger roster filled with talented freshmen players, including 6’11” center Mike Tobey and 6’6” guard Justin Anderson. They are missing their inside-outside combo from last year, so, like Mason, the team will be looking for new playmakers on offense. Shooting guard Joe Harris is the Cavaliers' leading returning scorer.

Without Copes and Gray, other players will need to step up in their absence. Junior guard Bryon Allen and forward Jonathan Arledge need to have solid performances for the Patriots to succeed against UVa. Allen has to limit his turnovers and find the open man for easy points where against an opponent like UVa will be tough to come by. Arledge has the potential to be a double-double machine as he showed in the CAA Tournament semifinals against VCU last season. If he can fill the void of Copes on both ends of the floor, the Patriots have a good shot to upset the visiting Cavaliers.

Sherrod Wright will also have to be another huge contributor in this game. Labeled as a preseason all-CAA candidate, Wright needs to be an aggressive scorer, attacking the basket when necessary and creating high percentage shots, while defending on the perimeter to give his team a chance against UVa. Overall, Mason is a much more up-tempo team this season. Without star player Ryan Pearson, Mason will be looking to open the floor more and push the pace this season.

If Arledge, Johnny Williams and Marko Gujanicic can get points on the board early and defend the paint effectively, the Patriots will be in a good position to contend with the Cavaliers. Preventing and forcing turnovers is another key to the game for Mason on both the offensive and defensive ends. A major focus will be defending the paint against UVa as they have big shoes to fill with Copes out of the game. 

This is a critical game for the George Mason Patriots. It is one of the tougher non-conference teams that they will face this season, and the result could have a major impact on their NCAA tournament hopes at the end of the season. 

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