[PREVIEW] George Mason vs. American -- Men's Basketball

Bryon Allen drives to the hole against Drexel in a game last season (Photo by John Irwin).
Bryon Allen drives to the hole against Drexel in a game last season (Photo by John Irwin).

Mason men’s basketball tips off their inaugural season in the Atlantic 10 in a non-conference matchup against American University tonight at 7 p.m. at the Patriot Center.

The Patriots return all of their key starters from last season, finishing with 22-16 record and advancing to the finals of the College Basketball Invitational.

Sherrod Wright was the top performer for the Patriots last season, averaging 16.5 points per game and will continue to be the biggest asset on the roster this season.

Bryon Allen led the team in assists averaging 3.6 per game and according to Coach Paul Hewitt, is the team’s best all-around player.

The Patriots are without junior forward Erik Copes due to a suspension for the first six games of the season. Copes led the team in rebounds last season, averaging 8.0 per game. Mason will look to starters Johnny Williams and Jonathan Arledge to fill the void in the paint.

American enters the 2013-2014 season after finishing last season with a 10-20 record. The Eagles added a new coach, Mike Brennan, in the offseason after losing seven members from last season and welcoming six newcomers. Junior guard John Schoof returns as the Eagles’ leading scorer, averaging 9.6 points per game.

Mason will have to improve on their turnover percentage this season, after averaging 13.5 per game last year. Corey Edwards will need to continue to improve as a distributor and share playmaking responsibilities with Allen.

Anali Okoloji, who has improved on every aspect of his game in the off-season, will be the first Patriot off the bench and is poised for success this year.

Sophomores Marko Gujanicic and sharpshooter Patrick Holloway will be large contributors off the bench and redshirt freshman Jalen Jenkins should infuse new life into this experienced team with his athleticism on the court.

Mason owns the all-time series against American 30-10, with the last matchup between these two teams in the 2005-06 season resulting in a 75-35 win for Mason. If the Patriots can keep their momentum going throughout the game and not get complacent, the Patriots should walk away with a win in the home opener. 

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