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We continue our flyover of the Atlantic 10 Conference with one blurb per team on what we’ll be watching.  Previews are for another day…

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George Mason

The George Mason Patriots prepare for a season of firsts as they begin play in the Atlantic 10 as the newest member of the league.  Paul Hewitt’s program was officially added to the fold on July 1, 2013, after wrapping up its last season in the Colonial Athletic Association with an overall record of 22-16 and a runner-up finish in the CBI Tournament.  The Patriots return a talented core, welcome back a significant contributor from injury (Johnny Williams), and figure to be jammed among the many A10 teams that could finish between 4th and 10th place this year.

Wright is an all-conference talent, but beyond his production his leadership down the stretch in ballgames will be key.  (Credit: GMU Athletic Communications)

Wright is an all-conference talent, but beyond his production his leadership down the stretch in ballgames will be key. (Credit: GMU Athletic Communications)

What must GMU do to give itself a chance to place in the top half of that range?

The Patriots must finish games.

The inability to close out contests plagued GMU a year ago.  Costly turnovers.  Defensive breakdowns.  Uneven point guard play.  The reasons were varied.

There was the November 18th game against eventual NCAA participant New Mexico where Mason led by five with 17 seconds to play.  A three-point make, careless turnover and another made long ball by New Mexico’s Tony Snell with 1.8 seconds remaining sent GMU to an anguishing defeat.  Defeats at the hands of Northern Iowa and Drexel are other examples of missed opportunities along the way.  And, of course, the CAA semifinal loss that – for GMU diehards - need not be recapped.

The Patriots are a veteran team now with a starting unit comprised of juniors and seniors. Guard Sherrod Wright returns for his final season after averaging 16.6ppg a year ago and will be counted upon, along with backcourt mate Byron Allen (8.3ppg, 4.0apg), to make sound decisions with the ball when it matters.  Corey Edwards should benefit from another year of experience also.  It will be imperative for GMU protect home court the way it should have a year ago, as A10 road games at VCU, Rhode Island, Fordham, Saint Louis, Duquesne, GW, La Salle and UMass will be no picnic.

Can GMU do the little things inside of two minutes and put opponents away?

That’s one thing to watch.

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Paul Hewitt Top Story photo also courtesy of GMU Athletic Communications

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Other schools in the Series so far…

UMass (7.24.13)

St. Bonaventure (7.26.13)

Duquesne (7.29.13)

La Salle (7.30.13)

Dayton (8.6.13)

Saint Joseph’s (8.7.13)

Rhode Island (8.12.13)

George Washington (8.16.13)

Richmond (8.21.13)

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