FACTS & STATS: Site: Patriot Center (10,000) -- Fairfax, Virginia. Television: MASN. Home Record: Virginia 0-0, George Mason 0-0. Away Record: Virginia 0-0, George Mason 0-0. Neutral Record: Virginia 0-0, George Mason 0-0. Conference Record: Virginia 0-0, George Mason 0-0 . Series Record: Virginia leads, 6-0.
GAME NOTES: Instate rivals Virginia and George Mason kick off their 2012-13 seasons in Fairfax this evening, as the Patriots play host to the Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers return from a 22-10 season, making an NCAA appearance, and return three starters from last year. Coach Tony Bennett begins his fourth year at Virginia and hopes to continue the team's success.
George Mason and Coach Paul Hewitt are coming off a 24-9 season in Hewitt's first year with the school. Having graduated one of the programs greatest senior classes last year, the team needs to find a way to fill the void.
Virginia has won all six previous games between these schools, but has not played in Fairfax since 1996.
Coach Bennett earned several coaching honors a year ago and will bring back eight letter-winners from last year's impressive team. Having lost star player Mike Scott to the draft, veteran guards like senior Jontel Evans and junior Joe Harris will have to step up for this team to match its 22 wins from a year ago. Evans was part of the 2011 All-ACC defensive team and Harris is the highest scorer amongst returning players (11.3 ppg). Freshman Justin Anderson will be looked upon to make an immediate impact. The 6-6 guard was a Second- Team All-American as a senior in high school and the prize of last year's recruiting class. Virginia would have to really play above its head to make a move into the ACC elite, but should be competent once again behind Bennett's strong defensive coaching.
Coach Hewitt leads the Patriots into his second season with the program after a 24-9 campaign last year. After losing CAA Player of the Year Ryan Pearson (top-10 in scoring, rebounding, and free throws in school history) the team will need a new star to step up. The Patriots have two returning starters in guards Byron Allen and Vertrail Vaughns, but Hewitt believes that junior guard Sherrod Wright could be the answer, hoping he elevates his game to another level after scoring 9.6 ppg off the bench a year ago. George Mason should have another successful year as long as the key role players are up to the task.
With both teams searching for a new player to be the star, this season-opener could be the first look at who might be the face of either team's program. Virginia will have to depend on their defense, but should pull off a low-scoring victory and remain undefeated against the Patriots.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia 65, George Mason 62
11/09 10:36:39 ET
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