NCAA

College hoops preview: George Mason

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College hoops preview: George Mason

There is no point in pretending otherwise: from program defections to the loss of several key graduating players, the CAA men's basketball league is not entering the upcoming season with the sexiest of mid-major reputations. Programs hoping to enhance their NCAA Tournament at-large hopes by picking up those much-needed RPI victories in conference could be left holding the NIT bag.

Clearly, Paul Hewitt did the math. In turn, George Mason's coach stacked the Patriots upcoming non-conference schedule with one resume-boosting opportunity after another.

While the Sherrod Wright-Erik Copes led Patriots are expected to remain in the regular season title mix, no CAA team outside of favorite Drexel figures to land serious national preseason attention. Perennial power Old Dominion appears headed for a transition campaign. Delaware has the look of a dark horse candidate, but the program's lack of roundball tradition makes the Blue Hens a wait and see scenario. VCU now calls the Atlantic 10 home.

Obviously, the Patriots must navigate the always-tricky conference waters in winning style, but a strong effort before CAA play tips off could make the conference tournament title not become an all-or-nothing scenario.

The Patriots have two ACC teams on their schedule, starting with the regular season and home opener against Virginia on Nov. 9. An NCAA Tournament team last season, the Tony Bennett coached Cavaliers remain formidable, but may be without starting guard Jontel Evans for the in-state meeting.

On Dec. 2, George Mason faces Maryland at the Verizon Center in the Patriots first matchup against the Terps since 2004.

Mark Turgeon's aggressive recruiting effort has the College Park program headed in the right direction, but uncertainty exists when looking at the transitioning roster. Also potentially helping Mason's cause is the game will be played on what is essentially a neutral court - Maryland fans haven't exactly packed the Verizon Center in recent years.

Other notable foes among the 12 non-conference games -- all scheduled before New Year's -- include Big East program and 2012 NCAA Tournament participant South Florida, Atlantic 10 schools Rhode Island and Richmond, Missouri Valley stalwart Northern Iowa and perennial Patriot League power Bucknell.

The true wild card in the scheduling lot comes with a beachfront view. George Mason will participate in the Paradise Jam on the island of St. Thomas November 16-19.

The three-game stint starts against Mercer. Beating the Atlantic Sun program won't offer much help from the number-crunching perspective, but with a little luck, the Patriots could leave the island with exactly that. New Mexico, another NCAA Tournament team last season, stands as potential semifinal opponent while Connecticut and Wake Forest loom on the other side of the bracket.

In a comparable scenario last season, the Patriots fell to upstart Florida International during the NIT tipoff. Rather than facing Virginia Tech, George Mason met Monmouth followed by Brown and Albany in the consolation round. That's an RPI tradeoff no bracketoligist can embrace.

Home games against Boston University and UMBC round out this season's out-of-conference matchups.

George Mason opens CAA play Jan. 3 against Northeastern then end the regular season March 2 at Delaware. Drexel comes to the Patriot Center on Jan. 31 -- the Patriots only home date in a five-game span -- before George Mason returns the favor with a trip to the City of Brotherly Love on Valentine's Day.

Putting a number on the amount of non-conference wins needed to separate themselves from the at-large pack would just be a guessing game. We can say that simply putting the Mercer, Boston and UMBC contests on the good side of the ledger is not enough.

We can also say that Hewitt's scheduling has given his squad more than a puncher's chance at being in that at-large mix. If the Patriots can deliver a few knockout blows early on and then clean up in the CAA, there's a good chance George Mason will indeed pick up some bracketology attention.

Brown's big day leads BC to rout at Virginia, 41-10

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USA TODAY Sports

Brown's big day leads BC to rout at Virginia, 41-10

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Anthony Brown threw three touchdown passes and Boston College's defense stifled Virginia in a 41-10 victory on Saturday.

The Eagles (4-4, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their second straight road game, and did it behind Brown, who completed 19 of 24 passes for 275 yards, and a defense that limited Virginia to 247. The Eagles, by contrast, had 275 through the air and 237 on the ground.

Virginia (5-2, 2-1) came up well short in its bid for a fifth straight victory and bowl eligibility for the first time since 2011.

The Eagles used big plays to blow the game open quickly.

Thadd Smith took a jet sweep 76 yards down the sideline to make it 10-0 with 4:16 left in the first quarter. After Virginia went three-and-out, Brown hit Kobay White with a screen pass and White took it 76 yards down the middle of the field to make it 17-0 with 1:57 left.

After another Virginia punt, the Eagles ran a flea flicker, and Brown hit Michael Walker for 46 yards, setting up Brown's 10-yard touchdown throw to tight end Tom Sweeney with no defenders anywhere near him five plays later. He later found Sweeney again, this time from 3 yards out, to give BC a 34-7 lead.

While Brown was having his way with the Cavaliers defense, the Eagles were giving Kurt Benkert fits. They sacked him three times and had him on the run all day. His frustration finally showed in the second quarter when, scrambling left, he threw a left-handed backhand pass that was intercepted.

Oh boy.

No. 5 Wisconsin stays unbeaten with 38-13 win over Maryland

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USA TODAY Sports

No. 5 Wisconsin stays unbeaten with 38-13 win over Maryland

MADISON, Wis. -- Jonathan Taylor ran for a touchdown and broke the 1,000-yard mark for the season, Alex Hornibrook passed for two scores and No. 5 Wisconsin stayed unbeaten with a 38-13 win over Maryland on Saturday.

Taylor finished with 126 yards on 22 carries, a relatively ho-hum day following two straight 200-yard outings for the running back.

Playing in his seventh contest at Wisconsin (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten), Taylor tied a major college football record shared by five other backs for fewest games by a freshman to get to 1,000 yards.

Hornibrook shook off an interception on his second attempt of the day, finishing 16 of 24 for 225 yards to balance the offense.

Maryland (3-4, 1-3), which has the league's worst defense, could have picked up some early pointers from Wisconsin.

Under heavy pressure, Max Bortenschlager's pass over the middle was intercepted by Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Edwards and returned 54 yards for a touchdown to open the scoring with 12:18 left in the first quarter.

No wonder Maryland rarely took a shot down the field.

But the Terrapins did have some success running the ball out of spread formations, with Ty Johnson leading the way with 83 yards on 16 carries. They dented a defense that was allowing a Big Ten-best 78.8 yards a game for 143 yards overall on 35 carries.

An 11-play, 73-yard drive set up in part by eight runs and a penalty ended with Bortenschlager's 10-yard touchdown pass to Taivon Jacobs to get Maryland to within 28-10 about midway through the third quarter.

Wisconsin, though, sets a high bar in the ground game, and Maryland just couldn't keep up.

Fullback Austin Ramesh's 1-yard touchdown run with 9:10 left in the game ended an 11-play, 76-yard drive, giving Wisconsin a three-score lead that extinguished any faint upset hopes.