NCAA

George Mason's Copes takes center stage

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George Mason's Copes takes center stage

With frontcourt stalwarts Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison having graduated, George Mason men's basketball program has a sizable interior hole.

Wide-bodied rising sophomore Erik Copes is poised to fill it.

The highest rated college basketball prospect ever to suit up for the Fairfax program, the 6-foot-8, 245-pound Copes flashed his defensive presence credentials throughout his freshman season. Seven blocks in a single half against Drexel comes to mind.

On a team missing three starters from last season's 24-win team, on a team without a senior in the primary rotation, opportunity exists for new focal points to emerge. Outside of wing scorer Sherrod Wright, Copes tops that particular list.

"If he stays healthy, I think he has a chance to be that breakout guy," said George Mason coach Paul Hewitt, referring to both Copes' defensive-presence upside plus the concussion and hip injury that limited the Philadelphia native in stretches last season.

Copes averaged nearly two blocked shots a game despite playing only 15 minutes per contest, a number limited in part because of that upperclassman duo. Offensively, we can charitably deem Copes' skill set as raw; rarely did he score (3.3 points) on anything other than a dunk or putback, tallied only three assists and his free throw percentage was a paltry 41.9 percent.

Physically, Copes showed his conference foes he was ready to go.

"If they hadn't had the two seniors, he would have played even more minutes as a freshman," Old Dominion coach Blaine Taylor said of Copes. "He was very impressive physically. He's gifted, nice strength, movement ability. They probably have their eyeballs on him as a sophomore picking up minutes as the interior presence."

No doubt coach Taylor, no doubt - that is, if Copes can stay on the court. Last season he missed six games, five straight midseason, and Mason's CAA Tournament loss against VCU.

"Last year he got off to a really good start," Hewitt said. 'He started playing his best basketball in that game against Drexel when he had seven blocked shots in the first half only to suffer a concussion in the second half and missed five games. He was not quite himself coming back from that concussion and then he when he got it going again he hurt his hip in practice before the CAA Tournament was going to begin."

Copes underwent surgery in May and "so far he's made great recovery, he's back in practice going full tilt," Hewitt said.

Those also tasked with taking on a larger role up front include junior forward Jonathan Arledge, who started twice and played 31 games last season. Redshirt junior Johnny Williams, who played 62 games over his first two seasons, returns to action with a slimmed-down look after sitting out last season with a shoulder injury. Skilled 6-foot-8 Serbian freshman Marko Gujanicic rounds out the likely heart of Hewitt's rotation.

Wright and Vertrail Vaughns are the Patriots top two leading returning scorers while fellow guards Bryon Allen and Corey Edwards direct traffic from the point. Incoming freshman and All-Met Player of the Year Patrick Holloway brings additional scoring pop.

"Everybody has holes to fill; every kid on my team is going to be in a new role," Taylor said. "But, if you look at Mason, they pretty much got things situated. They just need to fill the interior situation."

"When you lose the Player of the Year, that's significant," Hewitt said. "You don't just overlook that. But, its part of what college basketball is all about. Every year there's going to be that exciting new freshman. Fans and people who support your program are looking for that kid who is going to make that jump from his sophomore to his junior year and become a program player.

"Losing Ryan and Mike in particular is going to hurt us. At the same time, I think we've got a core of big guys more than capable of replacing them."

Erik Copes, in particular.

2019 College World Series Central: Bracket, favorites, viewing information

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USA TODAY Sports Images

2019 College World Series Central: Bracket, favorites, viewing information

The four matchups in the first round of the College World Series are set after the final two games of the tournament Super Regionals finished on Monday.

Arkansas and Auburn were the last two teams to make the CWS bracket, after each team won the rubber match in its respective Super Regional, scoring 14 runs apiece.

Of the eight teams vying for the prized college baseball title, two (Michigan and Florida State) were amongst the last four teams in the field of 64 to make the tournament. Now, they join some of the other top teams across the country. 

Michigan beat a No. 1 UCLA team 2-1 in the Los Angeles Super Regional, a Bruins team which hadn't lost a series all season. The Wolverines proved they are a force to be reckoned with as they head to their first CWS appearance since 1984.

Like Michigan, Auburn made the CWS for the first time in over 10 years (the Tigers' last CWS appearance was in 1997).

It's the second consecutive year that Mississippi State, Arkansas and Texas Tech have made the final bracket. Last year, Arkansas was the runner-up after losing to Oregon State in the finals. Mississippi State made it to the semifinals before Oregon State defeated the Bulldogs and went on to win the tournament. 

2019 NCAA COLLEGE WORLD SERIES BRACKET & BROADCAST SCHEDULE

Game 1: Michigan vs. Texas Tech, Sat. 6/15 at 2 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 2: Arkansas vs. Florisa State, Sat. 6/15 at 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 3:  Vanderbilt vs. Louisville, Sun 6/16 at 2 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 4: Mississippi State vs. Auburn, Sun. 6/16 at 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

FUN FACTS

  • Vandy Rockstar: The Commodores' freshman right-hander Kumar Rocker threw a complete game no-hitter (and 19 Ks) in Game 2 against Duke in the Nashville Super Regional to keep Vanderbilt's championship hopes alive. 
  • Sweeps on Sweeps: Florida State, Louisville and Mississippi State each swept its respective Super Regional. The most notable was the Cardinals' sweep of the East Carolina Pirates, where Louisville outscored ECU 26-1. 
  • No Repeats: Texas Tech defeated the reigning champion Oregon State in the Lubbock Super Regional to ensure there will be a new school crowned champion. 

 

Maryland hosts Notre Dame, Purdue faces Virginia in 2019 Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchups

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ACC Men's Basketball

Maryland hosts Notre Dame, Purdue faces Virginia in 2019 Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchups

The annual matchup continues and we’ve got big news. For the 21st season, two of the prominent conferences will face off in the 2019 Big Ten/ACC Challenge.   

All 14 Big Ten teams will battle against 14 of the 15 ACC teams, with Virginia Tech the lone school not participating. The Challenge will include a total of 14 games spread across Monday, Dec 2nd - Wednesday, Dec. 4th.  

This year’s Challenge will feature eight first-time meetings in the event: Maryland at Notre Dame, Penn State at Wake Forest, Boston College at Northwestern, Florida State at Indiana, Georgia Tech at Nebraska, Iowa at Syracuse, Louisville at Michigan, Pitt at Rutgers. 

Maryland will host Notre Dame on Wednesday, December 4th. The matchup will be the first meeting between the Terps and the Fighting Irish since the 2013-14 season, before the Terps left the ACC. 

In 2018-19, Maryland finished 23-11 overall, good for fifth in the Big Ten. Notre Dame tied for last place in the ACC, finishing a disappointing 14-19. 

Virginia, the reigning national champions will travel to Indiana to take on Purdue. Virginia and Purdue will battle for the third time in the Challenge and fourth time overall. In the 2000 Challenge between the Cavaliers and the Boilermakers, Virginia won 98-79. A few years later in 2006, Purdue beat Virginia 61-59. 'In the Challenge, UVA has an all-time record of 13-6, including a five-game winning streak. UVA beat former ACC rival Maryland 76-71 in last season’s Challenge. 

The Cavaliers and Boilermakers recently faced off against each other in this year’s Elite Eight game. Virginia defeated Purdue 80-75 in overtime.

The ACC has not lost the Challenge since 2015. 

Tip-off times, networks and more information have not yet been provided.

The 2019 Challenge matchups:

Monday, December 2:

Clemson at Minnesota 

Miami at Illinois

Tuesday, December 3:

Michigan at Louisville 

Iowa at Syracuse 

Rutgers at Pitt

Northwestern at Boston College 

Duke at Michigan State 

Florida State at Indiana 

Wednesday, December 4:

Notre Dame at Maryland 

Virginia at Purdue 

Wisconsin at NC State 

Wake Forest at Penn State 

Nebraska at Georgia Tech 

Ohio State at North Carolina

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