Saturday, February 25, 2012

Previewing Drexel at Old Dominion

A couple weeks ago I got to cover Drexel’s home game against Hofstra for  Before the game I made the acquaintance of Josh Verlin, a writer for  He seemed like a good guy who was knowledgeable about the entire college hoops scene in Philadelphia.  When it came up that I was an ODU graduate and that I’d be covering the Monarchs’ final home game, he wanted to know if I’d be interested in doing a Q&A with him. 

He sent me his questions yesterday and I responded after I arrived in Hampton Roads.  You can read my responses to his questions by clicking on this link.  Josh was kind enough to return the favor with my questions, which are below.

1. Tell us about PhilaHoops. How did the idea start and how did the site get off the ground? How did you yourself become a contributing writer?

Philahoops is the brainchild of Aaron Bracy (Twitter: @Aaron_Bracy), a Philadelphia sportswriting veteran and current elementary school teacher who felt the City 6 (Drexel, La Salle, Penn, Saint Joseph's, Temple and Villanova) wasn't getting the coverage or recognition it deserved. He started the site as a blog last season and launched as the site you see now back in December, just a few weeks after I came on board after finding Aaron through Twitter. Since then we've added a few more writers, including Big 5 legend Jack Scheuer, who's been covering the city's hoops scene for decades and decades, as well as a bracketologist and a number of talented beat reporters. For the last few months we've been going to practices, games and other events all over the city, getting exclusive content for our readers to help them keep up to date on the best college hoops town in the nation. I've been lucky enough to cover two of the hottest teams in the country over the last few weeks, the Temple Owls and Drexel Dragons.

2. How would describe the college hoops scene in Philly this year, and where does Drexel stack against the other schools?

The best way to describe the hoops scene around town this year is "rejuvenated." The fact that Villanova, a Big East squad with numerous McDonald's All-Americans on its roster, is the worst team in the city is saying quite a lot about the level of talent in the City of Brotherly Love this season. The Temple Owls are ranked 22nd in the country, Saint Joseph's and La Salle are both having quality years with very little talent leaving this offseason, and should contend for NCAA bids next year. The players who will be coming back next year from SJU and LU alone are scary--Ronald Roberts, C.J. Aiken, Langston Galloway, Halil Kanacevic, Ramon Galloway, Tyreek Duren, Sam Mills and Jerrell Wright are all future professional basketball players who will only be juniors or sophomores next year, with the exception of Ramon Galloway, who will be a senior.

The Penn Quakers are in the midst of a tough Ivy season with a huge game against Harvard that could decide their NCAA fates, and they have potentially the best player in the city in point guard Zack Rosen. That's all before we get to Drexel, who have won 16 straight games and 22 out of 23 to garner some serious NCAA at-large consideration. Right now I would say Temple is the best team in the city, with wins over Duke, Xavier, Maryland and Wichita State on the resume. Drexel is next, ahead of 18-10 La Salle and 18-11 Saint Joseph's. Penn comes next, with Villanova bringing up the rear.

3. This year's Drexel team plays defense with the same intensity as previous years, but the offense has taken a giant step forward. To what do you attribute their improvement on offense?

The biggest individual improvement comes from Frantz Massenat, who has been arguably the best player in the league this season. The 6-foot-4 sophomore has improved his 3-point shooting (25.7 percent to 46.1 percent), free-throw shooting (61.0 to 80.7), rebounding (2.0 to 3.4) and scoring (5.5 to 13.6), leading the team on the court and playing 35.3 minutes per game. He makes this team run, and his 3-point shooting has gone from a liability to such a strength that it opens up his ability to drive the ball.

When Frantz is off his game, he's got freshman wing Damion Lee to step in and shine. Lee could be one of those truly special mid-major players, a kid who's going to hit 400 points in his freshman season and has all the tools to be an NBA wing. At 6-6, Lee can shoot (36.9 percent from 3-point range), rebound (4.2/game) and turns the ball over fewer than two times per game while playing solid defense on the other end. A fearless competitor, Lee has won the confidence of his team and has hit a number of huge shots, most notably when he took over the last few minutes of the game against George Mason. Aside from Lee and Massenat, Derrick Thomas and Chris Fouch have provided spark, and both of them have played better with less pressure on them to drive the team on the offensive end.

4. Frantz Massenat leads the team in scoring and assists while Samme Givens leads in rebounding. Who on the roster does little things not reflected in box scores to help the team win?

What makes this team so good is that really, everybody does the little things to help this team win. Daryl McCoy is a very underrated defensive center, and while Drexel fans cringe whenever he puts the ball on the floor, he does have a 14-foot jump shot that he can step out and take if the Dragon offense has really stalled. His rebounding efforts and ability to stay down in the lane frustrate opposing big men over and over, and he teams very well with Dartaye Ruffin in that respect. Givens gets a lot of love in the frontcourt, but Drexel is one of the best rebounding teams in the country thanks to Ruffin and McCoy. In the frontcourt, it's Derrick Thomas who's the glue guy. He had 9 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists with no turnovers against JMU, numbers that Bruiser Flint and company would take from the junior every day of the week. Thomas has had a few big games (16 against William & Mary, 20 vs. Northeastern), but he's usually good for a 3-pointer or two and a few extra contributions.

5. Hypothetically, let's say Drexel doesn't win the CAA tournament. Does this team deserve an NCAA at-large bid?

Do they deserve it? Yes. They're certainly playing like one of the best 37 non-automatic-qualifiers over the last two months, but the problem is they haven't really played enough quality teams to prove it. Wins against VCU and George Mason came at home, and the win at Cleveland State came without CSU's best defender and one of their senior leaders--sound familiar? Even winning at Old Dominion might not be enough, now that the Monarchs lost Trian Iliadis, and I think it's going to take a run to the finals for the Dragons to even have a chance. Will they get one? That will be determined by the number of teams like Murray State who don't win their conference tournaments. But Drexel deserves to be dancing with their best team since Malik Rose led the team to March Madness back in 1996.

We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to Josh and the folks at for the opportunity to do a Q&A!

Monday, February 20, 2012

CAA Basketball Bloggers' Poll - Week of 2/20/2012

This week's update is quicker and less thorough than previous weeks.  So goes life.  I'm copying my explanation I sent to the gentleman who runs the CAA Bloggers' Poll in its place.

Check out my article on the impact a healthy Chris Fouch has for first-place Drexel.

Don't ask me about the change in fonts; I don't understand sometimes.

My email to Mat:

Drexel continues to play the best all-around game in the conference, having won 15 straight and 21 of 22.  Consistent with my voting tendancies I moved GMU above VCU because of head-to-head results, and if the Rams win in the season finale I'll put them above the Patriots next week.  Those two teams are about as even you can get.  Delaware's recent performance moves them into the second-tier of CAA teams with Old Dominion, which can secure the fourth seed in the tournament with one win this week.  Georgia State has won five of its last six, though that one loss was to Delaware.  Northeastern is the best team of the bottom half of the conference.  Kudos to Hofstra for being the lone "bottom six" CAA team for winnings its Bracket Buster game.

My ballot:

1. Drexel (23-5, 14-2; first place last week)

2. George Mason (23-6, 14-2; third place last week)

3. Virginia Commonwealth (23-6, 13-3; second place last week)

4. Old Dominion (18-11, 12-4; fourth place last week)

5. Delaware (15-12, 10-6; fifth place last week)

6. Georgia State (19-9, 10-6; sixth place last week)

7. Northeastern (12-15, 8-8; seventh place last week)

8. UNC Wilmington (9-18, 5-11; eighth place last week)

9. James Madison (11-18, 4-12; ninth place last week)

10. Hofstra (9-20, 2-14; elventh place last week)

11. William and Mary (5-24, 3-13; tenth place last week)

12. Towson (1-28, 1-15; twelfth place last week)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

CAA Basketball Bloggers' Poll - Week of 2/13/2012

Below is my ballot for the CAA Bloggers’ Poll.  As usual, there are a couple items to address first.

Seeing the same two hardcore CAA fans in consecutive weeks is good for the CAA soul.  I got to hang with Jerry and Gary (to a lesser extent) last Saturday when I traveled to Hofstra.  You can read my story of their loss to Georgia State by clicking on this link. 

Then yesterday I got to see them again when we all traveled to Philadelphia to see Hofstra take on Drexel.  I had lunch with Gary, his son and his friend, while I got to have dinner with Jerry and his wife following the game.  We walked into the restaurant and we saw none other than Bruiser Flint with a couple friends, waiting to be seated.  Despite difficult weather conditions, everyone made it to and from Philly alright.  I submitted my story of the game and will share it when it’s posted.

Our favorite Hofstra fans look on as the Pride take the court.
Second, while at the game I made the acquaintance of Josh Verlin, a writer for  He’s a good guy and seems quite knowledgeable about the college hoops scene in Philadelphia.  He and the other writers at the site have a bright future ahead of themselves.  I’m thankful to have met so many quality writers/people covering football and basketball for the CAAZone this year.

And now, on to the ballot.

1. Drexel (21-5, 13-2; 1st previous week) – The Dragons are on an incredible tear, having won 19 of their last 20 games.  They’re 11-0 at home this season and beat James Madison and Hofstra this past week.  Solid post-play from Samme Givens and Daryl McCoy complement the outstanding trio of Chris Fouch, Frantz Massenat and Damion Lee perfectly.  If this trio of guards remains healthy into March, not even the refs can keep them from winning the CAA tournament this season.

2. Virginia Commonwealth (22-5, 13-2; 2nd previous week) – The Rams have won eleven in a row since dropping consecutive games early in January.  They slammed Towson at home Wednesday and made plays at the end to defeat Old Dominion.  Their win against the Monarchs Saturday concluded a regular season sweep of their rivals.  However, as well as they are playing now, Drexel has been playing better.  The tie-breaker is that the Rams lost to Drexel in their only matchup this year.

3. George Mason (21-6, 13-2; 3rd previous week) – George Mason has rebounded from losing at Delaware last week by winning consecutive games against ODU, Hofstra Wednesday then UNCW yesterday.  Ryan Pearson is third in the conference in scoring (17.6) and fifth in rebounding (8.5).  Amazingly GMU has yet to play Virginia Commonwealth, though they play each other twice in the next two weeks.  Don’t expect any Valentine’s Day wishes to be exchanged between the two teams when they face off Tuesday. 

4. Old Dominion (16-11, 11-4; 4th previous week) – It can be frustrating to watch this team play genuinely efficient offense against William and Mary Wednesday, only to watch them look genuinely inept at scoring against Virginia Commonwealth Saturday.  They were swept by both the Patriots and Rams, but are undefeated against every other conference team they’ve played.  The Monarchs are currently two games ahead of both Delaware and Georgia State for fourth place in the conference.  Between their conference record and their recent competitive play against the Patriots and Rams, and I can’t drop them from fourth.

5. Delaware (13-12, 9-6; 7th previous week) – Break up the Fightin’ Blue Hens!  Delaware has won its last four games, a stretch that started with a win over George Mason.  This past week they downed a struggling Seahawks squad, and then won in overtime on the road at Georgia State Saturday.  Jarvis Threatt has emerged as a viable scorer the last couple weeks, adding another dimension to a team with All-CAA caliber players in Devon Saddler and Jamelle Hagins.  I couldn’t move them above Old Dominion yet because (1) they lost to ODU head-to-head and (2) they have been too inconsistent this season.  Is this a blip on the radar or have the Blue Hens established their identity?

6. Georgia State (17-9, 9-6; 5th previous week) – The Panthers experienced both sides of close games this week.  Prior to losing to Delaware by three points Saturday, Georgia State beat Northeastern by two points Wednesday.  I had to drop them below Delaware because the Blue Hens swept them this season, but they're playing better than everyone ranked below.  I continue to marvel at the impact a different coach has had on this team.  Part of winning is about attitude, and Ron Hunter has his team believing in themselves.  Having seen them in person last week, their collective length and athleticism on defense matches ODU’s.

7. Northeastern (11-14, 7-8; 6th previous week) – Whereas Delaware has won its last four games, Northeastern has dropped their last four.  After keeping close with Drexel, they lost by three points at Virginia Commonwealth last Saturday then by a bucket at Georgia State.  The traveling may have caught up to them yesterday as they lost their third straight road game…at William and Mary…by 25 points.  Most teams have a game like that every year, but we’re sure Coach Coen will have the Huskies on the right track shortly.

8. UNC Wilmington (9-16, 5-10; 8th previous week) – The Seahawks have won only twice in their last eleven games, and both wins were against William and Mary.  UNC Wilmington lost to the buzz-saw that is Delaware on Wednesday, then lost at home to GMU Saturday.  Adam Smith (15.1) and Keith Rendleman (15.0) are sixth and seventh, respectively, in scoring in the CAA.  With 10.7 rebounds per game, Rendleman averages a double-double.  Buzz Peterson needs at least another year to get this class of freshmen to turn things around.

9. James Madison (11-16, 4-11; 9th previous week) – The Dukes have four wins since the start of 2012: Hampton and William and Mary at home, plus UNCW and Towson on the road.  Their two-point win over Towson yesterday snapped a five-game losing streak, and the final loss in that stretch was at home against Drexel.  This team has competed well against the top teams in the conference but they’re one quality player away from pulling out some wins.

10. William and Mary (5-22, 3-12; 11th previous week) – After Towson snapped their losing streak, I moved the Tigers above W&M.  With the Tribe snapping its own nine-game streak in such convincing fashion, I have to do the same for them.  The team must have gotten Coach Shaver’s message when he pulled the starting five early in their loss to ODU Wednesday.  Having lost nine games in a row heading into Saturday, they blitzed Northeastern for a 79-54 win.  Brandon Britt, who didn’t take the big “step up” I expected after a promising freshman year, scored 24 points against the Huskies.

11. Hofstra (8-19, 2-13; 10th previous week) – The Pride have gone 0-4 when I’ve seen them in person over the past 13 months.  This earned me a ban from seeing them ever again by Mrs. Defiantly Dutch.  Despite being competitive in their losses (sound familiar?), the Pride have won only two of their last 14 games.  Those two wins were at JMU and home against Towson.  After losing at GMU Wednesday, they couldn’t keep up with Drexel Saturday.  Nathaniel Lester kept Hofstra in the game Saturday with a brilliant performance (27 points, eight rebounds, two steals and an assist).

12. Towson (1-26, 1-14; 12th previous week) – We focus on the positives on this blog.  The Tigers out-rebounded the Dukes 49-19 Saturday even if they shot less than 28% from the field.  You don’t out-rebound your opponent without effort.  Pat Skerry is the right man for this job.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

CAA Basketball Bloggers' Poll - Week of 2/6/2012

Below is my ballot for the CAA Bloggers' Poll following Saturday's games.  There are two quick items.

First, a big "thank you" goes out to Defiantly Dutch and The College Hardwood for being great hosts Saturday.  Hofstra is 0-2 in games that I've seen in Hempstead (and 0-3 overall if you count their loss this year at ODU) so maybe they want me to never see the Pride in person.  Unfortunately for them, I am covering Hofstra's game at Drexel next weekend.

Second, this was sort of rushed but I did a Q&A with Alan, who's a George Mason graduate student, an Orioles fan and an overall swell guy.  I posted his responses to my questions yesterday afternoon after I had arrived in Long Island, so I didn't get to advertise it much.  It's pretty insightful into the views of a Mason fan - we appreciate the attention he paid in answering.

1. Drexel (1st previous week) – The Dragons have won 17 of their last 18 games, with the lone loss on January 2 at then-streaking Georgia State.  They are tied with the Rams and the Patriots for best conference record, but they have swept both of them head-to-head.  Their two wins this week were on the road (against Northeastern and Towson).  And I'll keep beating this drum: if Fouch, Lee and Massenat are all healthy in March, they've got a great shot at winning the CAA tournament, no matter their seed.

2. Virginia Commonwealth (3rd previous week) – The Rams move up one spot thanks to their continued play of late (nine straight wins) and GMU’s faltering (read below).  This past week they beat William and Mary on the road, then defeated Northeastern Saturday at home.  The only teams that come close to the Rams’ pure athleticism are Georgia State and Old Dominion, but neither has the athletic depth that Virginia Commonwealth has.

3. George Mason (2nd previous week) – Following a five-point loss on the road against Delaware, GMU kept pace with the two teams ranked above them with a 54-50 win over Old Dominion.  Ryan Pearson was the only Patriot with double-digit points (17) and added ten rebounds.  With a CAA-season-best attendance of 9,840 Saturday for Homecoming, the Patriots’ average attendance of 4,961 is now third in average attendance behind Virginia Commonwealth (7,623) and Old Dominion (7,586).  They have three more games to raise that average, and we hope the Northern Virginians start taking note of this team.

4. Old Dominion (4th previous week) – The Monarchs showed how capable they are offensively with 80 points against James Madison, with 18 assists on 27 field goals.  They then showed how challenged they can be in their loss at George Mason, shooting 12.5% from three and 55.6% on free throws.  Still, they haven’t lost to anyone lower on my ballot.  Since Christmas they've lost only four games: against George Mason (twice), Virginia Commonwealth and Missouri.

5. Georgia State (6th previous week) – The conference’s members from Atlanta entered this past week having lost four of its previous five games.  They proceeded to defeat – on the road – both UNCW and Hofstra by 15 and 16 points, respectively.  The Panthers have an amazing starting five but rely too heavily on those players.  Still, their attacking zone defense caused significant problems for Hofstra Saturday.

6. Northeastern (5th previous week) – The Huskies have lost four of their last six games, including both games last week (against the Dragons and the Rams).  These four losses have been to Drexel (twice), Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth.  Northeastern falls below Georgia State this week because, all other things being equal, the Panthers do have wins over Drexel and Virginia Commonwealth this season.  Regardless, the Huskies get the chance to sweep the Panthers with a win on the road this Wednesday.

7. Delaware (7th previous week) – The talented Blue Hens picked up a big win Wednesday, overcoming 21 turnovers to beat George Mason.  They then defeated the Dukes at James Madison by five Saturday behind and 23-18 night from Jamelle Hagins, who we called “underrated” last week.  We expect he may be more properly rated after such a showing.  In general this team is hard to figure out; their record is 11-12 but they’ve got five separate two-game winning streaks.  A win Wednesday over the Seahawks would mark their first three-game winning streak.

8. UNC Wilmington (9th previous week) – It was an interesting week in Wilmington for Buzz Peterson.  After becoming the team Towson defeated to end their losing streak, Coach Peterson took away privileges and implemented 6AM practices.  Following a 15-point loss at home to Georgia State, Peterson then suspended freshman guard K.K. Simmons “indefinitely.”  But fellow freshman guard Adam Smith picked up his performance Saturday, scoring 25 points in an 81-68 win over William and Mary.

9. James Madison (8th previous week) – Oh, the short-handed Dukes.  They’ve lost four in a row but were competitive at both George Mason and Old Dominion, showing resolve rather than packing it in.  They’ve played consecutive weeks of games on Saturday-Monday-Thursday, followed by their 85-80 loss against Delaware.  They’ve won only one of six home conference games, and their three conference wins are over UNCW, Hofstra and William and Mary.  It doesn’t get easier, as Drexel comes to town Wednesday.

10. Hofstra (10th previous week) – The effort has been there for the Pride all season.  After their January loss at Old Dominion, Blaine Taylor credited Mo Cassara’s team for working them harder on the boards than any other team this year.  But there comes a point when effort without results isn’t enough.  Hofstra followed a 25-point win over Towson Wednesday with a 16-point loss to Georgia State Saturday.  The Panthers’ zone defense held Mike Moore scoreless until the last minute of the first half.  Moore and Nathaniel Lester combined for 27 of the team’s 43 points against Georgia State.

11. William and Mary (12th previous week) – Since its one-point win at Liberty on November 20, the Tribe have beaten three teams: Wesley College (a non-D1 school), James Madison and Towson.  Having lost eight straight games, The College hosts Old Dominion Wednesday and Northeastern Saturday.

12. Towson (11th previous week) – I had to give the Tigers an 11th-vote last week in honor of ending their NCAA-record losing streak.  The team rewarded me by losing by 25 at Hofstra and then only eight points against Drexel.  It’s all about the process of doing things the right way this year for Pat Skerry.  He’s laying a foundation for a solid future.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Interview with a George Mason Fan

Due to traveling requirements, we're running a bit tight on time.  However, I had an opportunity to shoot an email with some questions to one of the most respectable George Mason fans I know.  Granted, I don't know that many GMU fans, but that's besides the point. 

I started following Alan on Twitter about a year ago now.  He interacted with Defiantly Dutch and announced himself as an Orioles fan, so I decided to follow him as well.  A current graduate student at Mason, he was kind enough to suffer the questions of an Old Dominion fan.  Everyone has a story to tell, and below is part of Alan's. 

You would be doing yourself a favor by following him on Twitter at @MasonFanatic.

1. How long have you been a George Mason basketball fan?  I'm aware that you followed Maryland before you became a Patriots fan; what do you like about "mid-major" basketball rather than the power conferences?

The Final Four run came at a very interesting time in my life, occurring during the spring of my senior year of high school. Mason was already on my short list of schools to consider, and this choice was solidified by finances, geography, and a really good match between the school's academic programs and the field in which I was interested. However, one of my remaining concerns was the lack of any major, successful sports programs. Virginia Tech and it's football team beckoned. Well, the Patriots sure set out to show me how wrong I was about them! Mason ended up being the best match for other reasons, but the Final Four didn't hurt, either.

Mid-major basketball seems to offer infinitely more variety and drama than the major conferences, where there is little or no suspense about NCAA tournament berths or sustained success year to year. The attraction of an 'underdog' comes in many forms, and I have always liked it when underdogs can prove the established sports order wrong, whether it's the Arizona Diamondbacks over the Yankees in the World Series, or Boise State over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, or a CAA team in the Final Four. I like seeing players who genuinely enjoy the game and the moment triumph over coddled, money-focused 'stars.'
2. When you think of the Final Four run, what's the first and/or lasting image that comes to mind?

There are a lot. Most of all, I remember Lamar Butler's infectious smiles throughout the tournament and the sense that the entire team was playing with house money and just having fun, however long it might last. They had nothing to loose. And I can still see the wild celebration after UCONN finally succumbed in overtime: Coach L jumping up and down, waving the net over his head and whistling his famous whistle. Lamar Butler and Tony Skinn standing on the scorer's table, with Skinn waving four fingers in the air and pointing endlessly to the name on the front of his jersey. The 'someone just killed my puppy' look on the faces of the UCONN players. All of it. It still brings tears to my eyes. And every time I see the Final Four banner at the Patriot Center, I still smile, and think to myself "that shouldn't be there, and yet it is."
3. Other than the Final Four run in 2006, what are some of your favorite memories of GMU basketball?

There are four key memories that stand out for me, when counting games that I attended. The order is debatable.
1) My road trip to the 2011 NCAA tournament in Cleveland and our come-back win over Villanova, avenging our last-second loss to the then sixth-ranked Wildcats in an early season tournament the year previously.
2) Our 2008 CAA tournament championship victory over William and Mary and the ensuing court-rush bedlam.
3) Our blowout victory over JMU in Harrisonburg in 2008, after a week of vicious Facebook smack talk. Dre Smith broke an NCAA record (which still stands) by hitting 10 out of 10 three point attempts, and the JMU faithful emptied out with eight minutes to play, leaving behind 200+ screaming Mason fans' voices to fill the Convo.
4) Beating VCU at the Siegel Center for the very first time this past February, in dominant fashion, on national television, in front of Joe Lunardi, in possibly Mason's most complete game of the year. VCU fans cleared out by the thousands, starting with over ten minutes to play, and by the five minute mark, you could easily read their V-C-U R-A-M-S (empty) seat color pattern.
4. What was it like to hear Coach L left the program last spring, followed by the hire of a high-profile guy in Coach Hewitt?

It was a whirlwind of emotions, with unwarranted rage aimed in all directions, and a lot of doubt about which rumors were the truth. Larranaga, as well as every key member of the university administration, was demonized at some point during the process. I'm actually surprised there wasn't a riot down at the AD offices. The hiring of Hewitt completely blind-sided us. I don't think anyone expected us to bring in a coach with his kind of reputation and experience. We were hoping for a young, up and comer like Shaka Smart or Pat Skerry, but dreading that we'd end up a re-tread like Pat Kennedy or Benny Moss. Hiring a big name didn't seem like a priority to the university, and gambling on an unproved

Then boom! I saw the headlines. Paul Hewitt. Wait. What. WHAT? That Paul Hewitt? Why on earth would Hewitt want to coach in the CAA, anyway? He couldn't be desperate for a job, not with GT still paying him for the next 5 years, so he must have actually wanted the job. It blew my mind. Was he using us as a one-year stepping stone to get back into the big leagues? There were many more questions than answers. I'd always liked Paul Hewitt and used to follow Georgia Tech closely when I was more of an ACC guy, but I was definitely concerned about the manner and reasons for his departure from GT.

A lot of my concerns about the entire process were eased after the athletic department scheduled events for the Patriot Platoon (student section), first for us to talk to Athletic Director Tom O'Connor, and then, after the hiring, for O'Connor to introduce us to Hewitt and his assistants. I can't express how much it meant to talk to them in person. It calmed a lot of nerves, and allowed most of us to talk a cautious wait-and-see approach. Hewitt can't fairly be judged until this season is over, or even until the next two or three seasons are over. But right now, I would have to say my gut feeling is that Mason isn't going anywhere except up.
5. Coming in to Saturday's game against Old Dominion, the Patriots have a record of 18-6 (10-2 in conference).  How would the presence of Luke Hancock made this team and its record different?  Would Hancock and his abilities mesh well with Hewitt's coaching philosophy?

This has been analyzed endlessly by Mason fans, to the point where the dead horse has been beaten into spare atoms, but I'll throw out a few thoughts. First, we wouldn't have recruited Erik Copes, and he's made key plays for us in 2 or 3 games this year, despite battling a neck injury since a hard fall in the Drexel game (Sorry, ODU fans, he should be 100% for Saturday's game), so we can't treat Hancock's departure as only a negative. Second, we may have lost more than we were willing to admit when Cam Long and Isaiah Tate graduated. Third, scoffing Georgia Tech fans have said that Hewitt absolutely has to have a big point guard (Jarret Jack) or his system doesn't work, and at 6'5" Hancock would have provided that. But what else would Hancock have provided, besides checking a box? Certainly, from a positive standpoint, our turnover woes would be lessened by a more experienced backcourt ball handler. On the negative side, there were big concerns last year about Hancock's perimeter defense, and we've gotten burned by a hot three point shooter a number of times as it is.

There's really only one game that I think Hancock alone would have made a win-or-lose difference, and that was the FIU loss. We simply couldn't get the ball up the floor. But if we won that game, we likely would have lost to Virginia Tech, and then still gotten the same cupcake consolation games. If so, our record would be the same, albeit with a slightly better SOS.

Hancock was very mature and composed, and a true coach's player, so I think he and Hewitt would have meshed well. It's a shame Luke apparently thought otherwise. We have some significant maturity and composure problems as a team, and Hancock seemed to be asserting himself as the leader late last season, even over outgoing senior Cam Long. It's all hypothetical, though, and there's no way to know what influence he did or didn't have over particular players. One player doesn't make up for the tremendous inexperience that would have surrounded him in the backcourt, either. We have Copes, the shot blocking sensation, and we have two promising point guards in sophomore Bryon Allen and freshman Corey Edwards, and so we move on with the players we have. Mason will certainly be better off for the future by having been able to give our freshmen and sophomores so many minutes.

6. What are some of your favorite moments GMU vs ODU games? 

For whatever reason, Mason/ODU games haven't produced a lot of moments that stand out in my mind. Every year like clockwork, we've blown you out up here, and we've found a way to lose down there. So I guess my favorite moment would be the game we played last month, and how complete and mature an effort our players put in to win in a place that even the 2006 and 2011 teams couldn't win. If we could capture that game-long focus and re-use it the rest of the season, Mason would be almost unbeatable. My least favorite moment would have to be having a flight delayed and missing almost the entire first half of the ODU @ Mason game in January 2010 as a result (When I arrived, Mason was up by one, and we won by 17, so I'd like a little credit, haha).