The Washington Times - August 17, 2012, 05:03PM

For those who didn’t see it earlier in the afternoon, George Mason’s nonconference schedule was released this afternoon.

A lot of the details were already out, and it was clear during an early July chat with Patriots coach Paul Hewitt that strength of schedule was a priority.

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There are some things outside a team’s control when it comes to nonconference scheduling, and a CAA without Virginia Commonwealth isn’t going to have quite the same oomph it previously did.

But Mason’s schedule has the look of something that could keep it in an at-large discussion … that is, if the Patriots can win their share of nonconference games (and maybe then some more) along the way.

GEORGE MASON 2012-13 NONCONFERENCE SCHEDULE (*-will play one of these two teams in Paradise Jam)

Opponent11-12 W-L
11-12 RPI
vs. New Mexico* (Nov. 17 or 18)
28-7 (NCAA)
27
at South Florida (Dec. 29)
22-14 (NCAA)
52
Virginia (Nov. 9)
22-10 (NCAA)  
53
Northern Iowa (Dec. 8)
20-14 (NIT)
73
at Bucknell (Nov. 13)
25-10 (NIT)
89
vs. Maryland (Dec. 2)
17-15105
vs. Richmond (Dec. 22)
16-16126
vs. Mercer (Nov. 16)
27-11 (CIT)
133
Boston U. (Nov. 24)
16-16190
at Rhode Island (Nov. 28)
7-24257
vs. Illinois-Chicago* (Nov. 17 or 18)  
8-22297
UMBC (Dec. 4)
4-26339

 

In addition, the Patriots will also face one of these four teams on Nov. 19:

Opponent11-12 W-L
11-12 RPI   
vs. Connecticut20-14 (NCAA)
32
vs. Iona25-8 (NCAA)
40
vs. Quinnipiac 
18-14155
vs. Wake Forest   
13-18182

 

There’s not a lot of dead weight on that schedule; UMBC has struggled mightily the last three years, but it does provide an inexpensive local game for the Patriots.

It’s safe to say Mason won’t play many bad teams. But it is valid to wonder how close the likes of South Florida and Virginia will be to what they were last season.

One of the most important games Mason plays will be against Mercer. Win, and the Patriots probably face New Mexico, which should again be a more-than-capable team. Lose, and Mason winds up with a team that’s produced an RPI in the 290s for three years running.

Last season, the worst thing Mason did all year was lose to Florida International in the NIT opening round. Instead of facing Virginia Tech (RPI: 116) and possibly Syracuse (1) and either Stanford (97) or Oklahoma State (121), the Patriots got to play Albany (213), Monmouth (236) and Brown (313).

Mason would have needed to win a few of those games against top-125 teams, and that’s was hardly guaranteed, but its at-large hopes were severely damaged by that one loss.

Patrick Stevens