- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2008

AMERICAN

Last year: 21-12 (10-4 Patriot League)

Coach: Jeff Jones, ninth season, 125-113

Returning starters: G Garrison Carr, G Derrick Mercer, F Bryce Simon


Top player: Mercer may be small (5-foot-9), but his value to Jones’ Eagles could not be greater. The point guard averaged 12.4 points and 4.03 assists a game during American’s magical run to the NCAAs. Mercer, a Jersey City, N.J., native, is regarded as one of the better mid-major players in the country.

Outlook: After upsetting Maryland, winning the program’s first Patriot League crown and earning a tournament berth, it’s up to Jones to produce a worthy encore. Another conference title - the Eagles were tabbed as the preseason pick to win the Patriot League - would work well, as would upsets over local rivals Georgetown (Dec. 6) George Washington (Dec. 17) and Maryland (Dec. 22). With three starters back and last year’s third-leading scorer joining the starting lineup, Jones could be back in business at Bender Arena.

BOWIE STATE

Last year: 21-8 (13-5 CIAA)

Coach: Luke D’Alessio, 10th season, 184-83

Returning starters: none

Top player: Duke Crews, a former Rivals.com five-star prospect, couldn’t cut it at Tennessee, and Volunteers coach Bruce Pearl cut him loose last May. The 6-7, 235-pound forward should be a good fit in Bowie, where five graduating seniors left D’Alessio in a talent vacuum. Crews, originally from Hampton, Va., started 18 games as a freshman in 2006-07 and logged a double-double during an injury-shortened 2008 season in Knoxville, Tenn.

Outlook: With Crews and fellow transfer Cassin Diggs, who butted heads with the beasts of the Big East at Pittsburgh for two years, D’Alessio’s rebuilding project should have a strong foundation despite the loss of three double-figure scorers. The backcourt will suffer early - guard Corey Stevens averaged only 4.9 minutes a game last season - but a bumper crop of junior college transfers should boost the Bulldogs.

GEORGE MASON

Last year: 23-11 (12-6 CAA)

Coach: Jim Larranaga, 12th year, 207-131

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