That optimism has waned a bit, however, in the wake of an unexpectedly turbulent offseason.
First longtime coach Jim Larranaga abruptly accepted Miami's head coaching job. Then last year's third-leading scorer Luke Hancock transferred to Louisville rather than playing his senior season under new coach Paul Hewitt. And now starting guard Andre Cornelius has been suspended indefinitely after the 5-foot-10 senior was arrested Friday on charges of credit card fraud and credit card larceny.
The Washington Post reported Monday night that Cornelius told police he found a credit card on campus in July, used it to buy food and gas valued at about $60 and then threw away the card. In a series of contrite Twitter messages after his arrest, Cornelius wrote: "I'm doing some re-evaluating in my life. All negative people must go. I gotta make changes. If u ain't gone have my back den u gotta go. These past couple of days really opened my eyes and made me think people r not who u think they are."
It's unclear how long Cornelius will be suspended at this point, but George Mason can't afford to be without him for too long. The defending CAA champion Patriots are already thin in the backcourt as a result of the loss of Hancock and the graduation of fellow wing Cam Long, who led the team in scoring last season.
Cornelius and fellow seniors Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison are expected to form the core of a team that hopes to stave off VCU and Old Dominion and win a second straight league title. As a junior, Cornelius started all 34 games, averaging 9.5 points and sinking a team-best 61 three-pointers.