WASHINGTON (AP) -George Mason coach Jim Larranaga was the star of the Colonial Athletic Association's annual media day, basking in a spotlight that has barely dimmed since the Patriots' improbable trip to the Final Four.
"I've always thought I was a very busy person," Larranaga said Wednesday. "But the spring, summer and fall have been nonstop."
Hofstra was picked to win the conference in the preseason poll of coaches, sports information directors and selected media, but coach Tom Pecora never had more than a few people visiting his booth at one time.
Larranaga attracted more than a dozen, and he spoke for nearly two hours. His enthusiasm never faded, but his larynx seemed to be running on fumes.
"You've got to save your voice for practice," assistant coach Chris Caputo said.
"We're scrimmaging today - you're coaching the scrimmage," Larranaga replied.
The Patriots were picked to finish second, which bodes much better than it used to in the surging CAA. The conference sent two schools (GMU and North Carolina-Wilmington) to the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since 1986, and Old Dominion advanced to the semifinals of the NIT.
The Patriots upset Michigan State, North Carolina and Connecticut in the NCAA tournament and became the conference's first team to make the Final Four.
"I think there are some leagues out there that don't earn a lot of national respect, but I think last year we opened up the eyes of the entire nation," Larranaga said. "Not just George Mason either, but the performance of Old Dominion and Hofstra in the NIT and Wilmington's run to the CAA championship, and Drexel making it to Madison Square Garden and almost beating Duke and UCLA in the Preseason NIT."
Larranaga knows it's a hard act to follow, especially when he's returning only two starters from a 27-8 team.
"We know our opponents will paint a bull's-eye on our back and say 'That's the team we want to beat, who made it to the Final Four,"' Larranaga said. "We don't look at it that way. ... As much as we've been enjoying it, we want to create new memories."
Fifteen-time defending champion Old Dominion was picked to win the women's title again. The Lady Monarchs return four starters from a 22-9 team.
Loren Stokes of Hofstra was selected as the men's preseason player of the year. Kyra Kaylor of William & Mary was the choice among the women.