Bubble Watch: 5 Reasons Why George Washington Will Make the Tournament
George Washington Colonials: 5 Reasons Why They Will Make the Tournament
With the NCAA Tournament just a month away, many bubble teams are starting to feel the squeeze. Even with the additional four teams that were added a few years ago, the nature of March Madness is that there will inevitably be several deserving teams heading to the NIT instead of the Big Dance. One of those bubble teams is the George Washington Colonials, and they hope to be dancing for the first time since losing to Vanderbilt in 2007.
Coach Mike Lonergan, in his third season at the helm for the Colonials, has slowly rebuilt GW through international recruits and several key transfers such as Isaiah Armwood (Villanova) and Maurice Creek (Indiana). With the latest victory at Richmond, George Washington has their first 20 win season in seven years and continues to improve upon its already impressive resume.
Between Armwood and Denmark native Kevin Larsen, the Colonials possess one of the strongest frontcourts in the conference and complement that with solid guard play out of Creek, Joe McDonald and Patricio Garino. While their lack of depth could hurt them come tournament time, their starting five has been able to go toe to toe with just about anyone in the Atlantic 10.
With wins over RPI top ranked teams Creighton, VCU and Richmond and the nightly benefit of playing in what has been a very competitive conference, GW has a very strong case to be in the field of 68. The Colonials should also get back injured guard Kethan Savage in time for the start of March Madness if not by the A-10 conference tourney. While they still have a few potential resume building games remaining, at this juncture, George Washington has to be feeling good about their chances. Click through the slideshow to find out the top five reasons why.
5. The Atlantic 10
Even with the loss of perennial powerhouses Xavier and Butler to the Big East, the Atlantic 10 has been one of the strongest, most well-rounded conferences in college basketball this year. With Saint Louis, VCU and UMass all having made appearances in the top 25 at various points and other programs such as Dayton and Richmond having solid resumes, George Washington is benefiting from nightly challenges in their conference schedule. The Colonials have recent losses to VCU and UMass, but neither one affected their standing much, a testament to just how tough the conference has been this season.
4. Injury to Kethan Savage
Judging from past history, the selection committee frequently views teams' resumes through different portions of the season. In the Colonials' case, one of the key members of their team, guard Kethan Savage, broke his foot at the end of January and is likely to be out six to eight weeks. Savage figures to return right around the A-10 tournament in March, but the reason this plays into GW's favor is because two of their six losses on the season have come without him. With him in the lineup, the Colonials are a different team and, assuming he's back in time for Selection Sunday, the committee could take that into account.
3. No Losses Outside the RPI Top 100
Of the Colonials' six losses on the season, not one has come to a team rated below the RPI top 100. GW has managed to avoid any crippling losses to teams they should have beaten with their worst defeat coming at LaSalle (RPI: 90) in January. All of GW's other five losses have come to schools ranked in the RPI top 75: Marquette (73), Dayton (56), Kansas State (35), VCU (22) and UMass (19). With remaining games against Saint Louis and Saint Joseph's, GW needs to avoid slip ups against George Mason and Fordham to keep their resume in top shape heading into the tournament.
2. Top 40 RPI
Although RPI isn't a definitive predictor for who ultimately makes the field of 68, it certainly helps to have a RPI in the top 40 like the Colonials currently do. GW's RPI being as high as it is is critical considering their strength of schedule is only at 90 right now. Even with recent losses to VCU and UMass, two teams ranked in the RPI top 30, the Colonials' RPI hasn't taken a hit and the win at Richmond (RPI: 39) should provide a huge boost. With two difficult games in their last four as well as the A-10 tournament at Barclay's Center, it's likely that GW's RPI will remain high enough to allow the committee to give them serious consideration.
1. Quality Wins
Perhaps the biggest thing pointing in George Washington's favor is their signature wins. GW's win over Creighton (RPI: 7) on a neutral court is paying huge dividends as the Blue Jays have been one of the hottest teams in the country over the past few months. Even though that's far and away their best win, the Colonials also sport impressive victories over VCU, Richmond and Maryland. While there aren't other wins of those caliber on their docket, GW has also beaten RPI top 100 teams in Manhattan, Georgia, Boston University, LaSalle and St. Bonaventure, which should boost their candidacy come Selection Sunday. A win over Saint Louis, Saint Joseph's, or in a perfect world both, would make GW close to a lock.