Friday, February 17, 2006

March Madness Musings

For someone who claims to be obsessed about GW Basketball, I realize I haven't written much about the Colonials lately. They have the nation's longest winning streak at 13 games and are ranked #7 in the AP poll, but instead of jumping for joy, there seems to be some concern over at (what else is new?).

The last two wins - at St. Joe's and home against UMass - have been very close, and GW failed to break 80 points in both, which hasn't happened since January 11. I thought they had turned the corner with the big comeback win at Xavier and the home blowout of Richmond, but their last two opponents have been more effective in foiling the Colonials' gameplan. Expect to see more of the same. Until at least the third round of the NCAA Tournament, no team the Colonials play should try to run with them; they are just too fast and too deep. Instead GW will see a lot of zone defense and a lot of patient offense. When Pops Mensah-Bonsu gets the ball in the lane, he will be fouled before he can throw down one of his powerful slams; a 56% free throw shooter, Pops gives them no reason to do otherwise.

With the Atlantic 10 regular season title all but wrapped up, Karl Hobbs is focused on getting his team ready to play in March. He doesn't want to get too wrapped up in the future, but he knows that critics will dismiss GW and their weak schedule if the Colonials fail to make any postseason noise. So, I'll let him take the season one game at a time, but that doesn't mean I have to.

At this point they are playing for seeding and most of the "bracketology experts" have them in the 4-5 range. If that holds up, then, assuming they get to the Sweet 16, GW would likely have to beat Duke, UConn, Texas or Memphis, to get to a regional final. If they can get a 3 seed, the roster of likely opponents in that round changes to Gonzaga, Villanova, Ohio State, and Tennessee, which is a little better.

But this line of thinking makes me recall the words of Chris Webber. In the 1993 tournament, 12th-seeded GW opened with an upset of New Mexico and then advanced to the Sweet 16 by knocking off fellow first-round underdog winner Southern. Their next game was against Michigan and its fabled Fab Five. When reporters asked Webber whether his team would have trouble getting ready for a Cinderella team like GW, he replied, "This is the Sweet 16. There are no Cinderella teams. Any team that is here is a good team that deserves to be here." The next day, the Colonials fell behind early but rallied to take the lead late in the second before Michigan prevailed.

My point is, if you get to the second weekend in the NCAA's, it doesn't matter who you play, they are all good teams. Now, if GW can somehow get that far and win that third game, I really like their chances to get to the FInal Four. You may find that hard to swallow, and I had a hard time typing it, but if they are playing in the regional final, GW will face a team that has had less than two days to rest and to prepare, and those are significant factors in the Colonials' favor.

Okay, now, settle down and just beat Richmond tomorrow.

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