Thursday, February 01, 2007

Hoops Hangover

Pretty awful hoops last night. GW lost a winnable game at Dayton, the Wizards got a sound beating at Toronto and my pickup team blew a 7-4 lead to go down 13-10. And VCU, my top-ranked poll team for two weeks, went down at Hofstra.

Let's stick with the Colonials today (get your Wiz fix at hoopsaddict). Dayton is now 14-0 at home and 0-7 on the road. Even in college basketball, that is an absurd difference. Listening to the game on the radio, the crowd noise was remarkable, both for its' pin-drop silence during Flyer free throws and indignant volume on every call that went against the home team. Even though the final score was 84-69, I called this one winnable because the teams traded the lead throughout the second half and it was tied at 65 with about four minutes to play. Then things went terribly wrong.

After calling timeout, Dayton scored on three straight possessions, Karl Hobbs went ballistic on a no-call and got himself ejected and the Flyers closed out going 7-7 from the line. Now, I wasn't there, but this is a familiar scenario for Dayton opponents. Let's just say, you'd better have a big lead or make a miracle shot like Carl Elliott's halfcourt heave a couple years back, because down the stretch, the Flyers seem to have the darndest luck.

So where does this leave GW? Well, right now they are still tied with Fordham (!) and URI(!) for first place in the A-10, just half a game ahead of UMass and Xavier. Coming up this weekend is a tough game at St. Louis and a week later, a visit from the Musketeers . Very few of the remaining games look easy, but none of them looks impossible either. So the conference is wide open, but in terms of NCAA berths, I'll be very surprised if an Atlantic 10 team gets an NCAA bid this year.

I still like GW's chances. The starting unit has been the same all year; Maureece Rice has emerged as the primary scorer, with Elliott jumping up as needed. The frontcourt of Rob Diggs, Regis Koundjia and Dokun Akinbade have been more than serviceable on offense and defense and the reserve unit of Travis King, Damian Hollis and Cheyenne Moore has mautured and can make major contributions. Despite its lack of froncourt bulk, this team is tough to score on, leading the league is steals and third in blocked shots. They don't play at the same frantic pace as last year, but no lead is safe, for them or their opponents.

I would love to see Moore getting more minutes, but it's become clear that Hobbs can't use him much more than 10 minutes per game due to lingering effects of the stress fracture in his tibia. That and the arrested development of Noel Wilmore are the lone dark spots for GW in what has been a pretty good year and bears watching into March. I'd be more confident if they can pick up a win this weekend or another on the road at Charlotte or St. Joe's.

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