For the first time since 1961, George Washington will play in Madison Square Garden, but the circumstances are very different this time. The Colonials are entering uncharted waters, reaching not only the NIT Final Four for the first time in program history, but also reaching the Final Four for the first time in any major tournament. The last time GW faced any spotlight similar to the one looming tonight was in 1993, when the Cinderella-Colonials advanced all the way to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. GW ended up losing that game to Michigan’s Fab Five 72-64, but there is much we can learn from that team.
First, we know that GW is capable of fitting into the Glass Slipper in order to make a tournament run-they wouldn’t have gotten this far otherwise. But the Colonials have shown the ability to beat anyone in the country this season, having already taken down (insert NCAA Tourney result) Virginia, Big East-champion Seton Hall, as well as A-10 power VCU. Why not add San Diego State to that list?
But the real parallel between GW’s 1993 Sweet 16 game against Michigan and the looming game against San Diego State is one key factor: the opposing coach. Steve Fisher coached the Wolverines from 1989-1997, and has led the Aztecs since 1999. The irony is palpable, and only adds to the interesting plot line that has been George Washington basketball this season.
As for the game itself, San Diego State is a rather deep team, having 10 players who average at least 10.3 minutes per game, but only three of those players average in double-figures in scoring (Trey Kell 12.7 PPG, Jeremy Hemsley 12.2 PPG and Winston Shepard 11.4 PPG). However, Kell and Hemsley are both 6-4, while Shepard is 6-10, which should create some interesting match ups for Lonergan’s defense. Larsen, Cavanaugh, Watanabe and Garino are all likely to share time guarding the Aztecs’ top three.
Ultimately, this has been a season to remember for Colonials fans. Should GW win in the semifinals and finals of the NIT, this would be the most wins in any single season in program history-more than the magical 2006 team. As a program, the ceiling is incredibly high for GW, and winning tonight is only a step in the right direction for the program. Even with a loss tonight, this has been a remarkable season for the Colonials, but why not extend it two more days? Why not GW?
Featured Image courtesy of Bill Bride. Check out more of his photography here.