For the first time in the 102 year history of GW basketball, the Colonials have advanced to the Quarterfinals of the NIT. George Washington (25-10) will host Florida (21-14) with a spot in the NIT Semifinals in Madison Square Garden on the line. The Colonials have already made history by advancing to be one of the last eight teams in any major postseason tournament (including the NCAAs and NIT) for the first time ever. So at this point, why not GW?
The Colonials have a golden opportunity to host in the quarterfinals, as the lower seed, because the O’Connell Center (Florida’s arena) is currently under construction. The Gators have already had to play at North Florida and Ohio State to advance this far, and will prove to be a tough test for Lonergan’s bunch. Florida has some impressive wins over NCAA Tournament teams Texas A&M, West Virginia, Saint Joseph’s and FGCU, as well as wins over Richmond, LSU, and Georgia.
GW is 1-2 all-time against Florida, but the teams have not met since 1996, the same year the Colonials defeated John Calapari’s #1 ranked UMass team. The only win in the series for GW came in the 1940 season, the first meeting (to add perspective to how long ago that was, Franklin D. Roosevelt was president of the United States, the Great Depression had just ended, and GW played Georgetown and Maryland in the same season).
So its been a while, but how do the teams match up now? Lets look at some stats. Florida only has three players who average in double figures: Dorian Finney-Smith (14.9 PPG), John Egbunu (11.5 PPG) and KeVaughn Allen (11.3 PPG). Both Smith and Egbunu are 6-8 or taller, which means Kevin Larsen and Tyler Cavanaugh will need to have a big night defensively. The Gators’ size inside could also cause some problems offensively for GW, but McDonald’s penetration into the lane against the Monmouth bigs opened up Garino, and Larsen to hit multiple threes. GW shot 47% from the arc against the Hawks, and could use another solid performance against Florida.
Ultimately, the game will come down to how badly does GW want this game: they might not get another chance to play at Madison Square Garden should they not win this game. The last time they did play in the World’s Most Famous Arena was in the 1961 NCAA Tournament First Round, a game they lost 84-67 to Princeton. So, why not beat Florida? Why not make the NIT Final Four? The Colonials have already made history by getting this far,why not keep going?