After an up-and-down season last year, the Colonials finished 20-15 in their first year under Mojo. George Washington basketball, as it seems it always is, is currently sitting in an interesting spot. There are many questions surrounding this year’s team, but let’s take a look at just three of them right now:
1. What will this team prove after a brutal non-conference schedule?
Head Coach Maurice Joseph really laid down the gauntlet for his bunch in the non-conference this season. The Colonials face six teams in the KenPom top-100 (the lowest being 88th), and only two of those games will be played at home. Xavier (KenPom #26), Miami (#27), Penn State (#40), Florida State (#55), Temple (#67) and Princeton (#88) will comprise one of the toughest non-conference slates for GW in recent memory. It’s not gonna be easy in Foggy Bottom…
By the time George Washington reaches conference play, this will be one battle tested bunch. Winning eight or nine games would be a tremendous accomplishment given all the odds that are stacked against the Colonials, not the least of which is their schedule. But can the Colonials win some tough battles? A lot still has to be proven by MOJO’s bunch, and Yuta Watanabe and co. have to come up big when needed most. Needless to say, it’s going to be all hands on deck in November and December.
2. How well can all the new pieces mesh together?
The Colonials have six players from last season, and only have one returning roster member from the 2016 NIT Championship team- Yuta Watanabe. This season for GW, there will be eight new players and only four returning players who saw significant playing time last season: Yuta Watanabe, Jair Bolden, Arnaldo Toro and Patrick Steeves.
This year’s team could be very similar to that of the 2012-13 team, which was the freshman year for Joe McDonald, Kevin Larsen, Patricio Garino and Kethan Savage: a very young team that had a very rough non-conference schedule and nearly beat teams like Kansas State, Georgia, and Rutgers (when they were actually good). That team just needed a year to gel and grow, and this year’s team could be very similar. If it’s a down year for George Washington, don’t be too surprised. New faces need time to get used to MOJO’s system.
3. How effective will Yuta Watanabe be as the go-to player?
This will be the first time in his collegiate career that Yuta will be the go-to man in key situations; it’d been Tyler Cavanaugh the last 3 years. Granted, Watanabe has been no stranger to the spotlight and has been known to hit big shots in his time at GW. Just last season, Yuta hit the would-be game winning three against VCU before, well, technical fouls happened and, yeah, we don’t really talk about the rest around Foggy Bottom…
That said, Yuta didn’t have the pressure of having to be the guy for GW, because in that very same VCU game, three point-threat Jaren Sina was just a pass away, and Tyler Cavanaugh was posting up under the basket. But this season, Yuta won’t having that luxury as neither Sina nor Cavanaugh will be around anymore. This is Yuta’s team now, and where he goes, GW will go as well. Defensively, Watanabe has a chance to be the best in the league, and offensively, he has a chance to make tremendous strides, considering he’ll be somewhat of a lone wolf. The senior is certainly being slept on, and there’s reason to believe he can put this team on his back.