After a 3-0 start to the season, George Washington has lost three consecutive games to fall to 3-3 on the season. Two of the three wins were close, and all three loses were close as well. So, though six games under interim head coach Maurice Joseph, what have we learned about the Colonials?
From a scoring perspective, the Colonials are lead offensively by Tyler Cavanaugh (18.8 PPG) and Yuta Watanabe (13.4 PPG), as you’d expect.
However, once GW goes to their bench, their youth really shows. GW has a tendency to be fairly casual about bringing the ball across the timeline as well as keeping track of the shot clock. This, at least three or four times a game, leads to a rushed shot at best, or otherwise a turnover. There, at times, seems to be a lack of chemistry and a lack of experience that plagues the Colonials.
In addition, George Washington really struggles against the press, as seen against Bowie State, UAB and Penn State. This is where the absence of Joe McDonald really becomes obvious, as GW tries to fill the gap left in the aftermath of his departure. While Jaren Sina has, from a scoring perceptive, contributed a fair amount, the Colonials really seem to miss the calming presence and experience that McDonald brought to the floor.
GW’s defense has been, at times, a real Achilles heal for Maurice Joseph. The youth of this team really shows on defense, and a lack of communication really has caused issues for the Colonials. For example, during the game against Penn State yesterday, on more than one occasion, there was obvious confusion on whether or not they were supposed to switch on screens, which lead to the Nittney Lions getting several wide-open shots.
It also appears, at least through the first six games of the season, that Maurice Joseph intends to keep basically the same defensive strategy as Mike Lonergan installed over the previous five seasons. The Colonials’ primary defense seems to be a standard man-to-man, and a 3-2 zone. Joseph, like Lonergan before him, also is willing to throw in a little 1-3-1 zone as well. However, he has moved Watanabe to the bottom of the 1-3-1, which has led to a spike in Yuta’s blocks per game.
So what does all this mean for this season specifically? That the Colonials, at least for now, are a step away from being in contention for a NCAA Tournament bid. That doesn’t mean, however that this team cannot or will not grow over the course of this still very young season. It just means that they are not quite there yet. Which is understandable. GW has 8 new players, a new head coach, and a new system. And, only three players on the current team actually saw playing time on a consistent basis last year.
However, there are signs of growth already. Jordan Rolland and Collin Smith both had an impressive 11 points yesterday against Penn State, and both have been getting better with every game. Now GW just needs the rest of the team to follow, and they could find themselves right back in the thick of the conversation again.