For the second year in a row, a young season that looked so promising for George Washington, has ended in disappointment. True, a second consecutive appearance in the NIT is nothing to be ashamed of, but the fact is that both years, the Colonials were capable of achieving so much more, especially this year. College Basketball experts and Bracketologists alike believed GW very capable of reaching the Sweet 16, if not further. All the Colonials had to do was get themselves into the NCAA Tournament.
Many fans in Foggy Bottom are scratching their heads in confusion; how did a team that began the season 11-2 wind up on the outside looking in? The same applies for last season as well. In fact, over the last two years, George Washington has only had five nonconference losses: at #9 Virginia, at Seaton Hall, at Penn State last season, and vs #24 Cincinnati in Brooklyn, and at DePaul this season.
But as usual, the Atlantic 10 was incredibly strong this year, and the Colonials had several key stumbles in conference play this year. GW lost three games they should have won, at Saint Louis, against Richmond in double-overtime and at Davidson. They also lost two key games against Saint Joseph’s and Saint Bonaventure, two teams the Colonials were chasing in the standings down the stretch. Because GW lost both those games, they did not have the tie breaker over the eventual three and four seeds in the A10 Tournament, and were locked into the five seed rather early.
But here we are, the day before Selection Sunday, and George Washington has played themselves out of a bid, once again. I have been asked by a couple people, is the problem coaching? I don’t think so. These recent struggles GW has endured have been an ongoing trend for decades now. GW just hasn’t been able to win the games they need to win, especially down the stretch. Last season, the Colonials stumbled down the stretch, going through a period where they lost seven of nine games, snowballing from a 17-4 start to a 22-13 final record.
Don’t get me wrong, playing in the NIT is still a very impressive accomplishment, but ultimately, it is not where this team should be going nor were they want to be. In the age of the mighty “Power 5” conferences, teams like GW cannot afford bad loses down the stretch of the regular season, or they will continues to find themselves falling short of their goals, year after year.
Teams like Wichita State, Valparaiso and Monmouth all failed to win their conference tournaments this year, and are sweating it out just like the Colonials. Only, at least they still have a chance at making the NCAA Tournament, while GW does not. Granted, all three of those teams have far better cases for why they should be in the field of 68 than GW, but are still examples of why “mid-major” programs (a term I vehemently detest associating with any Atlantic 10 school) have to take care of business, especially in conference play.
But while all four schools (including GW) will be hoping to hear their names called at 6:00 on Selection Sunday, they all must face the harsh reality that the majority of them will have to wait until 8:30 for the NIT Selection Show to hear their name called. C’est la vie.