Expectations were high for the GW men’s basketball team coming into the 1996-97 season. Most preseason polls had the Colonials in the top 25, with some even predicting a top 10 finish for the team from Foggy Bottom. But, of course, these polls were created before a single jump shot could be attempted.
Yes, reality has hurt GW.
After two exhibition victories, the Colonials jumped into the new season with four straight wins, two of them coming over Holy Cross and Boston University (where GW head coach Mike Jarvis got his first head coaching job) in the annual Red Auerbach Colonial Classic at the Smith Center.
GW continued its winning ways early into the month of December, beating cross-town rival American and out-of-conference foe South Florida. They first fell to defeat against hot-shooting Texas Tech Nov. 30 at a sold-out Smith Center. The loss snapped a 14-game home winning streak for the Colonials.
With a 5-1 record, GW matched up with Maryland in the championship game of the Franklin National Bank Classic Dec. 9. GW won the game on the floor, but the Colonials got into foul trouble, and the now No. 7 Terrapins made them pay, hitting 33 of 47 from the foul line to put away a 74-68 victory.
That loss to Maryland seemed to take the shooting life out of the Colonials, as they began a stretch in which they only won three of their next eight games. Poor shooting has been the problem, and GW has found it difficult both to hold leads and to come back from deficits.
Two days after the Maryland debacle, the Colonials traveled to Lawrence, Kan., to play Kansas, the top team in the land, on national television. GW’s vaunted luck against top-ranked teams failed to show up, and Kansas simply dominated the game in an 85-56 victory.
This was followed by another loss, this time to North Carolina-Charlotte, in a game in which GW had a 14-point lead at halftime. A win in its Atlantic 10 opener against Fordham seemed to right the sinking GW ship, but then came a humiliating loss against perennial A-10 doormat St. Bonaventure and a simply bizarre defeat against St. Joseph’s at the Smith Center. Against the Hawks, GW had a 13-point lead and seemed to be in control mid-way through the second half. But then everything began to go wrong, and the Colonials ended up only hitting six field goals in the second half.
At mid-season, GW stands at 9-7, 4-3 A-10. Any hopes for an NCAA Tournament bid will be determined by the second half of the season, when GW plays the meat of its conference schedule with a home game against perennial powerhouse Massachusetts.