After the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournament selection shows Sunday, utter dejection and jubilation filled the same room in the Smith Center in the span of an hour.
The GW men’s basketball team celebrated making it into the NCAA Tournament as the 11th seed in the south region, while the GW women’s team failed to make the field of 64 for the first time in six years.
The Colonials will face Indiana University, the sixth seed in the south region, in the first round in Orlando, Fla., Thursday.
“I did not want an eight or nine seed, because it’s hard to sell your team you’re going to get through the weekend,” GW head coach Tom Penders said. “So I feel lucky and happy to be in, although there’s a lot of teams I would have picked other than Indiana.”
A GW win Thursday could set up a second round match-up Saturday with St. John’s University, where former GW head coach Mike Jarvis now coaches. But the Colonials aren’t looking ahead.
“It’s absolutely absurd to think about the second round,” Penders said. “We’re just going to do all we can to get ready for Indiana.”
GW was one of three teams from the Atlantic 10 to make the NCAA Tournament, joining Temple, the sixth seed in the east, and Rhode Island, the 12th seed in the midwest. A talented but underachieving Xavier team failed to make the tournament, possibly bumped from the field of 64 when URI, a team on the bubble before the A-10 Tournament, won the conference championship Saturday.
The Colonial women seemed in good shape for an at-large bid to the women’s NCAA Tournament. With a record of 19-9, a tough non-conference schedule and a Ratings Percentage Index near 50, GW looked like it would squeeze into the field of 64.
When teams with lower RPIs than GW, including North Carolina State, the University of Texas, and Louisville and Santa Clara universities, were announced as at-large selections, the crowd at the Smith Center grew restless. And when the final two teams were revealed, the worst possible scenario had happened. GW wouldn’t be dancing.
Three other teams from the A-10 will play in the tournament – Virginia Tech, Xavier, and the A-10 Tournament winner, St. Joseph’s.
For the first time since 1993, the Colonial women will not be in the NCAA Tournament. GW had made seven of the previous eight tourneys.
“I feel we did what we had to do to get in,” GW head coach Joe McKeown said. “When they stretch it out like they did, it’s like slow torture.”
GW declined the possibility of accepting a Women’s National Invitational Tournament bid, making this season the first in nine years that GW didn’t reach 20 wins. The last time the Colonial women failed to attain the 20-win plateau was a 14-14 mark in 1989-’90, McKeown’s first season at GW.