Words of wisdom from the 172nd-best columnist in America

Let me save you a few bucks. In fact, I’ll save you all those hours you would have spent watching basketball this year.

There’s quite a few of those preseason college basketball previews hitting the stands now. Never mind that teams haven’t even started practicing, or that no magazine has yet to figure out that Andry Sola and Roey Eyal don’t live here anymore. No, despite all that, these things fly off the shelves because people are so desperate for basketball that even six dollars seems like a bargain (believe me – guilty as charged). What’s on the racks doesn’t exactly represent the cream of the crop. That would probably be Sports Illustrated, and, if you ask Tom Penders, Street and Smith’s and Blue Ribbon. What’s out now only sells because, well, because it’s out now.

So, here’s all you need to know about the 1999-2000 Colonials:

Athlon says the men will finish second in the Atlantic 10 West (behind Xavier). The Sporting News puts GW behind Xavier and Dayton in the West. Lindy’s also ranks GW behind Xavier and Dayton. Basketball News puts GW behind Xavier, La Salle and Virginia Tech.

Athlon puts Mike King (the “King of D.C.”) on its cover and on its A-10 first team and tabs Val Brown the A-10 Newcomer of the Year. Lindy’s also names Brown Newcomer of the Year. Athlon ranks Chris Monroe the 71st best college freshman, while The Sporting News ranks GW’s recruiting class the best in the A-10. The Sporting News also names Bernard Barrow the best junior college transfer ballhandler.

Athlon picks GW to lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (Temple will lose in the finals). The Sporting News, Lindy’s and Basketball News don’t put GW in their brackets.

Says Lindy’s: “.come February, George Washington could be very good and a very good bet to be dancing again in the NCAA Tournament.”

Basketball News: “(Shawnta) Rogers was more valuable to his team than any other player in the league, which you’ll recognize this season. Losing a player of his magnitude – plus (Yegor) Mescheriakov – will make Penders’ second season in the nation’s capital infinitely more grueling than his first.”

Lindy’s: “Tom Penders teams always entertain.”

Athlon: “If there’s one certainty about a Tom Penders-coached team it’s that the veteran coach will win. Count on it.”

The prognostications don’t stop with the men. Basketball News ranks the women 42nd. Then there’s The Women’s Basketball News Service, which ranked GW 11th. Now, this is far from impossible, but let’s just say it’s a, uh, bold pick. The News Service also put Elisa Aguilar on its All-American third team and Lindsey Davidson on its All-Freshman second team.

“I think a lot of that is a compliment to our historical performance,” said women’s head coach Joe McKeown of the No. 11 ranking. “It’s because of our tradition. A goal when I came here was to become a national power. All that helps you in recruiting, but it’s just another thing you have to deal with. You have to take the positives out of it.”

Now, so far I have neglected to mention national rankings for the men. I saved it for last. Two of the magazines had some sort of rankings.

Basketball News didn’t put GW in its top 64. OK. I can take that.

Then there’s The Sporting News, which ranks every team in Division I from No. 1 to No. 318. GW is 172nd. That’s right. 172nd. That was so low, I took it as a personal insult. God knows what the men’s crew team thought.

“Great, that’s super,” Tom Penders said. “Do I get Coach of the Year if we get into the Top 150?”

The best of us, given 30 minutes and no help, could only name 80 colleges, so I hesitate to tell you any of the absolute jokes that are ranked ahead of GW (OK. LOUISIANA-MONROE?!).

Without sounding too much like the president of the Penders Posse, Thomas Penders has never, does not, and never will coach the 172nd-best team in America. Which makes this season one to enjoy.

“I don’t like being overrated, because the kids pay attention to that stuff,” said Penders, who is well aware that GW was ranked 16th by Sports Illustrated three years ago and finished 15-14. “Maybe this will motivate them. I have made a living out of making programs better and exceeding expectations, and I hope that holds up.”

Penders doesn’t quibble with the idea, though, that several schools are capable of winning the A-10 West. But he’ll also point out that Xavier was picked ahead of GW last year (and the year before that).

Penders also is not surprised that almost all of GW’s non-conference opponents are ranked highly. It’s a lot of the same unknown faces that made GW’s schedule among the hardest last season. Siena, UNC-Charlotte, Bradley and even South Florida make everyone’s top 50. Just about every team on the schedule is ranked ahead of GW by The Sporting News, which apparently thinks GW will go 1-27 again.

“If we can have the same non-league record as we had last year.” said Penders. “Siena and Ohio and those schools are really good, and I just hope our fans know how good these teams are.”

I hope so, too. I also hope we find out how good GW is. Like I said before I entered high school, it won’t be long now before we can stop relying on magazines.

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