“We’ve been two and four before, no?” women’s basketball coach Joe McKeown laughs at Sunday’s post-game press conference in response to a question on how his team is responding to its worst start in 12 years.
The answer: a resounding “no” from the media folk in the press room, clutching their Colonial game notes closely.
They know it’s been 12 years since the Colonial women have had a 2-4 start, and they know it’s never happened with McKeown at the helm. They know the team has dropped from 18 to 24 in the ESPN/USA Today rankings and completely out of the Associated Press rankings. They know GW lost to N.C. State, Tennessee, Rice and Georgetown.
McKeown and his Colonials know all this too, but they’re not counting themselves out – neither should you.
First, a bit of history for you. In the year after GW went to the Elite Eight, the women had their worst start prior to this year. The ’97-’98 season started 3-and-3, with losses to N.C. State (sound familiar?), and UC-Santa Barbara. Sounds dismal.
But it ended at the NCAA Tournament after a 20-10 record, an A-10 first-place finish and a 12-4 conference record. Maybe this dismal start might end at the Final Four. Or not. But whatever the outcome, the Colonials should not be labeled by their early season slump. Here’s why:
The Colonials downfall so far this season happens to be their biggest asset.
Theoretically, what made the women seem unbeatable in pre-season was their ability of the front-court game to cover for the lack of outside shooting, or vice versa: a double threat. GW already had a strong post game from last season, and the addition of Cathy Joens and five strong shooting freshmen sounded like the answer. In theory it was good. But theory didn’t face 6-foot-4 Michelle Snow and the Lady Vols, or Carisse Moody and N.C. State.
The team has had problems with its outside shooting to say the least. The Colonials have shot less than 38 percent in their first six games, with Joens and Lindsey Davidson, two of the team’s projected leading scorers, combining for 25-for-87 from the field and 16-of-54 from three-point range.
So are they settling for the inside game and abandoning the shooting? Not when you’re going for NCAA Tournament success and not when your coach is Joe McKeown.
“They’ll snap out of it,” McKeown said, “because we will practice five times a day if we have to.” He paused, considering the NCAA rule that allows teams to commit only four hours a day. “Well,” he reasoned, “if we practiced for 45 minutes five times a day it would work, right?” He laughed.
The team didn’t practice the night after the Georgetown game. They did decide enough was enough.
Why do I still have confidence in the Colonials? Because the last time they had this bad a start they ended up in the tournament? No. Because McKeown promises they will snap out of their shooting funk? No.
I’m sticking it out because when the Colonials suffered their worst loss of the season to Georgetown, shooting 33 percent from the field and 12 percent from three point range, they made the resolution to turn it around, and they did, shooting 48 percent against DePaul.
GW stepped it up when they needed to and that will be there biggest advantage all season.