Let’s face it, Midnight Madness or Extremeness or whatever the Student Activities Center called it was mainly a talent show on a basketball court with a couple of teams jogging out at about 12:20 a.m. But there was one encouraging sign for the GW men’s basketball team on Oct. 11. There is one aspect of the evening that must occur again if the Colonials want to avoid a repeat of last season’s blowout home losses – not the glow necklaces, not even “Christopher,” the amazing Village People impersonator. It was the nearly 5,000 fans that showed up.
GW won only three road games in a 2001-02 season marred by a 10-game losing streak, but the Colonials’ most embarrassing losses came at the Smith Center, where every game was “Dress-Up-Like-an-Empty-Seat-and-Get-in-Free Day.” The average attendance was 2,615, down 30 percent from the previous year, and those counters are pretty liberal. I don’t care which way you see the glass-in the Smith Center, that’s just half empty.
For most GW students who are casual basketball fans at best, I can’t say the team gave them much of a reason to keep on coming back. After a year of negativity during which newspaper headlines proclaimed everything from “Starting center goes to prison” to “Players suspended in phone card scandal,” the one thing fans needed to re-instill Colonial pride was a winning season, and last year’s team delivered anything but. As the team’s embarrassment shifted from off to on the court, indifferent fans had little trouble finding other things to do in Washington, D.C.
But fans should not write off the Colonials again this season. There is good reason to believe that the Penders-era negativity is finally gone and last year’s struggles will subside, which is why students should give this year’s team a chance to make them feel proud and excited again.
Don’t get me wrong, you should not expect to see GW in the NCAA Tournament. But the Colonials will play 11 regular season games in the Smith Center this winter and all should provide a more exciting time for fans than last season.
While they may or may not win, the Colonials’ games will likely be closer and more fun to watch. GW will run, dunk and score often. A speedy T.J. Thompson will run the point, while the three freshmen in the starting lineup will fly down the court and bring fans to their feet early and often. With them will be senior Chris Monroe, who is himself a good enough reason to watch the Colonials play.
For anyone that knows anything about GW basketball, I shouldn’t have to say much more than “Chris Monroe.” But if for some reason the name doesn’t ring a bell (maybe you’ve been studying abroad . for three years), just trust me on this one. If there has been one positive constant about GW men’s basketball over the last four years-maybe the only thing-it has unquestionably been Chris Monroe.
Students should enjoy going to games, but players will depend on it. Coaches and players spoke out about student support before the season even started.
“Just by looking at Midnight Madness and looking back to my freshman and sophomore years, attendance has really gone down,” Monroe said. “So hopefully the students will come back and support us, because they’re like the sixth man for us.”
The Smith Center is a funny building. When it’s half-empty it feels like a quiet high school gym. But because it’s so small, when the building fills up and gets loud, it can be one of the best places to be in college basketball – well, not for the visiting team.
“We’re not going to be Dayton and we’re not going to be Xavier,” head coach Karl Hobbs said. “But aside from those two places, this should be the toughest place in the conference for teams to come into and win.”