In the three years that Karl Hobbs has been head coach of the GW men’s basketball team, Xavier has been like a black plague to the Colonials, killing off anything good that happened to be going on at the time.
Let’s look back. In 2002, GW got off to a pleasantly surprising 10-5 start before playing Xavier at home. The Colonials lost that game, of course, and went on to lose their next nine.
Last year, players and coaches were jumping for joy in Cincinnati after appearing to pull off their biggest win of the year. Then the referees went over to the television monitor and decided that David West’s tip-in at the buzzer was good, reversing their initial call.
And just for good measure, with GW riding high after beating Massachusetts in the Atlantic 10 Tournament and Chris Monroe breaking the school scoring record, Xavier put an end to the Colonials’ season in the second round.
Fast forward to this Wednesday, when the Colonials (gasp in surprise) welcome Xavier to the Smith Center having won three of their last five and having won all seven of their home games. With GW playing so well and David West-less Xavier trailing the Colonials by half a game in the A-10 West, surely the Musketeers won’t spoil the fun again … Will they?
“They’re still a very good basketball team,” Hobbs said after Saturday’s win over Duquesne. “They still have (Romain) Sato, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Sato, a first team all-conference pick last year, is the reason several NBA scouts have already reserved seats at the game. And then there’s the returning cast of Anthony Myles, Lionel Chalmers and Dedrick Finn, all of whom can still play, with or without West. So while the phrase “undefeated home season” begins to enter the Colonials’ minds, Xavier still seems good enough to break up the party.
“The key to that game is going to be our ability to defend them. We haven’t been really been able to shut them down. We needed a stop with (a few seconds) to go and they got a tip-in and we lost last year,” Hobbs said. “That was last year. They’re a different team and we’re a different team. We just have to come out and be physically and mentally tough, period.”
Contrary to the clich?, Wednesday’s game will be about winning or losing, not about how GW plays the game. They’ve played the game and they’ve played it well enough to win, but the elusive ‘W’ still hasn’t found its way next to “Xavier” on the schedule. The Colonials deserve a win here, but it’s still on them to go out and get it.
Whether they are able to do it will not be any more or less important to their season than any other game, mathematically speaking. You take a win wherever you can get one when you’ve won only 12 in each of the past two years. But for Colonials fans, who will likely turn out in season-high numbers Wednesday if the past is any indication, the game will be one of a handful that occur each year that are indicative of where GW basketball stands.
Right now, the Colonials (10-7, 4-2 A-10) stand in second place in the A-10 West, three spots higher than they were picked to finish. There are 10 regular-season games left, five at home and five on the road. If they can beat Xavier after already beating Temple at home, well, maybe when those 10 games are over there will be a real postseason to look forward to. And by that I mean something more than a couple of A-10 Tournament games in miserable Dayton, Ohio.
But no one has to tell players this.
“(Beating Xavier) would be huge,” sophomore Mike Hall said. “Each win is important, but a win against Xavier would give us a little more confidence that we can pull out the tough games and try to make up for some bad feelings we have from last year.”