With more wins, the stakes go up

Students could turn on their televisions next month and see the GW men’s basketball team in either the NCAA Tournament or the National Invitation Tournament. Or the Colonials, like they have for the past four postseasons, could be the ones watching from the couch. It all depends on what happens in the next few weeks, beginning with Saturday’s home game against Richmond.

GW (16-8, 10-3 Atlantic 10) comes into the game tied with Dayton for first place in the A-10 West division with only three games left in the regular season. At stake is the team’s seeding in the A-10 Tournament, a possible bid to the NCAA Tournament and the chance to record a perfect season (12-0) at the Smith Center.

“It should be fun,” said guard Greg Collucci, who will be honored as the team’s lone senior in his final home game. “It’s a good way (for me) to go out, the way we’re playing right now. I’m excited about the opportunity of maybe getting to the big tournament, definitely playing in some postseason play.”

GW Director of Athletics Jack Kvancz, who served on the NCAA Tournament selection committee from 1998 to 2003, said the Colonials will have to continue their recent success (10 wins in their last 12 games) through the rest of the regular season and into the conference tournament.

“I know everyone wants to talk about (the NCAA Tournament), but it’s definitely too early,” he said. “We have made some noise, people will take some notice, but if you want to talk about the NCAA Tournament, just keep on winning … There are a lot of teams with 16 wins.”

One of them is Richmond, which beat GW 72-65 in Richmond on Jan. 31 and is also jostling for postseason position. While GW has been a much better team at home this year, Richmond has used its conference-leading defense (59.5 points allowed per game before Wednesday) to earn tough road wins at Xavier and the University of Kansas.

“I expect it to be a very tough game,” GW head coach Karl Hobbs said. “They’re right there fighting for position, fighting for postseason play.”

The game will mark GW’s first sellout in several years for a men’s basketball game. As of Wednesday, approximately 3,200 tickets had been sold, leaving about 2,000 seats open for students. Kvancz said the University will not sell any more tickets but added that it is possible that there will not be room for all the students who show up.

If GW wins and goes undefeated at home, Hobbs said “that would be a huge milestone for this team and our program at this stage. Also, it keeps us tied for first place, and that would be incredible at this juncture.”

After the Richmond game, the Colonials will travel to Xavier and then to La Salle to close out the regular season, a difficult task for a team that is just 4-7 on the road this year.

“That will be a huge test,” Hobbs said. “Playing at Xavier, we haven’t won there and we haven’t won at La Salle … You want to be playing well going into the A-10 Tournament. You want to be shooting the ball well, you want to go in with a great deal of confidence and you want to go in feeling like you can win the tournament.”

How GW fares in the A-10 Tournament, which will be held in Dayton, Ohio, from March 10 to 13, will likely depend on where the Colonials are seeded. If GW finishes in first or second place in the West, it will get an automatic first-round bye and will avoid having to play four games in four days.

The difference between first and second will also be significant. If GW finishes in second, it will likely have to play undefeated St. Joseph’s to advance to the A-10 final, where it could potentially have to play tournament-host Dayton. If the Colonials finish in first and the Flyers finish second, GW would be able to advance to the final without having to beat either St. Joseph’s or Dayton, two likely NCAA Tournament teams.

But to finish in first, GW will probably have to win all three of its remaining games and hope for a Dayton loss, with the winner of a potential tiebreaker yet to be determined.

For now, Collucci, GW’s primary three-point specialist for the last four years, said he is just enjoying playing with the winningest Colonial squad of his career.

“We’ve always been pretty athletic, but this team is just extremely athletic,” he said. “Everybody accepts their role. There’s really not attitude and selfishness, and I think you can see on the court that everybody’s starting to find their little niche.”

Atlantic 10 tiebreaker format:

1. Head-to-head competition
2. Division win-loss record
3. Best record against highest-seeded remaining teams in division
4. Best record against teams in opposite division (beginning with first seed and continuing, if necessary, to the sixth seed)
5. Coin flip

Source: Atlantic 10

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