Women still look NCAA-bound

PHILADELPHIA – After failing to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament and the automatic NCAA Tournament berth that comes with it, the GW women’s basketball team will have a week to wait and ponder its fate.

Will the NCAA selection committee award the Colonials an at-large berth Sunday when the brackets are announced? Or will GW be back in the National Invitational Tournament, the same place they ended up in 2002 when they last failed to win the A-10 Tournament?

“We did everything we’re supposed to do (to get into the NCAA Tournament) other than winning our conference tournament,” GW head coach Joe McKeown said. “But I agree with (University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach) Jim Calhoun on one thing. I think it’s harder to win the regular season 16-game travel schedule than a three-day tournament.”

GW will count on its regular season performance to persuade the NCAA selection committee that it belongs in the field of 64. And based on the recent past, it appears the Colonials have a strong enough resume.

In comparing the 2004 Colonials to past GW teams, the women’s situation is more similar to the 2001 Colonials, who went to the NCAA Tournament, than the 2002 Colonials, who went to the NIT.

This year’s team finished 14-2 in the A-10 and won the West division easily. The conference as a whole is considered relatively strong, with Temple, St. Joseph’s and possibly Richmond also arguing their cases for tournament inclusion.

In non-conference play, GW went 7-4 and beat the University of Oregon and Boston College, which were both ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 at the time. GW also defeated Arizona State University, which will likely make the tournament.

Just as importantly, the Colonials had only one bad non-conference loss, its season-opener against Georgetown. Otherwise, GW lost to the University of Tennessee and Penn State University, whose Ratings Percentage Indexes are currently No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, and the University of Florida, whose RPI is No. 11.

GW finished the regular season with an RPI of 31.

In 2002, the Colonials finished 15-1 to win the A-10 West, but the conference was considerably weaker that year. GW’s only conference loss came in its regular season finale at Massachusetts and the Colonials dropped their first game of that year’s A-10 Tournament, leaving a losing streak fresh on the minds of the selection committee.

In non-conference play that year, GW finished 5-6 and four of those losses were to unranked teams. They had no wins against teams in the Top 25, and that resume sent them to the NIT.

In 2001, the Colonials won the A-10 West with a record of 14-2, and the conference had one of its strongest years. GW advanced to the A-10 Tournament final, where they lost to No. 11 (AP) Xavier.

The Colonials went 6-6 in non-conference play that year, but four of those six losses came against ranked teams. GW didn’t have any victories against ranked teams, but the selection committee still picked the Colonials to play in the NCAA Tournament.

Because the conference is strong again and GW beat ranked teams this year, its argument for an at-large berth appears stronger than it was in 2001, meaning that if the selection committee stays consistent, the Colonials will be dancing this March.

“We’re a dangerous team,” McKeown said. “We can play with anybody in the country on a given night. Our kids are ready to step outside the A-10 and make a run in the NCAA Tournament.”

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