Posted Sunday, March 13, 6:20 p.m.
Updated Sunday, March 13, 8:14 p.m.
BOWIE, Md.- According to Tom Petty, waiting is the hardest part. But really, it was the easiest part for the GW men’s basketball team Sunday evening.
The Colonials (22-7) locked up a pair of program firsts this weekend: an Atlantic 10 Tournament Title automatic bid NCAA Tournament bid, so watching the selection show at coach Karl Hobbs house in Bowie, Md. was a carefree experience for the players – that is until CBS’s Greg Gumbel announced their opponent.
No. 12 seeded GW will square off against No. 5 seed Georgia Tech Friday in Nashville, Tenn. in the Colonials first tournament appearance since 1999. The Yellow Jackets (19-11) have had and up and down year but are one of the most talented teams in the nation. Last year, they fell to Connecticut in the National Title game.
Still, the players did not appear fazed by the potential tough draw.
“You gotta go in there looking like you’re going to win it,” sophomore Carl Elliott said.
“There’s going to be some rumbling,” Hobbs said of the match-up. “I’m not sure who’s going to come out on top though.”
The pundits were also correct about the A-10 being a one-bid league. One year after reaching the Elite 8, St. Joseph’s will most likely be playing in the National Invitation Tournament.
Right now, no one seems worried about Friday’s game. The mood was celebratory all the way around, as the team gathered around a big screen television in Hobbs’ basement to see which team they’d face.
Sophomore J.R. Pinnock, Hobbs, senior T.J. Thompson and junior Pops Mensah-Bonsu sat in a small horse shoe of black leather chairs. Behind them, the players and rest of the coaching staff sat laughing and talking until the TV personnel hushed them for live shots.
It wasn’t exactly the most serious atmosphere. Sophomore Carl Elliott gave assistant coach Roland Houston a wet-willy. Thompson fiddled with his cell phone. The players and coaches sighed loudly in relief when they found out they would not be playing in Boise, Idaho.
And the funniest moment of the night came when the room was silent and Hobbs’ cell-phone rang.
“Hello Mr. President,” Hobbs said to a roar of laughter. It is unclear who actually was on the phone, it may have been GW president Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, but it probably wasn’t George W. Bush.
Hobbs was in a playful mood, not ready to begin game planning for the Ramblin’ Wreck quite yet. His basement contained three-walls full of memorabilia from his decorated coaching career, including signed posters of Ray Allen, Hobbs’ two Massachusetts School Boy of the Year award plaques, and several photos of Hobbs from his playing career at UConn.
“Right now we’re just happy to be there, but in a couple of days, it will set it when we play the game,” Mensah-Bonsu said. “It’s so new to us that we’re like little kids. We’re just really excited. I think coach Hobbs is the only one who’s had any experience in the tournament.”
Graduate assistant Greg Collucci also seemed to be soaking it all in. As a four-year varsity player at GW, he never made the big dance. When asked if the tourney trip was bittersweet, he gave a quick response.
“No man,” he said while shaking his head. “This is awesome.”
Women will face Mississippi in NCAA tournament
By Joshua Meredith
The GW Women’s basketball team will play Mississippi in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday March 20. The No. 9 seed Colonials play No. 8 seed Lady Rebels in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Mississippi went 19-10 this season, is a member of South Eastern Conference. GW (22-8) and Ole Miss have never faced each other.
“They are very good team and similar to our team,” GW coach Joe McKeown said. “They have been overlooked nationally just like us but are very dangerous.”
This is the third straight season the Colonials will be playing in the NCAA tournament and second straight year they received an at-large bid. Under McKeown, the Colonials have reached the Big Dance 12 out of 16 seasons, including five out of the last six years.
If the Colonials advance to the second round, they could face No.1 seed North Carolina on their home floor. GW knocked off the Tar Heels in 1997 to advance to the Elite Eight.
“The pressure would be on North Carolina due to their seed,” McKeown said. “I am excited about this bracket, it’s a tough bracket but if you are going to go deep you are going to have to beat a number one seed.”
Chapel Hill is relatively close to the District, at least closer than last year, when the Colonials lost their tourney opener in Tallahassee, Fla.
“It’s great for our fans and it will be nice to have some fans at the game,” McKeown said. “This is the closet we have been in a while.”
Last year the Colonials struggled and got bounced in the first round, losing to DePaul 83-46.
The Colonials hosted a celebration at the Hippodrome during the selection show, where fans came to celebrate the at-large bid. The GW pep-band and cheerleaders were among the 150 people who had foot and drink and celebrated with the team.
For seniors Anna Montanana and Liz Dancause, this will be their third and final trip to the tourney.
“They have had great careers, four 20 win seasons and played in the postseason ever year,” McKeown said. “We want to cap it off with a run in the NCAA Tournament but you have to take it one at a time.”
The A-10 received three bids, including two at-larges. Temple, which defeated GW in the conference championship game, is a No. 6 seed and will play Louisiana Tech in the Philadelphia bracket. Richmond (No. 11) will face (No. 6) Florida State in the Kansas City regional.
Andrew Snow contributed to this report.