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 and an automatic 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.”