That which seemed impossible four years ago has happened. After a scandal involving former coach Tom Penders and two losing seasons under Karl Hobbs, the GW men’s basketball team had a lot to prove coming into 2003-2004. Three years later, the Colonials have tied the best start in program history of 19-1 – a feat shared only by a team 50 years ago.
To Colonials guard Danilo Pinnock, however, there is still more to do.
“We take a lot of pride in building the program up from where it was because I can remember coming here after games and it just being us and the guys from The Hatchet,” Pinnock joked at a press conference after Wednesday’s game that was attended by Sports Illustrated, USA Today and Newsday, among other media outlets. “We take pride in it, but we’ve still got a lot to accomplish.”
Last season Hobbs repeatedly said that the measuring stick for GW’s success as a program should be whether it could defeat perennial Atlantic 10 heavyweights – such as Temple, Saint Joseph’s, Xavier, Dayton and Richmond – and whether the Colonials could make a habit of playing well in March. This season GW appears set to make a return trip to the NCAA tournament, but Hobbs isn’t convinced GW has risen to the level of the league’s elite.
“Our ultimate goal is to be competitive every year,” Hobbs said. “We’re hoping that we can sustain what we are doing in the sense of every year being competitive and having the team that can compete with (the A-10’s top teams) every year.”
While Hobbs and his players take the dignified road and downplay how much this team has accomplished, fans and pundits should not be fooled. This is a very good basketball team. It is not overachieving. It goes 10 players deep, has five double-digit scorers, boasts the conference’s top sixth man and routinely runs its competition out of the gym.
This season it has dismantled its opposition. It defeated Temple and Xavier on the road. It defeated Dayton, Richmond and Saint Joe’s at home. In the next week, the Colonials will have the opportunity to complete a sweep over the teams Hobbs feels his program chases.
But let’s face it. The A-10 – while a solid league overall – is hardly at parity with the nation’s top conferences. And while GW continues to blow out conference opponent after conference opponent, the ultimate barometer of achievement for what could end up being the best Colonial team in history is success in the NCAA tournament.
Dayton coach Brian Gregory – who has been a part of a number of special teams, including Michigan State’s 2001 national championship squad – said GW is poised to do just that.
“I’ve seen some pretty good teams, and this team is as good as anybody around.” Gregory said. “They have all the ingredients to make a run at this thing, all the ingredients.”
Yes, the Colonials played a weak non-conference schedule. Yes, its Ratings Percentage Index ranking is uncharacteristically low for the No. 8 team in the country. And yes, GW may lack a marquee victory to hang their hats on. But that does not mean any team in the country wants to see their name matched up against the Colonials.
Although it’s a columnist’s job to be inherently skeptical of the team he or she covers, it is difficult to find many flaws in a team that has been playing so well. And I have one piece of advice for GW’s fans: enjoy it.