Will Dempster: Where are the great expectations

RICHMOND, Va. – If one were to listen to the Colonials at post-game news conferences, it would appear the team has run out of goals. With Bob Tallent – the last GW head coach to defeat Richmond on the road – on hand, the Colonials completed the season sweep of the Spiders with a 64-51 victory Saturday evening. A win at the Robins Center, head coach Karl Hobbs said after last Wednesday’s victory over the University of Massachusetts, was the last goal set out by his cadre of seniors they had yet to accomplish.

In what is becoming an after-game ritual, Hobbs once again cleverly deflected questions aimed at making clear what his new goals are for what is quickly becoming the best Colonials team in history.

“Now we’re trying, like I’ve said all along, to defend our Atlantic 10 championship,” Hobbs said. “Hopefully, we’ll get our name called on Selection Sunday and they’ll put us in there somewhere, because if you listen to all the stuff I’m listening to, I’m hoping we get in.”

This isn’t last year, coach. Winning the A-10 Tournament and earning an NCAA tournament berth are not enough. With a squad dominated by juniors and seniors, a team which boasts three All-Atlantic 10 and National Association of Basketball Coaches all-District team selections and one of the nation’s top sixth-men, the bar must be raised higher.

Although generally heeding his coach’s line, junior point guard Carl Elliott seemed to indicate that the players have slightly higher expectations.

“(We want to) go as far as we can in the tournament,” he said. “That is basically our goal: to keep winning now and hopefully that will come through (later).”

If Elliott’s comments are any indication, my guess is that Hobbs’ expectations of this year’s team are much higher than he intimates. Even as early as A-10 Media Day, Colonials players spoke in code about the lofty expectations Hobbs wrote on the locker room board at the beginning of the season. Instead of continuing to downplay how remarkable this team has performed this year, Hobbs should publicly embrace what is going on in Foggy Bottom, because teams like this are once-in-a-lifetime events for schools such as GW.

The Colonials have easily eclipsed the school’s best start in history. They own the nation’s longest winning streak at 14 games – tying the 1935-6 squad for the longest in GW history. They are ranked sixth in the country, the team’s best ranking since the 1950s. They are one of very few teams in the country boasting five double-digit scorers. They have a good chance of going undefeated in A-10 play. While Hobbs correctly states that his program’s goals should be to consistently win in the A-10 and reach the NCAA tournament, this year’s team should be aiming to meet or eclipse Mike Jarvis’ Sweet 16 run of 1993.

Although deflecting the spotlight off a team that struggled under the heat last season is admirable, one has to think that the manner in which Hobbs does so offers fuel to a skeptical media that often appears to go out of its way to denigrate what GW has done this season. First it was “we’re struggling to be an NIT team” after a disastrous exhibition against Augusta State. Then it was that the team was merely “overachieving” after nearly every win. This team is too good for such catch phrases.

Perhaps Hobbs prefers to let GW surrogates hype his program and team while he keeps the team’s eye focused on the ultimate prize. Coach Tallent, whose tenure at GW saw its ups and downs, correctly understands how good this team is after observing a game in which GW shot more than 50 percent from the field and dominated a game played at a slow and deliberate pace.

“When they play like they want to play and as well as they can,” he said, “not many people can beat them.”

And come tournament time, opposing teams and skeptical pundits will finally see it for themselves.

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