A-10 Preview: Colonials set out for repeat

Forget their 16-0 regular season conference performance. GW men’s basketball head coach Karl Hobbs seems not to remember all those wins.

“We’re not much more talented than any team in the league,” Hobbs said, echoing his comments from earlier in the year that the now-No. 6/7 Colonials (USA Today/Associated Press) were an “NIT team.”

All pessimistic feelings aside, the GW men’s basketball team returns to action Thursday to begin its defense of the Atlantic 10 men’s basketball championship, which it won last year by beating Saint Joseph’s 76-67 in the final.

The Colonials (26-1, 16-0 Atlantic 10) will play Temple Thursday at noon at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati.

The tournament started Wednesday with four games. Temple trashed Rhode Island 75-45 Wednesday afternoon to secure Thursday’s game against GW.

The 26-1 Colonials earned the No. 1 seed and first-round bye by not losing a conference game during the regular season. They have played Temple once, Jan. 4, and won by double digits.

Against Temple in Philadelphia, GW methodically broke down the Owls’ matchup zone defense and controlled the tempo of the game, the Colonials’ first conference contest, en route to a 72-60 win.

Senior center Pops Mensah-Bonsu played a crucial role on both offense and defense, scoring in double digits.

GW will have to do without the services of Mensah-Bonsu, who will be sidelined for the entire tournament while he heals from surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his left knee. Mensah-Bonsu is expected to be healthy in time for the NCAA tournament the following week. Freshman Montrell McDonald is also sidelined for breaking unspecified team rules.

Hobbs said he is worried about playing three games in three days with a depleted bench.

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to come down to a game similar to the (Charlotte game),” Hobbs said, referring to his team’s one-point overtime win over the 49ers March 4. “It’s foul trouble problems, fatigue problems but some way we still came up with a win. So it is a concern.”

A potential third-round game against fourth-seeded Saint Louis would be intriguing, as the Billikens took GW to overtime at the Smith Center Jan. 11. The Colonials ended up winning 69-64, but Smith Center fans booing GW during a second-half Saint Louis run marred the victory.

One team GW will not have to play until the finals, and then only if both teams make it, is Charlotte. On March 4, Senior Day at the Smith Center, the 49ers played the Colonials closer than any team had all year, and GW needed a technical foul late in overtime and a miraculous buzzer-beating tip-in by junior guard Carl Elliot to pull out the 86-85 win.

No matter how GW performs in the tournament, they are guaranteed a berth in the NCAA Tournament with the country’s best regular season record and longest winning streak going into the A-10 postseason. However, winning the A-10 Tournament would boost their chances of being a two seed, as opposed to a three or even four.

The Colonials’ seed will be announced Sunday at 6 p.m. on CBS. GW lost in the first round of the tournament last year to Georgia Tech.

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