Going undefeated in the conference does not happen often. In fact, in his 18 years as the head coach of the GW women’s basketball team, Joe McKeown has made the Sweet 16 and even the Elite Eight, but has only gone undefeated in the Atlantic 10 twice.
That is why McKeown, who was named A-10 coach of the year, wants to cap off his team’s run, during which the Colonials have won 18 straight games, with the conference tournament title.
“When you’re the favorite, you want to go into this weekend and win this tournament and feel like not only did we go undefeated, but we won the regular season and the (conference) tournament,” McKeown said. “That would be special.”
After defeating Temple 56-53 Sunday to win its sixth-straight regular season championship, No. 8/9 GW (AP, ESPN/USA Today) earned the top seed for the A-10 Championship this weekend in Cincinnati. With a first-round bye, the Colonials will play the winner of No. 8 seed La Salle and No. 9 seed Dayton on Saturday at noon.
McKeown noted the number of upsets in college basketball that generally come in March, stressing that GW (25-2, 14-0 A-10) will overlook the quarterfinals despite disposing of both Dayton and La Salle during the regular season.
“There are a lot of higher seeds that get beat,” he said. “Everybody knows that the four top seeds are all good, but you can’t overlook anybody else either.”
After pouring in 18 points against both La Salle and Dayton this year, sophomore Jessica Adair, who was named to the All-Conference First Team, said that she will use what she learned from the previous meetings with the Explorers and Flyers.
“Anytime you’ve played someone once, there are always things that you learn from the players or the team as a whole, so there are definitely things we can use to our advantage from playing them before,” Adair said.
The Colonials will need to be wary that other teams will be focused on beating them, McKeown said.
“Everybody’s gunning for you, and you’re going to get everybody’s best shot,” he said. “Teams are fighting for an NCAA tournament berth so there’s a lot on the line.”
Even with this added pressure, McKeown said that he expects the Colonials’ experience to guide the team through the A-10 tournament and NCAA tournament after only losing one player to graduation from last year’s team.
“Anytime you can return a lot of your players to this tournament, I think it really helps,” he said. “It should carry over to this weekend with all those guys who have been through this before.”
Junior Kim Beck, who was named A-10 Defensive Player of the Year and elected to the All-Conference First Team, said that GW is far from finished in conference play.
“We’re not done, we know that,” she said. “Our goal is not just to win the regular season, it’s to win the A-10 Championship.”
McKeown likened the upcoming tournament, which is being held at Xavier’s Cintas Center, to the BTI Classic in November, when GW played three games in three days and finished 2-1, defeating Arizona and TCU before losing to then-No. 1 Maryland.
“It’ll be a little bit different since it’s the conference championship in March this time, but it’s the same type of sequence, so hopefully that’ll be something that we can look back on as something that helped us during the course of the year,” he said.
Temple is the No. 2 seed, so a rematch between the Colonials and the Owls is not possible until Monday’s final, which is being televised on ESPN 2. Xavier is the third seed, while Charlotte rounds out the top four.