Updated March 10, 9:37 p.m.
ATLANTIC CITY, March 10 – Cue the mayhem. Bring on the seed predictions and welcome to the Big Dance, Foggy Bottom.
Forget what you heard about this team for the last six months. After all, this was branded to be a rebuilding year for the GW men’s basketball team.
The Colonials team stormed through three days of the Atlantic 10 Championship and will see the NCAA Tournament for the third time in three years.
Seniors Carl Elliott and Dokun Akingbade and junior Maureece Rice waltzed into the media room clutching the A-10 trophy, smiles across each ones’ face, ready to field questions from a throng of reporters.
“The guys are so excited they don’t want to let this trophy go,” said Karl Hobbs, GW’s head coach.
For the second time in program history, the mammoth trophy is theirs to keep. The last A-10 title came in 2005 when the Colonials had some of the best players this program has seen in Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Omar Williams, Mike Hall and T.J. Thompson.
But for Hobbs this win is all “pretty close” to euphoria, he said. Each year, his goal is to put a competitive team on the court and everything else is icing on the cake.
“Getting to the tournament is an over-achievement,” Hobbs said. “We don’t care about where we’re seeded and where we are going. We are excited to go out and get some new dancing shoes.”
But Elliott, a member of the all-tournament team who scored 17 points Saturday night, may have already picked up a new pair of kicks. After GW beat St. Louis Friday night, Elliott made a guarantee to a few reporters: GW will bring home the A-10 title. After it happened, Elliott seemed a little shorter on things to say.
“We went out there tonight and trusted each other,” Elliott said. “We just played hard and defended and we came out there with the ‘W.'”
For the Colonials, this means more than an automatic bid for the NCAA tournament. It shows many that Hobbs, a coach who has seen his fair share of criticism on and off the court, is able take a young team and bring them to the top of a conference filled with parity.
“Our goal to start the year was – I told the players – that we had a rare opportunity to make history,” Hobbs said. “GW has never been to three straight NCAA tournaments. We never talked about it to the media, we kept it in house.”
But the berth didn’t come easy. The Colonials had to force itself through two teams it lost to this season in as many days in playing St. Louis and Saint Joseph’s. Against Rhode Island – a team GW beat in January – it had to deal with two key players in foul trouble and sophomore Rob Diggs’ broken nose.
GW – who was picked to finish fifth in the A-10 – had four players in double figures. Behind Elliott was Akingbade, who put in 15 points and nine rebounds and classmate Regis Koundjia who dropped 11. Rice, the tournament’s most valuable player, had 12 points and four rebounds.
Will Daniels, Rhode Island’s overbearing power forward, had 29 points. But GW was able to keep the rest of the Rams quiet. Jimmy Baron was the team’s only other player in double figures with 10 points. A three point warrior, Baron was limited to 3-of-8 from beyond the arc in 30 minutes.
The team’s seed in the NCAA tournament will be announced Sunday at 6 p.m. on CBS. The first possible game in the tournament will be either Thursday or Friday.
First and second round locations include Buffalo, Lexington, Ky., Sacramento, Winston-Salem, N.C., Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, New Orleans and Spokane, Wash.
The selection show party will be on the fifth floor of Marvin Center in time for the 6 p.m. show. The exact start time of the event will be announced soon.
Check GWHatchet.com and hatchetblogs.com for continuing coverage of the men’s and women’s NCAA tournament.
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