HARRISONBURG, Va., Nov. 27 — Over the past couple of seasons, GW women’s basketball coach Joe McKeown has talked about how he no longer wants his team to be giant killers but instead be the giant. Against James Madison University Tuesday night, that was the case – but it backfired. This time, the Dukes were the giant killers, bringing down a nationally ranked GW squad by 25 points.
Expectations for the No. 16/15 Colonials (AP, ESPN/USA Today) were high before the season began. The squad boasted four returning starters, an impressive transfer and an out-of-conference schedule that looked challenging but not impossible. Three weeks into the season, things are not quite going the Colonials’ way.
After the 25-point home loss to No. 6/7 Rutgers Nov. 18, which McKeown called “embarrassing,” the Colonials appeared to be back on track, defeating South Dakota State and Western Kentucky in the GW Thanksgiving Classic. Though not necessarily in ownership of the same kind of name recognition as the University of Kentucky or Virginia, two other schools the Colonials have defeated this season, two legitimate teams that receive votes in the polls each week.
But against James Madison, a middling Colonial Athletic Association squad, things went awry. While JMU is by no means a poor team, McKeown even said himself after the game that he does not believe they are at the same level as Virginia or Rutgers.
So what level is GW on? Sitting at 5-2 with a top-10 Ratings Percentage Index, a mathematical formula used to rank teams, the Colonials are not in bad shape, but the rest of out-of-conference play will not be any easier. GW still faces two ranked opponents: No. 13/12 Texas A&M at home Dec. 20, and on the road against No. 18/20 Auburn Jan. 3.
The Atlantic 10 schedule is likely to be relatively easy but that does not begin until Jan. 13.
James Madison coach Kenny Brooks said after his team’s 80-55 victory that his squad really stepped up to the challenge. To retain its ranking and respect in the women’s college basketball scene, the Colonials will not have much more room for error. Two losses will not end GW’s season but it could give the NCAA selection committee reason to drop its seeding in March. The weakness of the A-10 puts extra pressure on each out-of-conference game.