Basketball schedules take shape

The GW men’s and women’s basketball teams’ non-conference schedules are nearing completion and fans of both squads have reason to look forward to the competition coming to Foggy Bottom this upcoming season.

The men will host Oregon State on Nov. 28 and Providence on Dec. 9, the first teams from college basketball’s so-called power conferences to visit the Smith Center since Providence did so nine years ago, Director of Athletics Jack Kvancz said last week.

The Colonials will open their season Nov. 15 with a trip to the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and visit East Carolina on Dec. 22, Kvancz said. The team will also host Princeton (Nov. 24), George Mason (Dec. 2) and UMBC.

According to an interview with Navy head coach Billy Lange on the team’s Web site, GW will play the Midshipmen in the annual BB&T Classic event at the Verizon Center, as well. Kvancz, though, did not confirm the game as being official.

The women’s team will begin a new series at home Dec. 30 with national powerhouse Rutgers, a team with whom the Colonials have a bit of recent history. The Scarlet Knights knocked GW out of the NCAA Tournament in the 2008 Sweet 16 and also beat them at the Smith Center and at home in New Jersey in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

Also highlighting the women’s nonconference slate are trips to visit Tennessee, a team that defeated GW at the Smith Center last December and won two of the last three national championships, and Auburn, who finished this past season ranked 13th in the country.

The women’s team will also participate in the Junkanoo Jam, a two-day tournament on Grand Bahama Island Nov. 27 and 28. In their bracket will be Michigan State, which reached last season’s Sweet 16; Marist, a participant in four straight NCAA Tournaments; and Oklahoma State, which reached the Sweet 16 in 2008.

Because of the timing of trip, there will be no GW Thanksgiving Classic this season. The event has been held at the Smith Center over Thanksgiving weekend in each of the last two seasons.

“You have to give up something to get something,” Kvancz said.

The men’s game against Oregon State comes after months of speculation, much of which seemed to stem from the election of President Barack Obama. Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson is the brother of First Lady Michelle Obama.

The White House said that it would not be known whether President Obama would attend until closer to the date of the game. Former President Bill Clinton attended a GW game while in office in 1995, seeing the Colonials shock then-No. 1 UMass with his daughter, Chelsea.

Despite the presidential ties, the game has been in the works for at least two years, according to Kvancz. Scheduling major-conference teams, he said, is not done on a whim and requires persistence.

“You’ve got to hang in there with them,” he said.

The remainder of the men’s and women’s schedules is mostly in place, according to Kvancz, but has yet to be formally finalized. The teams can play up to 13 games outside of conference.

“For practical senses, we’re done,” Kvancz said. “We just don’t have the signed contracts.”

Kvancz acknowledged that the ongoing Smith Center renovations – which include the replacement of bleachers with fully-backed seats, a new glass-walled club for program donors and revamped locker room areas – may have played a part in the men’s team’s ability to schedule more formidable home opponents than in recent years.

“It didn’t hurt us, and that’s a plus,” he said. “It’s going to be beautiful.”

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