Two guys walk into McFadden’s.
The first one starts up a conversation about the men’s basketball team’s first game of the season, which will be Nov. 14 against Grambling State in the Smith Center.
“We’ll beat them easy. They went 5-24 last season. GW went 24-9, and A-10 coaches think we’ll finish second in the conference this year,” he says.
The second guy stops and says, “Wow, you must really know your stuff.” He’s impressed, and buys the first guy a beer.
So there you have it, knowing some facts about GW basketball means you get free beer.
Jokes aside, with hoops fever spreading across campus, students may want to know what all the fuss is about. Think of this as a cheat sheet for what you missed last season, who’s who on the team and what to expect this year. Use it if you want to carry on a conversation about GW basketball at the bar or anywhere else.
The “Core Four”
The junior quartet of Patricio Garino, Kethan Savage, Joe McDonald and Kevin Larsen.
1. Kevin Larsen: The Muscle
Coming off a sophomore season in which he was voted the most improved player in the conference, Larsen will be the one to watch around the basket skying for rebounds or throwing down a two-handed dunk.
2. Joe McDonald: The Facilitator
The third-year point guard is returning healthy after undergoing left-hip surgery. Look for McDonald to drive to the basket from beyond the three-point line or find the open player on the court for an open shot.
3. Patricio Garino: The Slasher
The Mar del Plata, Argentina native is the team’s strongest defensive presence and has the ability to get to the free throw line. The guard-forward totaled 41 steals and averaged 12.1 points per game last season.
4. Kethan Savage: The Comeback Kid
Savage returns to the Colonials’ lineup after a broken foot kept him off the court for the last two months of the season. Savage is predicted to be one of the top scorers in the nation.
Plus: He’s big in Japan
Freshman Yuta Watanabe should attract international attention to the men’s basketball team. Watanabe is a 6-foot-8 forward from Kagawa, Japan. He’s the first Japanese-born player to earn a Division I men’s basketball scholarship and is just the third to place in Division I college basketball. The Japan Times has named Watanabe his hometown’s “chosen one.”
A 6-foot-4 forward from Freeport, Bahamas, Jones transferred to GW after playing one season at Clemson. She will be able to play a full season with the Colonials after transfer rules forced her to sit out the first 11 games of the season. Look for Jones to score all over the floor, from the three-point line to right next to the rim.
A native of Brandywine, Md., Washington solidified herself as the team’s inside threat and finished the season with 314 rebounds and 381 total points. Washington was last season’s conference Rookie of the Year and was selected to the All-Conference Second Team.
(The coaches within the Atlantic 10 determine the All-Conference teams. The top five players who are considered the best in the league will be named to the first team, the next best five players to the second team and the following five players on the third team.)
The 5-foot-5 guard will make her first appearance after a medical condition kept her off the floor last season. Chase, who transferred to GW in 2013 from UMBC, is a strong passer who also has the ability to score.
Key chatting questions
What happened last year?
The Colonials won their most games in a season since 2005-06, posting an overall record of 24-9. GW took its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2007-08, earning a No. 9 seed. The Colonials fell to Memphis in the second round of the NCAA tournament, also known as the Big Dance. The 64-team tournament is divided into four regions, with each containing seeds from No. 1 to No. 16. The men’s team’s No. 9 seeding last season was considered middle of the pack but solid.
Can the team live up to the hype?
After they were selected to finish 10th in the conference in last season’s preseason poll, the Colonials were picked to finish second in 2014-15. Coaches in the league believe GW has the right pieces to make a run at the A-10 championship.
Will the free-throw shooting woes subside?
Last season, the Colonials were the second-worst free throw shooting team in the conference, making just 65.2 percent of their foul shots. GW will be without its first- and fourth-best free throw shooters from last season in Maurice Creek and Isaiah Armwood, which means remaining players will need to improve.
Is the frontcourt strong enough in the absence of Armwood?
With the departure of Armwood, the team’s top rebounder and perennial shot blocker, GW will need multiple players to step up in his absence, especially Larsen and senior forward John Kopriva.
What happened last year?
The women won more than 20 games and earned their first post-season victory for the first time since 2007-08. The team was eliminated in the third round of the WNIT, falling to the University of South Florida 74-59. Four players earned conference honors.
How are the new players?
Joining the Colonials roster this season are five newcomers, who together make up arguably the best recruiting class in the A-10. Head coach Jonathan Tsipis’ second GW recruiting class includes guards Brianna Cummings, Camila Tapias and Mia Farmer, as well as forwards Kelli Prange and Jada Matthews.
Can the Colonials top the conference?
The Colonials rose three spots and were selected to finish second behind front-runner Dayton. Senior Chakecia Miller, Jones and Washington were each selected to the preseason All-Defensive team. Jones was also selected to the All-Conference first team, while Washington was chosen for the All-Conference second team.
Mark your calendars
GW vs. UVA
GW will play on the road at the University of Virginia. Sure, it’s not a home game, but the non-conference matchup was a big get for the Colonials in terms of strength of schedule. Students can watch the game on ESPN3 – it’s one of at least 14 nationwide broadcasts of the team, so set up on your couch with your roommates and watch GW try to hang with last year’s ACC champs.
After defeating the University of Maryland last season thanks to late-game heroics from Creek, GW will return to the Verizon Center to take on former A-10 member Charlotte. Also featured in the Classic will be a matchup between Georgetown and Towson.
Diamond Head Classic
Dec. 22 to 25
The men’s basketball team will spend the holidays in Honolulu, Hawaii for the fifth annual Diamond Head Classic, a three-day invitational that features eight collegiate teams. The Colonials will open the tournament against Ohio University and then will play either Colorado or DePaul in the second round. Their final game could come against Nebraska, Loyola Marymount, Hawaii or Wichita State.
GW vs. UMD
GW will host Maryland looking to rewrite (recent) history. Though GW had upset its last opponent fresh off a final-four run when it beat then-No. 10 California last November, the Colonials were toppled by the Terps just days later. Maryland was recently selected as preseason No. 1.
Nov. 28 to 29
Jonquel Jones is going home. The junior big for women’s basketball said she is excited to show the team the food and beaches that she knew growing up. GW will play in the Junkanoo Jam Tournament in Freeport, Bahamas over Thanksgiving break along with North Carolina State, Purdue and Texas Tech.
Tips for the casual fan
All games are free to undergraduate students.
Get to the game early
Last season, as the men’s basketball team started to generate some buzz on campus, students flocked to the Smith Center and eventually filled the entire arena to capacity. To avoid being turned away or having to watch the game from the Colonials Club, get a seat early.
During most weekend contests, the athletic department puts on a pre-game tailgate for fans to grab barbecue staples like hamburgers and hotdogs.
Beer (kind of)
Beer will now be served at the Smith Center in the Champions Club, men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan announced at the team’s annual Buff and Blue scrimmage last week. Fans can purchase beer 90 minutes before the game, but must drink it before returning to their seats. The Champions Club will also serve as a concession stand during the game.