No. 12 men’s basketball embarks on grueling road to A-10 Championship

Media Credit: File Photo by Graeme Sloan | Contributing Photo Editor

Sophomore guard Justin Mazzulla heads into postseason play owning a 9.0 points per game average.

The Colonials (8-23, 4-14 A-10) are heading into the Atlantic 10 Championship Wednesday optimistic against all odds.

Men’s basketball enters the tournament as the No. 12 seed in a field of 14 and has racked up nine losses over the last 10 contests. The fact that the program has not taken home an A-10 crown in more than a decade also looms over the team, and GW has recorded the fewest wins this year since the 1988-89 season when the team went 1-27.

This season’s squad seems less poised than ever to break away in postseason play – but head coach Maurice Joseph has not lost hope.

After a 16-point loss to close out the regular season Saturday, Joseph said the Colonials can still return to Foggy Bottom with the title.

“The way I frame it is, we’re 0–0,” Joseph said. “Maybe I’m crazy, but I think we can go win an A-10 Championship. That’s just how I’m raised, how my fiber works, how my DNA is.”

But in the last five games of the season, GW has been cold from the floor. The Colonials were held to seven or fewer field goals in the second half against No. 1 VCU, No. 8 Rhode Island and No. 4 St. Bonaventure and sank just two three-point shots in their season closer against No. 5 George Mason.

The Colonials closed out the regular season owning the lowest-scoring offense in the conference averaging 63.6 points per contest while also grabbing the lowest number of rebounds per game on average. GW’s 33.3 boards per game pitted the Colonials second to last in the A-10.

“We obviously haven’t had favorable outcomes,” Joseph said after the game against George Mason. “I thought we played really well and hard in stretches.”

In the tournament where one loss means the team’s season abruptly comes to a close, there will be no easy contests for the Colonials. As GW enters the Barclays Center on a mission to reverse a season that has largely resulted in losses, here’s a look at what lies ahead for the Colonials:

First round vs. Massachusetts
It will be three weeks since the Colonials last took home a win when GW faces off against No. 13 Massachusetts Wednesday.

The Minutemen are one of the four teams the Colonials have beaten in conference play, giving GW decent odds heading into the match. GW served Massachusetts a 79–67 loss at the Smith Center Feb. 20 – marking GW’s last victory of the regular season.

If the Colonials want to advance past the first round, they will need to deepen their scoring options. GW found success against Massachusetts last month because four GW players notched double-digit points against the Minutemen, with sophomore guard Maceo Jack chipping in 20 points and redshirt junior guard Armel Potter coming in close behind with 19 points.

Second round vs. George Mason
The Colonials will have a tall task ahead of them if they move on to the second round of play facing No. 5 George Mason. The two teams closed out the regular season together Saturday, and the Patriots defeated GW on its home court 81–65.

While the Colonials cut turnovers in half between their first and second meetings – committing 18 turnovers in the January contest and just nine turnovers last weekend – they allowed the Patriots to go 11-for-22 from beyond the arc in the win.

GW found success penetrating the paint against George Mason, picking up 42 points around the rim Saturday. The Colonials will need to protect the perimeter on defense and attack the rim on offense to give themselves a shot at another day of play.

Quarterfinal vs. St. Bonaventure
The No. 4 Bonnies will be a tough case for the Colonials to crack if they advance to the quarterfinal round. St. Bonaventure is on a hot streak entering the postseason, going 7–1 in their final eight games of the regular season.

The Bonnies have a two-game bye, so if they compete against the Colonials Friday the team will be well-rested taking the court. The last time the two teams met, the Bonnies held GW to seven field goals in the final 20 minutes of play. With rest and fresh legs, the Bonnies will have the upper hand against a GW team coming off two straight challenges.

Semifinal vs. VCU
Barring a major upset win for No. 8 Rhode Island or No. 9 La Salle, GW will take on the top seed if it sees the fourth day of play.

The Colonials were unable to secure a win over VCU in either of their regular season meetings and appeared shakey against the Rams’ smothering, high-octane defense. GW committed a total of 32 turnovers across both games against the Rams, who lead the A-10 with eight steals per game on average. GW will need to have packed its sticky fingers if the squad wants to pull off an upset against VCU.

Final
The Colonials’ presence in the final game of the A-10 Championship would most likely be one of the biggest upsets in tournament history.

GW would most likely face No. 3 Dayton or No. 2 Davidson, the conference’s defending champion, in the title game – both teams that defeated the Colonials this season.

But the Colonials would face a steep challenge in the final game as a No. 12 seed has yet to take the conference crown this century.

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