A-10 Championship preview: Men’s basketball

Media Credit: Kimberly Courtney | Photographer

Head Coach Chris Caputo was named a finalist for the Joe B. Hall award for the NCAA's best new Division I basketball head coach Tuesday. He hopes to guide GW through a deep postseason push starting with the Colonials' first matchup Tuesday night.

Men’s basketball will head to Brooklyn Wednesday for their first matchup in the A-10 Championship after finishing with their best regular season record since 2017.

The Colonials (16-15, 10-8 A-10) earned a first-round bye and the seventh seed in the tournament, setting them up to take on St. Joseph’s in the second round of the conference tourney. The 5 p.m. matchup for GW will take place at the Barclays Center the home of the Brooklyn News, the first step in what the locker room hopes to be a deep tournament run.

“I feel that we can beat anyone in the league,” Head Coach Chris Caputo – who was a finalist for the Joe B. Hall award for the NCAA’s best new Division I basketball head coach – said in a pre-tournament press conference Monday. “And I think the guys feel that way as well.”

Though the Colonials needed one fewer win and earned an extra day of rest heading into Wednesday, Caputo said the first-round bye came with a period of uncertainty for the team to anticipate their next opponent. Saint Joseph’s downed Loyola-Chicago 72-67 Tuesday after cementing an early 11-point lead by halftime, riding the momentum into Wednesday’s game against GW.

The first postseason head-to-head matchup with Saint Joseph’s, who holds the tenth-seed, as the Colonials narrowly escaped with a victory in overtime win, 92–91. Graduate guard Brendan Adams delivered a monster performance, scoring a then-career-high 32 points on 7-for-12 shooting from beyond the arc.

In their second matchup, this time in Philadelphia, the Colonials got off to a brutally slow start and found themselves down 16–1 just four minutes into the game. GW spent the rest of the game trying to claw back but ran into foul trouble, never coming closer than eight points and falling to the Hawks, 81–69.

Bishop and Adams combined for 28 points in the game, far below their joint average of 39 in conference games, and no one else was able to pick up the load offensively.

The Colonials will rely on this duo of guards, along with standout redshirt freshman Maximus Edwards, for the bulk of their scoring, while senior forwards Hunter Dean and Ricky Lindo Jr. hold down the paint on both sides of the court. In the last stretch of conference play, Caputo’s rotation shrunk as each game brought with it higher-stakes seeding implications.

In GW’s penultimate home game against La Salle, only graduate guard Amir Harris and the five starters played more than three minutes of game time. In the final loss to VCU Saturday,  junior center Noel Brown subbed in, logging double-digit minutes with 12 on the night.

Performances from guards often play an even more outsized role in March basketball, as pacing and intensity reach their peak.

“Guys like that in conference tournaments, veteran guards, those are the guys that have to be at their best,” Caputo said. “Those are the guys who have made big impacts on conference tournaments over the years. They’ve done it all year, and I hope they’ve got more left in the tank this week.”

A second-round win in the playoff tournament will advance GW to take on No. 2 Dayton in the A-10 quarterfinals. In their lone game this season versus the Fliers, the Colonials defense put forward perhaps its best performance of the year, limiting their rivals to just 35.8 percent shooting from the floor.

The defensive performance – combined with a scoring barrage from none other than Bishop and Adams, who together dropped 45 – allowed GW to lead from tipoff to buzzer, resulting in a 76-69 victory in front of a rocking Smith Center. Looking ahead to potential competition beyond round two for his squad, Caputo pointed to the headaches the Buff and Blue gave each of the top-five seeded ball clubs during the regular season.

“VCU was a one-possession game with four seconds left,” Caputo said. “We beat Dayton. We were up at halftime versus St. Louis. It was a tie game against Fordham with eight minutes to go, and [George] Mason, the fifth seed, we beat on their home court.”

Outside of the five starters, Harris, Qwanzi Samuels, and Brown are the only players to have scored in conference play, and they combined for just 6.3 points per game.

Because the tournament is single elimination, seniors like Bishop, Dean and Brown could be playing their final game for the Buff and Blue, while the playoffs will likely be the swan song of an already-impressive basketball career for graduate players like Adams and Harris.

“I’ve been so lucky to inherit this group of guys,” Caputo said. “Obviously I added Max and E.J., but as I’ve said when you take over a job, you don’t really know what to expect. And I couldn’t be happier with the group in terms of the type of people and the willingness to work and learn.”

Bishop, who was the A-10’s leading scorer at 21.5 points per game, made the conference’s All-First Team in the A-10 Basketball Honors released Tuesday. The A-10 awarded Adams the league’s Most Improved Player award as well as All-Third Team honors and All-Academic team honors.

Edwards won the Rookie of the Year award and a spot on the All-Rookie squad to round out GW’s impressive list of conference honors.

The Colonials’ first matchup will be broadcast nationally on the USA Network at 5 p.m., as will the potential third-round game against Dayton. CBS Sports will televise any further advances by GW on the national stage.

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