Monday, March 2, 2015

The season's not over yet: why you should keep watching


Not since DJ's Fastbreak closed has there been this much disappointment at 22nd and H Streets. DJ's, pictured above in 2007, served awesome and cheap Korean bibimbap, rice bowls, pancakes and "bagel" to many a hungover or all-nighter-pulling student (e.g., myself.)
They occupied the building catty-corner from the Smith Center, and then one day they were no more, and an atmosphere of sadness descended on the corner, flushing away the aroma of grease.

And much like that, a promising season has descended into ennui. The good guys beat then #11 Wichita State plus a passel of big-conference teams with killer defense and tough offense, then suffered the dreaded swoon and went on 2-7 slide, dropping from 16-4 to 18-11, groaning to 8-8 in conference play. Those early big conference wins looked rusty as the season went on, too, with many of them faltering badly.

Fans and GWHoops.com netizens can't agree on why the team has slumped so much -- is it the coach? Tired players? A lack of confidence? The curse of Larry Lembo?


I dunno. But I'm still paying attention, though resigned to the fact that I probably won't need to take off those days in late March that I hoped to. I'm going to keep watching, and here's why (aside from the obvious that I am a GW fan and thus slightly brain damaged.)
  • Simple reason, but I like watching these guys. When they're on, they're fun -- KevLar's big post moves, Joe being tough as hell, and so on. I remain optimistic that fun will occur.

  • John Kopriva: the team's lone senior deserves a big sendoff for his last game on Saturday. He improved a great deal on the court this season and served as team captain, all while studying to be a doctor. No small feat.

  • What seed will GW get in the A-10 tourney? Who will they face? Perennial (almost) questions that make for some interesting theoretical banter.

  • Pauly Jorgensen and Yuta Watanabe: how will they be used going forward? More two, three or four guard sets?

  • The youngsters: will Anthony Swan get more playing time after his three against Bona? How about Nick Griffin with 12 points against Davidson? Will we see more of Cimino and McCoy?

  • Did you know that Patricio Garino is the team's leading scorer? When he chooses to, he drives better than Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez, combined. (Yes, I apologize for the Fast and Furious joke.)

  • Will someone other than a little baby win the Pita Pit dance contest? Who knows!

  • George Mason kind of stinks, so the good guys have a shot there. 

  • The George Mason band is pretty awesome and their band director is famous for being super excited and wearing Bernie Mac suits. Bill Murray likes them. (Also they don't have a band member who lets loose a blood curdling scream all the goddamn time, which I appreciate.)

  • It's always fun to see exactly how the Tonic trivia question is rigged.

  • Along those lines, Brooklyn is pretty awesome. Just watch out for hipsters. (The crazy thing is that this video came out in 2007, before the word selfie was even invented -- I think.)
  •  

Friday, February 6, 2015

GW likes buzzer-beaters against Dayton

Today's game is a big one, and if other GW-Dayton games are a guide for today, it's going to be a close one. BM over at GWhoops.com reminded me of three (!) buzzer-beaters GW has had against the Flyers from Ohio. To wit:

Carl Elliott's almost half-court buzzer beater in 2005:



Isaiah Armwood's monstrous putback in 2013:

And Wynton Witherspoon's three (remember him?) in 2008:

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A call to arms: let's pack the Smith Center!


by Endrit Demi

A battle is brewing in Foggy Bottom.  A battle not fought in the name of greed, revenge, or jealousy, but rather for the hearts and minds of a very fickle breed: the George Washington University student.  Having been one myself, I know the type.  Excited about being in the nation’s capital, into all things global and political; adventurous, sometimes spoiled; seeking to help others and to better the world; and into sports too, if there’s time.

These are generalizations, but it’s hard not to generalize when describing a student body of 25,000 and a collection of global alumni 200,000 strong.

That’s not to say that GW students don’t have a sports-fan bone in their body. Those who were around to witness the Sweet Sixteen run in 1993 can attest to that, as can those lucky enough to see the King Whale Killer (Pops Mensah-Bonsu), Mike Hall and company bring GW to a #6 national ranking in 2006.  I was one of the latter and still vividly recall having one leg over the Smith Center railing on Senior Day in anticipation of a frenzied court rush, triggered by Carl Elliott’s last-second put-back to preserve an undefeated conference season. (See photo above.)

After that magical season ended, the GW men’s basketball program was not able to capitalize on its success and floundered for several years, culminating with the firing of Coach Karl Hobbs. 

Enter Mike Lonergan. A Maryland native, Coach Lonergan led Catholic University to the Division III title in 2001 and brought the University of Vermont to national prominence.  Then came the opportunity to come back home to rebuild the Colonials.  Not even halfway through his fourth year, he has already taken the team back to the NCAA tournament and has established a culture of winning and academic success.  He seems to have all the tools to make GW basketball a local favorite and a national staple: good players, good recruits, the right assistants on staff, an eager athletics department -- except for that fickle GW fanbase.

This is not an indictment of the GW community. That community is strong both locally and internationally, but when it comes to regular attendance at basketball games, we fall a little flat.  And our coaches are noticing. Here’s Coach Lonergan after the A-10 home opener:
It was disappointing. I told my assistant, "God, we are 11-3 playing the two-time defending [regular season] champs and there are a lot of empty seats." I know our students aren’t here, but we played St. Joe’s [over the weekend in Philadelphia], it was a sellout. I think we will sell out games now -- the Daytons, the VCUs -- but we’ve got to get people to come out every day.
I get it.  There are a lot of wild and wonderful diversions in Washington, DC.  I take advantage of them every day.  And it’s not like attendance at the Smith Center is anemic -- the last couple of weekends have seen a big uptick -- but we can do better.  We have in the past, and I think we will in the future.  Athletic Director Patrick Nero and Coach Lonergan are laying the groundwork required for sustained long-term success that I know will broaden the fanbase.  But why wait until that happens when we have exciting basketball to watch now? Have you seen this team?!

A Core Four of athletic juniors, Coach Lonergan’s first big recruiting class, who gel incredibly well and provide matchup nightmares for opposing teams. Game to game, you may be able to neutralize one or two, but you can’t contain them all.

Joe McDonald (JoeMac) is a consummate floor general, able to control the pace of the game and of his own play – feeding the action on a regular basis and jumping to action when the team needs a bailout.

(Macho Man) Kethan Savage lives up to his name on a daily basis.  HAVE YOU SEEN HIM DUNK?  Check out his resume here, here, and here.

Patricio Garino (Pato) is basketball’s Renaissance man: he can do it all.  He rebounds on both ends, is a pesky thief, a block party planner and a contortionist. Scientists are still working to classify some of his amazing layups.

Kevin Larsen (KevLar) has a somewhat misleading nickname.  While he is as tough as Kevlar, he is also as graceful as a ballet dancer.  He can overpower you down low, but also has quick hands, quick feet and great court vision – as you would have seen with his two recent behind-the-back passes in traffic.

Senior captain John Kopriva (#DrJohn) has made a huge leap in on-court execution this season -- perfectly timed to fill in the gaps left behind by the graduated Maurice Creek and Isaiah Armwood.  And he does this on the heels of fulfilling a pre-med degree while on the dean’s list.  What did you do today?

Yuta Watanabe, the 6’7” big man from Japan, has more tools than there are botched pronunciations of his name by sports anchors – though ESPN’s pronunciation as WIN-tanabe is coming true. Tall, quick and confident with his shot, he has matured into this team’s Sixth Man faster than anyone could have expected.  Keep an eye on this guy – he’s going to be really special.

And I haven’t even delved deeper into the likes of 3-point-specialist Nick Griffin, defensive hound dog Darian Bryant, assist-aficionado Paul “Prince Harry of Harlem” Jorgensen, and Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh who is sitting out this year but will be a stud next year, among others. 

You get the picture.  This team is good. Very Good.  (And I know I’m saying this in the midst of a two game skid, but it makes my point even more important in light of our crucial home game against Dayton this Friday at 7pm!)

So here is my plea: come to the games.  If you already do, come to more of them.  Invite your friends, family, coworkers, wacky neighbors, sorority, fraternity, Secret Santa, the guy who runs the kabob food truck, and maybe your dog too. Ok, not the dog, but definitely all those other people.  Even if they aren’t hoops fans, the game is a lot of fun (and they sell beer now.) If they are basketball fans, even better: Lonergan’s 1-3-1 defense and a Japanese forward are not something you see every day.

Building a community is a team effort, the responsibility of which stretches beyond the basketball team itself.  They support our community by giving us something to be proud of and to rally behind.  We can give back by showing up and being loud and being amazed. 

And the same goes for the women’s team, who just entered the top 25 poll after 17 straight wins. 
When the Smith Center is packed, it’s not an experience you’ll ever forget.  Who knows?  Maybe one day you’ll make your own “one leg across the railing in anticipation of a buzzer beater court rush” memory.

#RaiseHigh

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The GW Band scream is the worst thing ever

I like the GW band -- they play good songs well and get folks pumped up. They're dedicated and help make GW games fun.

But when the opposing team commits a shooting foul, a young woman lets out a horrible, blood-curdling scream. I'm not sure why; it's not funny, not distracting to the players or anything. It's just damn annoying to the fans. It's worse when the band is under the basket, but it still sucks when they're in their normal spot.

And I'm not the only one: there are two separate threads about it on GWHoops.com, plus I've compiled here a bunch of people on Twitter complaining about it.

One of the GWHoopsters actually says the screamer yelled right in Kethan's face when they were down on the end zone: not cool. A person, presumably a former band member, said it was a 10 year old tradition, but I don't ever remember hearing it. If it's a tradition, it's not a very good one.

There's a lot of fun things you can do around fouls (like "you let the whole team down,") and that scream is not one of them.

Band, we love you. Stop the scream.



Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kevin Larsen's "Learn Danish" video is amazing

If you weren't at the game this weekend, you missed a hilarious video of Kevin Larsen on the big screen. And now it's on Youtube. It's great. (The funny face makes it.) Kom så GW indeed.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Quick takes on GW vs Fordham (and in general)

The good guys triumphed again, beating Fordham 79-59 in their first really solid conference win. The result was never in doubt as the Colonials started the game on something like an 18-2 run, hitting their first 7 shots on 7 assists.

Watching the game on a huge screen at a new sports bar in Petworth, The Pitch, my buddy kept saying the Rams were the worst college team he's seen. I didn't agree with that, but they did make a lot of questionable plays, bad passes, crummy shots and such. But GW took advantage. John Kopriva had his best game yet, scoring an aggressive 19 points on 7/7 shooting and 4/4 from the line. I've been really impressed by Kopriva this year, he's really stepped up and gotten better. 

Patricio Garino wasn't afraid to shoot it, which is a welcome development, hitting two threes, while Joe McDonald also didn't hesitate to shoot, continuing a positive trend over the last few games. 

Kevin Larsen also played aggressively with 11 points, 8 boards and some nifty assists. Personally I want him to always shoot it if he gets the ball down low.

The good guys also got to the line and knocked then down, hitting 21/29 free throws, also continuing a welcome trend in the past few games. If the offense isn't clicking, they'll have to keep that up.

Something else exciting to see was the GW fan base in the stands at Rose Hill Gym: they were numerous and loud. The Fordham fans on the other hand were pretty sparse and quiet -- apparently there's some kind of Fordham fan protest going on. (Also I just realized their acronym is FU.)

On a more somber note, Yuta Watanabe appeared to hurt his ankle early on and didn't return. He was able to limp though, so I hope it's not too bad.

As for the rest, Paul "Prince Harry of Harlem" Jorgensen got a fair amount of playing time and continued to impress. He ran the point well and knocked down some nice shots. Darian Bryant also had a nice jump step-and-floater move too. 

All the starters scored on double figures, but the bench only contributed 8 -- due to Yuta's injury and Coach Lonergan leaving the starters in for most of the game. 

There were a few defensive lapses allowing easy Fordham baskets, but those seemed to have been only in the first half, if my memory serves.

A nice night of basketball, and I hope the good guys keep it up against tougher competition. GW faces Duquesne at 2 pm in Saturday at the Smith Center.



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Comparing Wizards games to GW games: maybe we could learn a thing or two

Last night I got to go to the Wizards-Spurs game with my buddy, a Wiz season ticket holder -- and it was a lot of fun. I think there's a few good ideas that GW could take up for the fan experience: getting them involved and interested, some benefits for season ticket holders, and more.

I hadn't been to an NBA game in years, maybe since Jordan played for the Wiz, and have many of the complaints you probably do -- they just play one-on-one, there's no defense, they don't call fouls or run plays, etc. But I have to say, it's a different style of basketball, and a different fan experience, but still a good time.

Basketball-wise, the game had a lot more midrange shots, and they knocked down many of them. There also didn't seem to be formal players, but maybe they were just more fluid and subtle than in college. I couldn't recognize defenses, either. It was also really-fast paced, with the home team winning 101-93. And I had no idea that Kris Humphries, most famous for marrying a Kardashian, was good at basketball. They also play music, mostly hip hop (and not all of it new) during play, mostly when the Wiz are on offense, something which is not allowed in college ball. I had forgotten about that.

As for the fan experience, there's a few things I think GW could pick up. For one, they give special (cool) Adidas warmup jackets just to season ticket holders. I saw them everywhere, first because they looked awesome, and then even more when my friend told me what they were. Considering how inexpensive GW tickets are (which is awesome) giving away a jacket wouldn't be feasible, but I'd definitely buy an awesome one that was just for season ticket holders. It could be a good way to build up interest and awareness of season tickets: "Hey, where'd you get that jacket?" It's also a great bonus for season ticket holders.

They also had a lot of little games and promotions during breaks in play -- one was completely random: Jeff Gordon, the NASCAR star, crushed a guy in a tricycle race. There was also a promotion where if the opposing team missed two free throws towards the end of the game, everybody gets a free chicken sandwich -- and people go nuts for it. It really increases the volume when the opposing team is shooting free throws.

This isn't to say I don't enjoy GW games -- I always do. But the more promotions, games and fun things for fans, the better.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Great GW holiday video features George, Smith Center, Colonial Army, Knapp & Knapp's dog Ruffles

The holidays are here (and the good guys play at 2:30 pm today!) and GW made a nice holiday video with cutouts featuring, among other things, the Smith Center, the Game Day balloons, and a game complete with the Colonial Army and their flags for the international players. Check it out.


Find What Makes You Happy in 2015: The GW Holiday Video from The George Washington University on Vimeo.

They also did a making-of video:

The Making of the GW Holiday Video from The George Washington University on Vimeo.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

School up the Street fans do clever thing: Duck Hunt-inspired tifo (fan skit)

Now, far be it from me to praise Georgetown about something, but this is pretty awesome: they made a Duck Hunt-inspired tifo (fan choreography, basically) showing a light gun shooting down a Kansas Jayhawk, then the bulldog retrieving it, like in the game.

Pretty clever. Colonial Army, got any funny ideas?


A video posted by Pam (@reddusfoximus) on
Of course, Georgetown lost, so there's that. Some players wore "I can't breathe" shirts as well.
You can get college basketball tickets here.