Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Revenge! GW tops La Salle, brings win streak to 5

The good guys got mad and got even, topping La Salle 69-47 a few weeks after the Explorers beat GW to open play. However, Joe McDonald injured his hip and missed the second half, making a big win a bit less sweet. I haven't heard about his status, but he was on the bench, so maybe that's a good sign.

I wasn't able to make this one, but from the looks of it GW dominated and La Salle was ice cold -- the Philadelphians shot 27% for the game while GW topped 52%. Zeek Armwood had a huge game with 16 points and 14 boards, and three other Colonials scored in double figures -- Maurice Creek and Kevin Larsen with 15 each and Patricio Garino with 10 plus seven boards, two blocks and three steals.

The bench, however, wasn't too impressive -- Nemanja Mikic played 24 minutes but didn't take a shot, though John Kopriva added 4 points and 5 boards. We still haven't seen much from Nick Griffin, and I've been hoping his minutes would go up since Kethan Savage's injury. Griffin only got 4 minutes, while Miguel Cartagena got 10 and finished with as many points as fouls (3.) The team also had 19 turnovers, though they outrebounded La Salle 42-30.

It's nice to get this big win over an A-10 foe who beat GW earlier, but the injury and bench play make me less happy.

That said, the good guys are 17-3! That's crazy!

Today was also Social Media Day, and GW's all-time leading scorer Chris Monroe was the guest tweeter. Pretty cool.

Here's the box score. GWSports game article to come.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Help GW win $100,000! Vote, tweet, Facebook and more for the 6th Fan contest

If you haven't already seen on Twitter and Facebook, the NCAA has a contest underway called the 6th Fan, where fans vote for their school on the NCAA website, by Twitter or Facebook, and the top school with $100,000. That's no small amount of money, and so far GW faithful have done well for the Buff and Blue, getting the good guys to #1.

However, in the past few days the Colonials have tumbled the 4th place, so that means us fans need to get to work! You can vote one time per day, per method, which actually means three votes per person, per day.

And thankfully it's easy to vote. You can go to the website and click "vote now" for GW, then enter your email. You can also vote from there via Twitter and Facebook, but there's actually an easier way to vote via Twitter and Facebook: just tweet and post anything you'd like and include the hashtags #6thfan #gwash.

It's easy! So get to it, and help GW get back to #1 and win those big bucks.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Statement Game: VCU 66 GW 76


Wow. The best of the A-10 took the floor Tuesday night. An established VCU team, accustomed to success, faded against the "New Money" Colonials. The Smith Center was rocking. My ears continue to ring an hour later. Despite a hot start from three and turning the ball over seven fewer times, VCU just couldn't keep up. This win really had everything. A Savage throw-down? Check. Timely threes? Check (Thank you Pato). Stifling defense? G-Dub forced 14 turnovers and held the rams to 36.8% from the field. 

Patricio Garino had a career high 25 points with 7 boards and three steals. Kevin Larsen also notched a career high 22 points on 9 of 11 shooting. Zeek posted a double-double (11 points 14 rebounds) 4 (!!) blocks and 2 steals. We want UMASS. We want Arizona.

Full recap tomorrow. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

A10 Preview: The VCU Rams

GW opened conference play with a disappointing loss at LaSalle, followed by a rout of Rhode Island at home. Tuesday night, the Colonials continue to battle a tough A10 conference at the Smith Center against Virginia Commonwealth.

Over the last five seasons, the Rams have risen to national prominence under Coach Shaka Smart. With the new emphasis on hand checking this season, many wondered if VCU’s aggressive style of defense would suffer. The Rams lead the NCAA in steals and are second in turnovers forced. Moreover, the team has not fouled at a higher rate. A defensive rating of 89.8 points per 100 possessions is good for 11th in the country. The Rams have not slowed down. Though two losses to unranked Florida State and Georgetown saw the Rams fall out of the Top 25, VCU will still sit among the top teams in a strong A10 conference this season. Here are some matchups to keep an eye on:

Joe McDonald/Kethan Savage vs. Briante Weber
Though overshadowed by the addition of Mo Creek and the emergence of Kethan Savage, McDonald has had himself an excellent season so far. His assists are up only slightly, but he’s averaging fewer turnovers per game. He’s taken on more minutes and more responsibility and his efficiency has only increased—a good sign for the future. After coming off the bench last season, Savage has averaged more points per game than anyone on the team save Creek. McDonald and the Macho Man defend the ball well with both players averaging 1.9 steals per game.
Briante Weber is dangerous. The VCU junior averages four steals per game. That’s an absurd number. In fact, someone felt the need to rank his best steals. Props to the pun in that title. Though his energetic and occasionally unnecessary, especially late in games, play has won him few fans outside of his Alma mater, there’s no mistaking that Weber embodies VCU’s Havoc system and style of play. Plus, he leads his team in assists. It will be interesting to see how well Savage/McDonald contain him on one end while taking care of the ball on the other end.

Havoc full court pressure vs. Press break
Here’s a fairly comprehensive look at how Havoc works. Note the article is from last season. As with most trapping schemes, you want to keep the ball in the middle. Getting caught in the “coffin corner” often leads to turnovers. The ball has to move quickly in order to force number advantages, i.e. if one guy is trapped one guy is open. Typically, forwards and centers make for worse passers and ball-handlers than guards. Fortunately, sophomore Kevin Larsen has soft hands and the ability to bring the ball up and pass effectively. The team also utilizes Zeek at midcourt to help break other presses. Speaking of Zeek…

Isaiah Armwood vs. Juvonte Reddic
If the Colonials hope to beat VCU, they need to win inside. VCU is more vulnerable on the interior. Reddic is a solid defender but he is not much of a rim protector, averaging .9 blocks per game and blocking 4% of opponents’ shots when he’s on the floor. Armwood averages 2.5 blocks with an 8% block percentage. His defense and rebounding need to be on point, and contributions from Larsen on the block will help the Colonials inside.

Mo Creek vs. Finding an Open Look
Of course, it’s easier to attack in the paint if VCU respects GW’s outside shooting. Mo Creek has been conspicuously quiet the last few games. He’s a bit cold from three, but he needs to have a solid showing against a VCU team that holds opponents to 31% from beyond the arc. In Georgetown’s upset of the Rams, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera made 5 of his 6 three point attempts. Running a press runs the risk of leaving shooters open. Creek can make VCU pay if and when he gets clean looks from three.

GW Making Free Throws vs. GW Missing Free Throws at Inopportune Times  
GW has made an abysmal 67.4% of their free throws this year. It hasn't hurt them badly yet. Teams tend to shoot poorly at the stripe against GW, for whatever reason. There’s potential for VCU to run into foul trouble, and GW needs to capitalize on free throws.

Tip-off is Tuesday at 7:00. Pre-game tailgate (free food for college students so definitely recommended) starts at 5:00. Come out and #RaiseHigh. Also these uniforms are cool, though I’m pretty sure there’s no number 4 on the roster. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Lots of love lately for Lonergan, 'lonials, 'lantic 10

Like that alliteration? The media is giving lots of love to the Colonials, Mike Lonergan, and the Atlantic 10.

To wit, Sports Illustrated has an article about how transfers have become more important, starting with a photo of coach Mike Lonergan and talking about Maurice Creek and Zeke Armwood. The article begins:
WASHINGTON -- A few blocks from the United Nations D.C. offices on K Street, George Washington University has emerged as the free-market face of college basketball. A program picked 10th in the 13-team Atlantic 10 has catapulted out to a 12-2 start and is on the cusp of the program's first NCAA Tournament bid since 2007. 
The dim expectations appeared justified. The Colonials stumbled to a 13-17 record last season, and two of their top players transferred -- Lasan Kromah to UConn and David Pellom to Memphis. But thanks to Indiana transfer Mo Creek and former Villanova captain Isaiah Armwood, George Washington has defeated Creighton and Maryland and become an archetype for building a modern college basketball program. 
"We're Transfer U," said GW assistant Maurice Joseph, who fittingly jumped from Michigan State to Vermont as a player.
No idea what UN offices they are talking about, though, and how that actually applies to this argument. Maybe they are confusing the UN with the IMF and World Bank, as in they support free trade? I dunno -- and also this is a very GW discussion to be having. In any case, nice to see such praise in a big article. There's actually a lot more too about how Lonergan worked to find these guys, how well they fit in here, and how they're building national prominence.

CBS's Jon Rothstein points out Maurice Creek as a player not getting enough national attention, while also arguing that the A-10 might get more NCAA bids than the Big East

Then, ESPN has an article about how good and wide-open the A-10 is this season with a nice mention of GW.

Great to see the good guys getting this much press this year. Let's hope it continues, and keeps leading to bigger things!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Do the Colonials Have a Rebounding Problem?

Short answer: yeah, kinda but don’t worry about it.

            I trekked out to Hofstra last week to see the Colonials take on the Pride. Though GW pulled away eventually, a common groan that resounded throughout the G-dub dominated section stemmed from a few possessions where no one seemed to rebound the ball. Moreover, these concerns have been voiced before. However, when you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all (YES I JUST QUOTED FUTURAMA NO I’M NOT ASHAMED IN THE SLIGHTEST). From a fan’s perspective the act of rebounding the ball, specifically defensive rebounding, tends to go under the radar since it’s expected to just happen. A fan seemingly has two mindsets: “Congratulations, you forced them into a terrible shot. Go score the ball now” or “How did they miss that wide-open shot? Go back on offense and try not to mess that up (aka Knicks fans).” Regardless, the defensive rebound is sort of forgotten until your team fails and gives the opponents another possession. On the other end, offensive boards are constantly used as a barometer for measuring a team’s energy and hustle. 
Rebounding starts in the frontcourt but it certainly does not end there. Tall guys who play close to the basket tend to get more rebounds because they are tall and play closer to the basket. At the conclusion of non-conference play, Isaiah Armwood is averaging 7.4 rebounds per game, down from 8.8 last year. Kevin Larsen’s minutes have seen a sharp increase this season but his rebounding numbers have not increased in proportion. There’s more to rebounding than being freakishly tall. Understanding where the ball tends to go based on the shot and who’s shooting, gaining inside position, and having the hand strength and sense of timing to corral the ball separate the best rebounders from the rest of the field.
Where have all the boards gone? First, there are simply fewer misses to actually rebound. The Colonials are shooting 49.6% from the field and 38.5% from three, blowing away last season’s poor efficiency. Opponents are also shooting 45.7% from the field, slightly up from last year, though they are generally shooting worse from behind the arc. The total rebound percentage, an estimate of the percentage of available rebounds a player grabbed while he was on the floor, of Larsen has decreased a negligible amount, while Armwood’s percentage has only decreased by less than three percent. The team has seen better rebounding on a whole.
The real problem, though it may be remiss to call it problem, lies in the better rebounding numbers of Joe McDonald and Kethan Savage. These guys are superior rebounders for their position. Savage is averaging nearly three more rebounds per game. Though he has seen a significant increase in minutes, his per 40 minutes rebounding numbers have gone up as well. McDonald is averaging 5 boards a game, up slightly from 3.7 per game last season. Both players have seen their respective total rebound percentages increase significantly as well. Rebounding does start with the tall guys, but overall it is a team effort. Look at the Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC is second in rebounding, yet no one player averages double-digit rebounds.
Going forward, the GW backcourt should continue to rebound well so long as those numbers come within the flow of the game. On one hand, crashing the offensive glass can lead to more second chance opportunities, but on the other hand, the lack of players hurrying back on defense can lead to more opportunities in transition for the other team. Conversely, guards grabbing defensive boards often contribute to ending an opponent’s possession while forsaking transition baskets. Finding a good balance is important for the team as it heads into conference play.

You can get college basketball tickets here.