That Wichita State game was the team's biggest win in years, and came at the end of a run to take the Diamond Head Classic. It got GW onto the bubble and the good guys started earning votes in the NCAA poll.
In time, unfortunately, most of those power conference wins looked less impressive, as the non-Wichita teams finished with a combined 38-70 record. And there were some missed opportunities: the team lost a winnable game against Seton Hall plus others to #9 Virginia and Penn State.
And then things started to fall apart: the Colonials went on another mid-season swoon, losing 6 of 7 starting with #14 VCU and including a loss to a bad Duquesne team. They rebounded a bit, finishing the regular season winning three of their last four, then won one in the conference tournament before falling to Rhode Island.
The team received a bid in the NIT, and collected GW's that postseason win over #4 seed Pitt in Pittsburgh. The season ended with a loss in Philly to old conference foe Temple, a #1 seed. The Colonials finished with a 22-13 record.
Some folks were disappointed in that result, expecting a huge season with the Core Four of Patricio Garino, Joe McDonald, Kethan Savage and Kevin Larsen all back as juniors from a team that made the NCAA tournament. I was gutted during the swoon -- during the great early season run I asked off work to travel to the NCAA tourney -- but then again, GW lost two of the best players of the last decade, if not longer: big man Isaiah Armwood and clutch guard Maurice Creek.
With that, they also seemingly lost some leadership. The Core Four played pretty well, but nobody took charge or fired up the team when things weren't going well, which Zeek and Creek always seemed to do. It's hard to tell from the stands, of course.
And while the team missed those two, they also gained two very promising players: freshmen Yuta Watanabe and Paul Jorgensen. Yuta, the 6' 8" Japanese forward, was immediately a revelation, hitting a lot of shots off the bench and immediately contributing. He finished with 7.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, and his minutes steadily went up. He also got a lot of press for GW -- my buddies and I invented a drinking game, where any time a commentator or analyst said Yuta was the fourth Japanese player to play in Division I, take a drink. And we took a drink every time a game was on. The New York Times and Washingtonian also published articles about Yuta -- pretty awesome.
And aside from Yuta's press, the good guys were on TV a lot -- 23 games were on TV, and Yuta earned a SportsCenter Top 10 for a dunk against Richmond. There seemed like a lot more fan support too -- good crowds at home and away, especially for the New York-area games, where GW fans outnumbered those at Fordham. And the Smith Center started selling beer.
The other freshman who contributed, Jorgensen, had earned the nickname "Prince Harry of Harlem" from his streetball play in New York. The Prince took a while to catch on, but became a solid contributor with a lot of flash as the season went on, with games of 13, 12 and 11 points. I'm looking forward to seeing more out of both of them next season.
The Core Four almost all finished in double digits in points too: Garino led the team with 12.4, Savage at 11.7, Larsen at 10.9 (along with 7.4 boards) and McDonald at 9.9 points and 5.8 boards, good for second on the team.
John Kopriva, the lone senior, also played well, knocking down big shots, playing defense and drawing charges. He served as a solid role player off the bench while collecting a 4.0 GPA in pre-med, getting named a third-team academic All-American. Not too shabby, #DrJohn.
After the season, the team lost a couple of players as freshman Darian Bryant and sophomore Nick Griffin transferred. We didn't see either player too much during the season, but Bryant was an aggressive driver and Griffin a good shooter, scoring 12 against Davidson. Too bad to see them go, but I wish them the best.
Another season in Foggy Bottom: good times, bad times, excitement and disappointment. I wouldn't have it any other way. And with the Core Four back again with a seasoned Watanabe and Jorgensen, I'm looking forward to more excitement. And more Smith Center beer.