George Washington’s experienced core of seniors Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald has accomplished a lot in four years together, so adding another milestone to their careers and to the school’s history books is a fitting ending for the three.
From 13-17 as freshmen to the NCAA Tournament the next year to a small step backwards to the NIT second round a year ago, the trio now has led the Colonials to the NIT Final Four for the first time in school history. GW defeated stubborn Florida 82-77 on Wednesday, holding on to win in a game that featured 14 ties and 19 lead changes.
All three seniors played a big part, as Larsen scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Garino totaled 13 points and eight boards and point guard McDonald added eight points, four rebounds and three assists. This year’s GW team also has another star in Tyler Cavanaugh, and the 6-foot-8 inside-outside threat led the way with 23 points and hit four three-pointers.
The Colonials are the perfect team to take advantage of playing in the NIT, a team that everyone knew was very good this year (it did knock off Virginia and Seton Hall), but also one that clearly came up just shy of an NCAA tourney spot. Add in that this is a veteran squad taking one last ride, and GW is a team that is easy to enjoy watching advance this far.
George Washington now will face San Diego State, which handled Georgia Tech 72-56 in the fourth and final quarterfinal. The Aztecs dominated the second half to pull away and continue to display just how improved they are after some early season foibles.
San Diego State’s season resume wasn’t particularly meaty, but there’s little doubt that since January the Aztecs have been a solid top 50 club at least. In this one, they wore down the weary Yellow Jackets, who flew across country to play two nights after manhandling South Carolina. SDSU has heated up from three-point range in the postseason-as noted by ESPN analyst Richie Schueler, a 32% team from deep in the regular season is hitting at 45.8% in the NIT-and if that continues it would be no surprise if the Aztecs win the whole thing.
- The CBI championship series is set. Surprising Morehead State continues the Ohio Valley Conference’s impressive play in March the past few years, as the Eagles won at Ohio University 77-72 by pressuring the Bobcats into 18 turnovers. Morehead State is as physical of a team as one will see at the OVC level-in fact, it’s one of the most physical teams in the country-and the toughness instilled by coach Sean Woods is shining through. The opponent in the best-of-three finals will be Nevada, which handled Vermont 86-72. The Wolf Pack also has had a very nice season and looks to be a program on the rise in the Mountain West under Eric Musselman.
- Three of the four quarterfinal games were played in the CIT, and they were decided by a combined five points. Coastal Carolina edged Grand Canyon 60-58 as Elijah Wilson scored the winner in the final seconds, while Columbia nipped Ball State 69-67 to keep the Ivy League alive in the postseason. UC Irvine also is in the semis after a 67-66 win at Louisiana-Lafayette as Mike Best scored the winning basket in the final seconds. The Anteaters won despite playing without injured center Mamadou Ndiaye.
- The situation at Wisconsin-Milwaukee continues to simmer, as three of the team’s top players have asked for their releases. Austin Arians, Jordan Johnson-the nation’s second-leading assist man this year-and Akeem Springs all are considering a transfer, though all three have said they will wait to see who UWM hires as its new coach. It’s been an ugly situation, with the school’s athletic director first not allowing the team to play in a postseason tourney and then firing coach Rob Jeter, and the players have been vocal yet reasonable in addressing their concerns with the way things have gone down.
- Washington got bad news as freshmen Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray both announced they will be entering the NBA Draft and will be hiring an agent. Murray was a second team all-Pac-12 pick this year as a very productive frosh while Chriss was not far behind, and together they averaged nearly 30 points and 12 rebounds per game. Along with the loss of senior guard Andrew Andrews, the Huskies now suddenly will be in something of a rebuilding mode again after the future looked so promising.
- Kentucky coach John Calipari made a few waves nationally yesterday by announcing every eligible player on his team would submit their name for the NBA Draft, as the new NCAA rules allow them to do without losing eligibility if they return by a certain time. It’s another publicity stunt by a coach known for them, and really a pointless one in this case-other than playing to media that waits breathlessly on anything Calipari says.
- Finally, the latest edition of Phil Kasiecki and Ted Sarandis Talking Hoops is available right here, as the two recap this past weekend at the NCAA Tournament.
- The NCAA Tournament is back in session with regional semifinal games in the South and West. Top-seeded Oregon against No. 4 Duke in the West is getting a lot of the attention, while 1 seed Kansas vs. No. 5 Maryland in the South seems to somehow be flying under the radar, despite the Terrapins being right near the top of the polls late in the regular season. Our pick for the best game is the other in the South, with 2 seed Villanova against No. 3 Miami (Fla.) in a battle of two intense defensive squads. The other game is a matchup of former Big 12 rivals with No. 2 Oklahoma against third-seeded Texas A&M in the wide-open West.
- The final CIT quarterfinal has Texas-Arlington at NJIT, with the Highlanders looking to get to the semifinals for the second straight year.
Have a nice Thursday.