Another in-season tournament, and another solid performance from an Atlantic 10 team that wasn’t expected to do a great deal when the season began.
Just days after Dayton, which was picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll, won third place at the Maui Invitational the George Washington Colonials did the same at the Wooden Legacy in southern California with a 60-53 win over No. 20 Creighton. Picked to finish tenth in the A-10, Mike Lonergan’s team displayed signs of growth and the ability to exceed those low preseason expectations.
Their biggest achievement on Sunday night was harassing All-American and national Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott into the (statistically speaking) worst performance of his college career, as McDermott finished with just seven points on 2-for-12 shooting. As a team the Bluejays, one of the nation’s most efficient offensive teams, shot just 33.9% from the field and turned the ball over 13 times with just nine assists.
That was due in large part to the work of the Colonials on the defensive end, as they outscored Creighton 17-4 in points off of turnovers and limited the Bluejays to 7-for-28 shooting from beyond the arc. Creighton struggled with George Washington’s length for much of the night, and that’s an attribute (along with their offensive balance) that can serve the Colonials well once they begin conference play. Kevin Larsen led four starters in double figures with 14 points, and while there isn’t one “headliner” on Lonergan’s roster he has multiple players capable of contributing on a nightly basis.
Offensive balance and a stout defense will be the keys for George Washington going forward, because in a league as balanced as the Atlantic 10 it’s tough to make that climb up the standings relying solely on one or two players. Isaiah Armwood played very well defensively against McDermott and will be a factor on both ends of the floor, and in Maurice Creek, Patricio Garino, Joe McDonald and Kethan Savage the Colonials have the perimeter players needed to make life difficult for the opposition.
How successful of a season the Atlantic 10 enjoys in 2013-14 remains to be seen but if the in-season tournament performances of teams like Dayton and George Washington are any indication (yes, expected contender UMass won the Charleston Classic), this is setting up to be a good year for the league.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.