Even with Maurice Creek making just three of his 12 shot attempts, George Washington was able to put together more than enough offense in their 85-77 win over UMass in the final Atlantic 10 quarterfinal of the day. Creek finished the game with 12 points, one of six Colonials to reach double figures with Isaiah Armwood and Patricio Garino scoring 15 apiece to lead the way.
As a team George Washington shot 50.8% from the field, and after UMass mounted a second half rally to pull to within eight with 6:46 remaining Mike Lonergan’s team had the answer. George Washington responded with a 12-2 run to expand their lead to 18 points, providing the Colonials with enough of a cushion to ensure their place in Saturday’s semifinals.
Maxie Esho led UMass with 22 points and seven rebounds and Chaz Williams added 19 for the Minutemen, who will now wait to learn where they’ll begin play in the NCAA tournament. George Washington will join them in the 68-team field but they’ve got a semifinal against VCU to worry about first. The teams split the regular season series, with the home team winning both meetings.
Having dropped three of the last four games, George Washington was in a position where they needed a win over George Mason to get back on track. Without a “bad” loss on its resume Mike Lonergan’s team is well-positioned to earn the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2007, and the Colonials took another step forward with a 66-58 win over George Mason.
For teams looking to ensure their spot in the 68-team field it’s just as important to avoid damaging losses as it is to pick up quality wins. George Washington managed to do this despite committing 16 turnovers, with their superior three-point shooting being one of the deciding factors. The Colonials outscored the Patriots 24-9 from beyond the arc, with Maurice Creek making four of their eight three-pointers on the afternoon.
Creek scored a game-high 22 points to go along with five rebounds, leading four George Washington starters in double figures, and Isaiah Armwood added 11 to go along with 14 rebounds, three assists and three steals. George Washington’s had to deal with injuries for much of the season, and guard Kethan Savage is still out with with a broken bone in his in his left foot.
The Colonials have persevered however, a the reward in the form of an NCAA tournament berth is well within their reach.
All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.
To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.
The Atlantic 10 was not immune to conference realignment, as five teams have moved either in or out of the conference this season with a sixth team (Davidson) joining the A-10 for 2014-2015. The conference lost Butler after its one-year stint, as well as Charlotte, Temple and Xavier. For all the losses the conference still fields VCU — a top-25 team to start the season — and several teams that have expectations of going to the NCAA tournament, including La Salle, Saint Louis and UMass. The conference has a lot of momentum following a year that saw all five bids advance, and despite the losses of four programs, the Atlantic 10 has another promising season on the horizon.
IN: George Mason OUT: Butler, Charlotte, Temple, Xavier
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW:
1. Despite the losses, the league is still strong: The conference is down, but not out after losing two of the five teams that secured NCAA tournament bids last season. If you take the four departing schools out the equation, the Atlantic 10 still had five teams that finished in the RPI top 100 last season, and that’s before you take into account the expected improvement of Rhode Island, Dayton and George Washington.
3. UMass got their star back: UMass point guard Chaz Williams had a chance to skip his senior year and play in Turkey, though decided to return because of unfinished business both in the classroom and on the court. That’s enormous news for Derek Kellogg, as Williams is one of the best point guards in the country and a huge part of the Minutemen’s attack.
4. Guards. Lots and lots of guards: The back courts in this conference will be great to watch, especially the teams at the top of the league. We know about VCU’s guards and La Salle’s back court is no longer a secret thanks to their Sweet 16 run, and Williams is joined by Western Kentucky transfer Derrick Gordon at UMass this year. Rhode Island, St. Joe’s, Dayton, St. Louis. There’s plenty of back court talent here.
5. The Atlantic 10 has its games on the NBC Sports Network this year: 25 regular season games can be seen on the NBC Sports Network. The full schedule of games can been seen here.
PRESEASON ATLANTIC 10 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Chaz Williams, UMass
Coming off another productive year, the senior point guard has one more shot at an NCAA tournament. He averaged 15.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game last season as a junior, and this year will have familiar pieces and new weapons to utilize. Cady Lalanne and Raphiael Putney return in the UMass front court and Western Kentucky transfer Derrick Gordon is eligible after sitting out last season. Williams can not only grab player of the year honors, he can also advance UMass to the Big Dance for the first time since 1998.
THE REST OF THE ATLANTIC 10 FIRST TEAM
Tyreek Duren, La Salle: Leading the La Salle perimeter attack this season after a junior campaign averaging 14.2 points a game
Dwayne Evans, Saint Louis: The senior forward helped the Billikens capture the A10 title with 14.0 points per game and 7.7 rebounds.
Juvonte Reddic, VCU: Shaka Smart will look to Reddic to man the VCU frontline. The senior forward shot 57 percent from the field a season ago, grabbing 8.1 rebounds per game.
Xavier Munford, Rhode Island: The Rams are looking to make the next step in the rebuilding process and Munford can help in his last season at URI. With Munford is the top scorer returning to the conference this season.
FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW:
Isaiah Armwood, George Washington
Derrick Gordon, UMass
Treveon Graham, VCU
E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island
Tyrone Garland, La Salle
BREAKOUT STAR: Tyrone Garland, La Salle
Garland, who transferred into the program from Virginia Tech, was a lightening bolt for John Giannini’s team last season. His “Southwest Philly Floater” is the reason they made it to the second weekend of the Big Dance. But with Ramon Galloway gone and graduated, Garland’s role for the Explorers will have to expand. If they are going to make a push for the A-10 title, Garland will need to have a big season. We expect just that.
COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Derek Kellogg, UMass
Kellogg is under pressure this season, but he isn’t necessarily on the “hot seat”. Kellogg is now in his sixth season and is still looking to take his alma mater back to the NCAA tournament. UMass was on the wrong side of the bubble this year, but with the returners he has the Minutemen have realistic chances to be one of the 68 teams come March.
ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING … The league lost Butler, Temple and Xavier and still got five teams into the tournament.
I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT: The guard play in the league. Seems like everyone has an all-conference caliber player in their back court.
FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR:
1. VCU: Shaka Smart returns Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic, two all-conference caliber players. The Rams a couple pieces in their back court, but there is still plenty of depth on the roster. Point guard play, and the new hand-checking rules, will be the keys to their season. 2. UMass: Five A-10 teams received bids to the tournament last March, but the Minutemen were on the outside looking in. This season UMass has a favorable conference schedule — home games against La Salle, Saint Louis and VCU — which could help them finishing higher in the conference standings. 3. Saint Louis: The Billikens return leading scorer Dwayne Evans, as well as Mike McCall, Jordair Jett and Rob Loe, who were key components to Saint Louis’ top scoring defense in the A-10 a season ago. 4. La Salle: The Explorers made the deepest run in the tournament of any conference team last spring, but lost Ramon Galloway, the team’s leading scorer. Tyreek Duren and Tyrone Garland return to lead La Salle’s perimeter attack. 5. Richmond: Darien Brothers is gone, but the Spiders have the next three top scorers from a season ago back in the mix this year. 6. Rhode Island: Dan Hurley is still building up that URI program, and this is the season they can make the jump. The Rams add Gilvydas Biruta from Rutgers and have a freshman tandem of Hassan Martin and E.C. Matthews in the lineup this year to go along with Xavier Munford, who poured in 17. 4 a game in 2012-2013. 7. Dayton: Archie Miller’s team should improve even without Kevin Dillard. Matt Kavanaugh returns from suspension and Devin Oliver, Vee Sanford and Dyshawn Pierre all return as starters. 8. St. Joseph’s: Phil Martelli’s team finished 10th in the conference a season ago after being pegged as the preseason favorite. This year, three seniors — Langston Galloway, Ronald Roberts and Halil Kanacevic — will lead the Hawks. 9. George Mason: The newcomers to the the conference returns a lot of talent from last year’s 22-win team, including Sherrod Wright. 10. George Washington: Eight freshmen or sophomores are on the roster. Isaiah Armwood provides a nice player inside, and Mo Creek joins the team from Indiana. 11. St. Bonaventure: Roster features a lot of newcomers to go along with seniors Charlon Kloof, Matthew Wright and Marquise Simmons and junior Youssou Ndoye, though none of them averaged double figures last year. 12. Fordham: Jon Severe, a three-star recruit and Rivals150 in the Class of 2013, should be fun to watch for Fordham. 13. Duquesne: Jim Ferry is still putting the pieces in to place, but does have Derrick Colter coming back after a strong freshman season in the Dukes’ back court.