George Washington coach Mike Lonergan expressed a very black and white view of the Colonials' NCAA Tournament situation heading into Friday's Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinal matchup
"If we lose (Friday) we're going to the NIT. I have no problem saying that," Lonergan said. "If we win (Friday) I truly believe we'll be in the NCAA tournament."
Following Friday's 86-80 loss to Saint Joseph's, Lonergan surely hopes he was wrong. If nothing else, he changed his stance.
"You know, I still feel good about it. I think we have a chance if they judge our body of work," the coach said.
"We went 11-2 in the non-conference. I mean, we lost the game today. Hey, it would have been our fourth top-50 win. A lot of these teams that people say are in have one or two top-50 wins."
At the end of Friday's broadcast, NBCSN announcer David Kaplan repeatedly said he felt the Colonials should be in the field of 68 as one of the 36 at-large teams. "For me, GW is already in, but we'll see," Kaplan said.
Even if Kaplan is wrong, GW will play in the NIT, but the NCAA's remain the goal. Here's how the various bracketologists viewed GW's spot on the bubble before Friday's action. Note the Colonials went 1-5 against the four A-10 schools (Dayton, Saint Joseph's, Saint Bonaventure, VCU) most projections have in the field.
CBS: Among last four in (UConn, Tulsa, GW, Wichita State)
College Basketball Talk: Seventh team out (Saint Mary's, Vanderbilt, Syracuse, Florida, Michigan, Valparaiso, GW)
ESPN: Eighth team out
USA Today: Ninth team out
One school not mentioned in this bubble talk, Monmouth. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference won America's hearts this season with its lively bench, but the computers also took a fondness thanks to some notable early season wins. The Hawks lost in the MAAC championship game to Iona, meaning they're also sweating out Selection Sunday. Most have Monmouth on the good side of the bubble.
"I'll put our wins against Monmouth's wins any day of the week," Lonergan said Thursday. "They're a big story, but I truly believe if we do the right things here, whether we have to win one game or two, the people in that room (the selection committee) that know basketball, it's not going to be about who has the best player in the country or who has the bench, it's going to be about the deserving teams."
For the purposes of determining which team is more deserving, here's a side-by-side comparison of GW and Monmouth
Record: GW (23-10), Monmouth (27-7)
Road/Neutral: GW (9-7), Monmouth (17-6)
RPI: GW (65), Monmouth (54),
Strength of schedule: GW (98), Monmouth (165)
Top 50*: GW (3-6), Monmouth (2-2)
51- 100: GW (1-1), Monmouth (3-2)
101-200: GW (10-2), Monmouth (6-0)
Plus 200**: GW (9-1), Monmouth (16-3)
Last 10: GW (5-5), Monmouth (8-2)
Common opponents: GW (3-1), Monmouth (3-2); Colonials defeated Army while Hawks lost at West Point.
• GW defeated Virginia (2), Seton Hall (28), at VCU (42); Monmouth beat Notre Dame (32), USC (48) at neutral sites
• GW lost at Saint Louis and then defeated the Billikens Thursday in the A-10 Tournament; Monmouth's three sub-200 losses all came on the road, including at Canisius (223) and Manhattan (231)
What does it all mean? At a base level, this comparison seems much closer than a perception that is Monmouth securely in the field while GW is in trouble. It also doesn't suggest the Colonials should move on at the Hawks' expense.
That the MAAC program has more top 100 wins in fewer games played helps their cause. Those three 200+ losses doesn't, though both schools had three losses outside the top 100. The Colonials have the clear strength of schedule edge, but the those 17 wins by the Hawks record away from home, wow.
Lonergan didn't mention Monmouth after Friday's loss, but spoke expansively about his team's situation.
"But we lost to a team with an RPI of like 30, so it doesn't kill you, but I truthfully thought if we won we were definitely in. ... If Virginia wins the ACC and Seton Hall wins or comes in second, something like that, I hope that's looked at. ...We lost two games in a row, once all season. We didn't lose to any low major -- one mid-majors, one mid-conference teams, and I think we played a good schedule. ...But if our worst losses are at Saint Louis and at DePaul, a Big East team with Big East refs, then hey, it's out of our hands, but I feel pretty good about what we accomplished, and we'll see what happens.
"I feel bad for our guys because we did blow a couple opportunities, but so does everybody else in the country."
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