GW Men's Hoops Opens NCAA Tournament on Friday Versus Memphis
9-GW (24-8) vs. 8-Memphis (23-9) | Friday, March 21 | PNC Arena | 6:55 p.m. | TBS
March 19, 2014
WHO: No. 9 seed GW Men's Basketball (24-8)
RALEIGH, N.C. - GW men's basketball returns to the NCAA Tournament for the 11th time in the program's 100-season history when it faces Memphis on Friday. The winner will advance to face either No. 1 seed Virginia or No. 16 seed Coastal Carolina on Sunday.
GW is in the midst of a banner campaign in its 100th season of intercollegiate competition, equaling the 1997-98 and 1954-55 teams for the second-most victories in a season with 24 and three behind the program-best 27 victories during 2006-07.
GW third-year Head Coach Mike Lonergan is 14-11 in 12 career postseason appearances, including 13-9 in 10 prior trips to the NCAA Tournament highlighted by the 2001 NCAA Division III Championship at his alma mater Catholic University.
The Colonials have two players who also possess NCAA Tournament experience in upperclassmen Isaiah Armwood and Maurice Creek, though not at GW. Armwood was part of two NCAA teams at Villanova in 2009 and 2010, while Creek was a member of Indiana's 2013 Sweet 16 team.
Creek, a Third Team All-Atlantic 10 selection, leads the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game and his 78 three pointers are the second-most in one season in program history. Atlantic 10 Second Team and All-Defensive Team selection Armwood averages 12.5 points and a team-best 8.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. He is one of just two players in program history to record at least 500 points, 500 rebounds, 100 blocks, 100 assists and 50 steals at GW, doing so in just 62 games with the Buff and Blue.
The Colonials' 11-win turnaround from last season, tied as NCAA Division I's third-best improvement, can also be attributed to the growth of their star sophomore quartet. Forward Kevin Larsen was named the A-10 Chris Daniels Most Improved Player after providing 11.3 points and 7.0 rebounds in a team second-best 31.1 minutes per game.
Patricio Garino joined Creek on the A-10 Third Team and Armwood on the All-Defensive Team after averaging 12.2 points on 56 percent shooting, 4.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals in 25 games, including a team-best 14.8 points and 58 percent shooting in conference play.
Joe McDonald has been steady at point guard for GW, leading the team in assists (128) and steals (48), and ranking third in rebounds (143) and three pointers (25) while providing 8.3 points per game. Kethan Savage was a likely candidate for the A-10's Most Improved Player award until suffering a broken left foot in a win at St. Bonaventure on Jan. 18. Savage was averaging 13.4 points on 52 percent shooting, 4.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.9 steals at the time of his injury.
Senior Nemanja Mikic, one of five international players on GW's roster, chips in 4.9 points per game and is second on the team with 40 three pointers, including seven in the Colonials' recent two A-10 Championship games, to climb to fifth all-time in program history with 189 career triples.
GW is 8-6 this season against teams competing in the postseason, including a combined 5-6 against eight NCAA Tournament programs (W: Creighton, Manhattan, Massachusetts, Saint Joseph's, VCU; L: Dayton, Kansas State, Massachusetts, Saint Louis, VCU twice).
The Colonials and Tigers will meet for just the second time after GW defeated Memphis, 69-60, in the 1994 Preseason NIT consolation game at Madison Square Garden.
Like GW, Memphis has won six of its last 10 games and tied for third in its conference at 12-6 in its first season in the American Athletic Conference. UM is coming off a 72-53 loss to the UConn in the AAC quarterfinals last Thursday, March 13. Also similar to the Colonials, the Tigers have four victories against RPI Top 50 opponents (4-7) and have just one loss outside of the Top 100 (at Houston).
UM is third nationally in assists (17.4 apg) and seventh in steals (8.7 spg) due to its solid quartet of senior guards in Joe Jackson (4.5 apg, 1.6 spg), Michael Dixon Jr. (2.4 apg, 1.3 spg), Geron Johnson (3.6 apg, 1.3 spg) and Chris Crawford (2.9 apg, 1.5 spg). Jackson leads a trio of double-digit scorers for the Tigers at 14.3 points per game, followed by Dixon Jr.'s 11.8 points in just 22.9 minutes per game off the bench. Starting forward Shaq Goodwin adds 11.8 points and team-best 6.6 rebounds an outing.