While everyone else’s attention is focused on the big NCAA basketball tournament, last night my attention was focused on a slightly less prestigious college basketball tournament. No, I’m not talking about the NIT. Even less prestigious than that. Last night, I had a ticket to see the George Washington Colonials take on the Virginia Commonwealth Rams in the third annual College Basketball Invitational (CBI) tournament.
Much like the football bowls seem to reward any school a step above mediocrity, college basketball now apparently invites any team that can finish above .500 to a postseason tournament of sorts.
I did some (very) brief research on VCU, and they weren’t bad, and probably should have been invited to the NIT. (Not that it’s especially thrilling to go to the NIT, but with teams like UConn and North Carolina in it this year, and the final played in Madison Square Garden, it is definitely a step up)
I’m not sure why GW was given the home game. GW didn’t draw well all season, and for this game, the students were on Spring Break. I’m guessing there aren’t too many students who would pass up trips in order to watch the CBI. Since VCU is relatively local, they had a large contingent of fans present, and I’d say the split was about an even 50-50.
One early highlight: Near the beginning of each game, the cheerleaders come around with free pizzas to the people cheering the loudest. I’ve tried to win one before, but with such a sparse crowd, this was my chance to shine. I hadn’t had Domino’s Pizza since they changed their recipe, and I have to say it’s a huge improvement. Still not as good as Papa John’s, but much better.
I got a kick out of the announcement that the entire CBI would be shown on HDNet (it’s a real channel), and if your cable company doesn’t carry HDNet, “call and ask them to.” I’m guessing that Comcast won’t be receiving too many calls from irate customers who can’t watch the CBI.
Another quick rant: At every game, they have a “dance contest” where they scan the crowd for people dancing and the crowd cheers for which person they like the best. The thing is, every single time, they show a little kid dancing, and the kid ends up winning. I guess it’s cute and all, but can we get some variety please? Does the little kid always have to win?
As far as the game goes, VCU shot the ball incredibly well in getting out to a large first half lead. GW had a bunch of open looks, but couldn’t seem to convert. Midway through the second half, GW started upping their defensive intensity, and got some turnovers and easy baskets. They cut the lead to 2 points, but as often happens when teams make comebacks, once they got close, they seemed to lose their edge.
VCU went on another run, fueled by the fact that GW had trouble inbounding the ball and getting open shots against the VCU defensive press. With only two minutes left, things looked hopeless, but once again GW went on a run. Sadly, it was too little too late, as VCU got the job done from the free throw line to seal the win.
The VCU crowd was vocal, but nowhere near as obnoxious as the busload of St. Joseph’s fans who had come in two weeks before. Those guys had about a thousand different cheers and didn’t seem to shut up the entire game. And honestly, I blame the GW student section for allowing a visiting team crowd to take over their gym.
Maybe this is a case of “in my day, things were better,” but it felt like in my tenure at GW (1996-2000) the student section was a lot louder and wilder. Hey, we practically ruined Virginia Tech star Ace Custis’ season by constantly chanting “CBA” at him. We also took the vulgarity of Gary Glitter’s Rock and Roll Part II to a new level, causing the school administration from banning the song from being played.
Anyway, the student section these days is tame, and barely heard. Just about the only cheer you hear is the lame “Let’s go Gee Dub!” over and over again. Not exactly inspiring.
I’m not sure what caused the change. Could it be that the school wanted to change it’s culture since they’ve aspired to be a “Top 50” school? Along with banning Rock and Roll Part II, they also did away with the “G! W!” cheer mostly because instead of “W” the students would scream “Spot!” There are other possible reasons for the tepid student section: It’s possible that because GW was so horrible the previous two seasons that the students don’t know what a winning crowd is like. Traditions are usually handed down from one class to another, and aside from this year’s seniors, the students have never seen a winning team. Or it could just be that they’re a bunch of rich kids who can’t do any better.
With the loss, GW’s season is officially over. While it’s hard to qualify it as a success, it was a step in the right direction after the horrendousness of the past two years. At least they had a winning record – fueled by a soft non-conference schedule, but a winning record nonetheless – and qualified for both the conference tournament (baby steps) and another postseason tournament. With some talented youngsters on the team, I could actually see GW getting some bubble talk next year.
While GW’s season may be over, Temple is still alive, playing in the NCAA tournament. Except when it came to seeding, Temple was absolutely screwed. I was expecting a 4 seed, and hoping for a 3 seed, but instead, they got a 5 seed. Here is the team’s resume:
– They won the regular season and conference tournaments of what most people had ranked as the 6th best conference in the country, and far and away the best non-BCS conference.
– Tied for the most road wins in the country.
– Tough non-conference schedule, with wins over Villanova (a 2 seed!) and Siena, and losses to Kansas (1 seed) and Georgetown (1 seed).
– Ended the season on a 10 game winning streak.
Basically, everything the tournament committee says they look for, Temple had. And yet, they got underseeded. Why did it happen?
First off, a non-BCS team is apparently never going to get the benefit of the doubt. Ever since George Mason’s run to the Final Four, things have been more stacked in the money conferences’ favor.
Also, it became apparent that since the Atlantic 10 championship game was played Sunday afternoon, and both Temple and Richmond were already in the field, the result of that game didn’t matter. They probably just seeded both as if they lost the game which meant a 4 seed for Temple, and a 7 seed for Richmond.
But then the committee saw that if they just tweaked things a bit, Temple coach Fran Dunphy could be matched against his former assistant coach Steve Donahue, who coaches at Cornell. Most people said that Cornell should have been about a 10 or 11 seed, but to deliver a “hot” first round matchup, the seeds were tweaked. So not only was Temple underseeded, but they have to play an underseeded opponent on top of it.
The one positive is that the media has hopped aboard the Cornell bandwagon, and they seem to be the “hot” upset pick that everyone is touting. And in most years, the hot upset pick usually ends up losing. So the Owls have that going for them.
But regardless, the seeding is done, and it’s time to play basketball. Go Owls!