Earlier in the week we provided Santa with Christmas present suggestions for the Georgetown Hoyas. Now, New Year's wishes for George Washington along with George Mason, American and Maryland.
1) "Clean bill of health" for Patricio Garino: The most impressive part of the Colonials 10-1 start? That it's come largely without notable contribution from their most well rounded player. The 6-foot-6 Garino, selected to the Atlantic 10's preseason all-defensive team, has played only four games following surgery on a broken finger shortly before season opener. The sophomore swingman then re-injured the finger and hasn't played since GW's upset win over No 20 Creighton on Dec. 1. Garino, who the team hopes will return before the start of Atlantic 10 action, averaged 8.8.points and a team-high 2.3 steals last season. The Manu Ginobili disciple is a lockdown defender, a quality scorer and not just another piece for coach Mike Lonergan's rotation, which has proven capable of netting quality wins already.
2) "At least two wins" before start of conference play: The Colonials have three conference games remaining before their Atlantic 10 season opener on January 9 at LaSalle: at Hofstra (Saturday), at Kansas State (Dec. 31) and home versus Georgia (January 3). Winning all or the majority of these isn't so much about résumé help - though victories over two power conference programs including one on the road wouldn't hurt. The Colonials already own a handful of impressive victories over power conference programs Creighton, Maryland and Miami. The Colonials are 2-0 against teams (Creighton, Manhattan) currently in the RPI top 50. By comparison, Georgetown and Maryland are a combined 1-5.
No, this is about momentum entering conference action. Currently George Washington and UMass own the best overall records among A-10 teams at 10-1 with Saint Louis and VCU not far behind. The Colonials are a confident crew right now and will need to maintain that edge if they're to finish the A-10 season among the top teams.
3) Finding number nine: Even with Garino, the Colonials aren't the deepest bunch. Besides the 3-point shooting Nemanja Mikic and energy power forward John Kopriva, there aren't many alternatives for Lonergan outside of his top eight players. Lack of depth hasn't hurt the Colonials much so far, though they were constantly one man short in the second half against Maryland after center Kevin Larsen fouled out. At some point if not multiple times later this season, guards Nick Griffin and Miguel Cartegna or perhaps forward Paris Maragkos will be tasked with joining the fray in key moments.
* George Mason - The Patriots (6-6) figure out how to get Patrick Holloway and Sherrod Wright sinking shots in the same game. During three games in the just completed Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, Holloway made 12 of 20 3-pointers and averaged 15.3 points - nearly double his season average. Wright, George Mason's leading scorer (13.5), had a nightmarish trip as the Patriots went 1-2. The senior wing scored 15 points over the three games, never made a 3-pointer, finished 4 of 21 from the field and briefly lost his starting gig. Both guards are capable of scoring bursts. For a team that ranks 312th nationally in scoring (65.3 ppg), it would be helpful if they could go off in the same game here and there.
* American - The Eagles (3-7) can survive the road. Through 10 games, they're 2-1 at Bender Arena, 1-6 elsewhere. Let's note five of their next six games are "elsewhere" including four Patriot League games. The good news for coach Mike Brennan's squad is the play 8 of their final 13 games at home.
* Maryland - Dan Martin handles all things Terps as those familiar with the site and Twitter are well aware. Therefore I won't weigh in with anything more than the obvious: Baby New Year needs to bring coach Mark Turgeon "stability" at point guard. The position has a Spinal Tap drummer sense of inevitable doom since Turgeon took over in 2011. The legend of injured guard Seth Allen grows with each game missed to the point of irrationality. Still, having another viable option along with freshman Roddy Peters should help steady the situation and let Maryland's other players, notably Dez Wells, do what they do.