Finally, GW is back in the Madness of March

Finally, GW is back in the Madness of March
March 16, 2014, 8:45 pm
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(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

George Washington has waited since 2007 for a return to the NCAA Tournament.

The selection show made them a while longer before making the obvious a reality: The Colonials are indeed back in the ultimate March Madness event.

After posting a 24-8 through the Atlantic Tournament, the Colonials enter the NCAA's as the No. 9 seed in the East Region. They will face No. 8 Memphis on Friday in Raleigh, tipping at 6:55 p.m. (TBS). The winner meets either top seed Virginia or No. 16 Coastal Carolina on Sunday.

The blue and buff dressed team, along with head coach Mike Lonergan and his family, sat in the front rows of the Colonials Club, inside the Smith Center, glued to the big screen televised activity. Well, when the players weren't looking down at the various mobile devices, of course.

It took most of the hour long televised show to let players, coaches and fans that gathered know where they were headed. The East was the last of the four regions revealed. Finally, George Washington's name popped up on the screen. Instantly, all in the room popped out of their chairs. The celebrating could begin, finally.

"I got a little nervous when it took so long to call our name," said sophomore swingman Patricio Garino, one of many members of the team set to make his first NCAA Tournament appearance. "I got a little sweaty about it. After the [reveal] there was happiness and excitement in the whole room."

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Garino started throughout last season when the Colonials went 13-17. This campaign, one in which they finished tied for third in an Atlantic 10 conference that sent six teams into the NCAAs, they did a whole lot better.

This feeling is a dream come true," Garino continued. "None of us could have imagined last year we could be here."

Memphis went 22-9 overall and 12-6 in the first season of the American Athletic Conference. Nobody on GW's side seemed terribly familiar with the Tigers' roster that handed Louisville its last loss. Well, except for a certain power forward that used to call Foggy Bottom home.

David Pellom played at GW from 2009-12 before sitting out last season with an injury. Pellom averaged 10 points as a junior, then went to Memphis as a graduate transfer this past offseason.

"It was an exciting feeling," senior forward Isaiah Armwood about finally learning GW's slot in the Field of 68. "Memphis on top of that. Get to play against my friend and ex-teammate David. It should be a fun game."

Isaiah, any other insight on the Tigers?

"They have real good guard play," he continued. "I know they got that one big guy. I don't know his name but I know he has dreads."

Over the next few days, there will be a name attached to that hair as the coaches and players pour over game film and design game plans.

There will also be a message passed down to the younger players from Armwood and guard Maurice Creek, the only two Colonials with any previous NCAA Tournament experience. Arwmood went twice with Villanova before transferring to George Washington, Creek with Indiana.

"Have fun first of all, but play hard," said Armwood, who was named to the All-A10 second team and defensive team "Play as hard as you can because this could possibly be our last game."

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At this point in the process, it appears Armwood is ahead of his coach concerning all things Memphis, though Lonergan is familiar with head coach Josh Pastner. The Tigers reached the NCAA's for a fourth straight year.

Memphis might have the experience edge, but GW has been on alert all season. None of the Colonials losses this season has come against teams outside the RPI top 100.

"We've been pretty focused this year," Lonergan said. "First time in my career I think that never had a bad loss, what I consider a bad loss."

Considering how long the program has waited to get back to the ultimate March Madness, Lonergan and his players do not intend to suffer a loss now.