GW: Sunny forecast for Foggy Bottom program

GW: Sunny forecast for Foggy Bottom program
March 23, 2014, 2:30 pm
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(Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports)

With George Washington's turnaround season coming to a close with Friday's NCAA Tournament loss to Memphis, we look ahead to the Foggy Bottom program's 2014-15 scenario.

What's gone: Isaiah Armwood's interior presence and relentless confidence served as the backbone of GW's turnaround season. Maurice Creek - and his perimeter game - joining the program this campaign proved to be the missing piece. In the Atlantic 10 Tournament, Nemanja Mikic flashed his 3-point shooting skills.

How the Colonials go about replacing the trio will go a long way toward their determining their fortunes next season.

The 6-foot-9 Armwood led GW in rebounds and blocks, ranked third in scoring. His leadership qualities went far beyond mere stats. 

Creek, who made 40 percent of his 3-point attempts, and Mikic accounted for 64 percent of the Colonials' made 3's (120 of 187). Besides his long range prowess, Creek topped the team in free throw percentage (75.0). All three ranked among GW's top seven players in minutes per game.

What's back: Get excited, Colonial nation. Head coach Mike Lonergan certainly is about the core group of four sophomores who will return next season as juniors.

The A-10 coaches selected center Kevin Larsen (11.4 ppg, 6.9 rbg) as the conference's Most Improved Player. Named to the league's All-Defensive team, swingman Patricio Garino (12.1 ppg, 1.6 spg) is GW's best all-around player. Tough guy point guard Joe McDonald dishes (4.1 apg) and defends. Kethan Savage finished second in scoring despite missing the final 14 games with a fractured foot.

Projecting any or all of those players on various All-Conference teams next season isn't a stretch. Because of that impressive core, projecting the Colonials near the top of the A-10 next season isn't either.

The biggest concern for the quartet involves health and goes beyond Savage. After battling hip pain all season, McDonald is expected to undergo surgery in the coming days. Garino (finger) missed seven games this campaign and toughed out knee issues as a freshman.

The biggest concerns overall involves replacing Armwood inside and improving their bench production. Power forward John Kopriva, who will be the roster's only senior, could get first chance to take over the starting slot. Lonergan trusts his first GW recruit, but ultimately he's more about hustle plays than scoring plays. Paris Maragkos, the fifth member of the 2012 recruiting class, averaged three minutes per game.

Nick Griffin finished fourth in made 3-pointers, though he'll need to improve his ball-handling and defense to receive steadier minutes. Fellow sophomore Miguel Cartagena provided energy as McDonald's backup. Those four returning reserves combined for 5.5 points per game. GW's bench was outscored 25-3 in its NCAA Tournament loss to Memphis.

Transfer Ryan McCoy (Manhattan) becomes eligible this season and joins fellow walk-on forward Skyler White on the roster.

What's new: Another large and formidable recruiting class for Lonergan including two with local ties. Four of the five are graded three star prospects by ESPN, including 6-foot-9 center Matt Cimino. The Maine product verbal committed to GW on Selection Sunday rather than accept offers from Georgia and Georgia Tech. 6-foot-7 forward, Japanese-born Yutu Watanabe adds to the roster's international mix.

Three signed Letters of Intent in the fall: Point guard Paul Jorgensen, wing forward Anthony Swan (Bowie/Princeton Day) and 6-foot-3 Darian Bryant (St. John's College High School), whose position on the next level is uncertain (power guard?) but whose hoops instincts are solid enough to earn minutes. All five could comprise GW's primary reserves next season.