March Madness outlook: George Washington

March Madness outlook: George Washington
February 17, 2014, 1:15 am
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Not sure how this happened, but there are just three weeks remaining in the college basketball regular season. Before we realize Selection Sunday is upon us, it's time once again to gauge the current conference and NCAA Tournament outlook for the local programs. First up, the George Washington Colonials.

George Washington (19-6, 7-4 Atlantic 10)

The good: The Colonials are 2-3 versus the current RPI top-50 (Creighton, VCU), 6-3 against teams in the top 100 and 5-2 against power conference programs. Their current RPI (36) is very attractive. 

The bad: Outside of the act of losing, the negatives are not that onerous; five of the six losses have come versus teams that were ranked at one point this season. For the first time all season GW has dropped back-to-back games, but at VCU (RPI 22) and versus UMass (19). Unless these two losses start a streak of four, five or more, not much to see here - and that's a good thing.

Atlantic 10 chase: Any hopes of the regular season title realistically ended with Saturday against UMass. The Colonials are tied for fifth with UMass, 3 1/2 games behind 1st place St. Louis. 

The real battle is for a top-4 finish, which means a double bye in the Atlantic 10 tournament. GW sits one game behind second place VCU and one-half game back of St. Joseph's and Richmond, which hosts the Colonials on Tuesday. Dayton is 1 1/2 games back of GW. Excluding St. Louis, here are the schedules for the remaining contenders. 

VCU: @UMass, @Fordham, St. Louis, @Richmond, St. Bonaventure

St. Joe's: @RI, Fordham, Dayton, @St. Bonaventure, @GW, La Salle

Richmond: GW, La Salle, @Mason, @RI, VCU, @Dayton

UMass: VCU, RI, @Dayton, @Duquesne, St. Louis

GW: @Richmond, @St. Louis, Mason, St. Joe's, @Fordham

Dayton: La Salle, @Duquesne, @ St. Joe's, UMass, @St. Louis, Richmond

St. Joseph's has the easiest schedule on paper with only one game against a top-6 team, though that's at the Smith Center where the Colonials are 12-1 this season. There are some potential issues for UMass and Richmond, but those tricky games are at home. Dayton has the toughest road with its final four games against teams ahead of them in the standings followed by VCU and GW. Getting a split over the next two games (@Richmond, @St. Louis) should put the Colonials in strong position for a top-4 slot considering the relative ease of the final three games (Fordham and George Mason are a combined 4-18 in the A-10).

Outlook: NCAA Tournament bracketology types had GW in the 7-8 seed line entering this week. Again, there is no shame in losing to VCU and UMass, but losses are losses so there will be a drop, likely minor, in the next round of projections. As was the case with the last March Madness outlook, the biggest concern stems from the team's health and depth. Second-leading scorer Kethan Savage (foot) remains on crutches. Without him, the Colonials are essentially a five-player team or six if senior Nemanja Mikic is knocking down shots. That core won four of five immediately after Savage's injury. With swingman Patricio Garino playing at an All-Conference of late plus the interior pair of Isaiah Armwood and Kevin Larsen, sniffing if not matching that pace over the final five games isn't impossible. It would be rather helpful for the conference and NCAA seeding hopes if they do.