What: GW (21-11, 11-8 A-10, 1-0 Tournament) vs. Rhode Island (21-8, 13-5 A-10, 0-0 Tournament)
When: Friday, March 13 at 9 p.m.
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY, NBCSN
The Ides of March are nearly upon us, and in college basketball terms that means throw out the rule book and your expectations with it.
Still, the Colonials will play their first Atlantic 10 championship game as an underdog Friday in a matchup with No. 3-seed Rhode Island after beating No. 11-seed Duquesne Thursday night.
Rhode Island is a much stronger team than the Dukes, but also a very different one. The Rams rely on their defense, the best in the A-10 and 19th in the nation at 59.4 points per game allowed, but sometimes struggle to score with just two scorers in double figures.
If the Colonials can get the win Friday night, they’ll have to take on the winner of No. 2-seed Dayton and No. 7-seed St. Bonaventure in the semifinals.
The Case for the Rams:
GW was forced to prepare for a block party in Brooklyn after Duquesne tied a tournament record with 12 blocks in their first round game, but wound up being the dominant presence inside as the Dukes blocked just five shots.
The party may, however, just have been postponed. Hassan Martin, a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward, leads the A-10 and is ranked seventh in the country with three blocks per game. Kevin Larsen showed what he can do when he plays big against Duquesne, throwing his body around for 10 points and 15 rebounds, but Martin will be a bigger challenge to contain and combat.
Rhode Island, also, will be coming in with fresh legs off a double-bye while the Colonials won’t even have a full 24 hours of rest.
Extra energy for the A-10′s fifth-best scorer E.C. Matthews isn’t what GW is looking for, but even if they shut him and Martin, who has the league’s best field goal percentage at 64 percent, down it was all-rookie selection Jared Terrell who had six steals, 17 points and four rebounds in 29 minutes when these two teams met last. Rhode Island is 12-0 when Terrell scores more than 10 points.
The Rams won that game 59-55 and forced 21 turnovers. The Colonials were stingy with the ball Thursday, committing just seven turnovers, but Rhode Island’s defense is on another level from Duquesne.
The Case for the Colonials:
Junior point guard Joe McDonald said that vengeance played an important role in the second-round win over Duquesne. That will be the case again on Friday after the Colonials blew a five-point lead late in their regular season matchup with the Rams.
That loss, though, actually doesn’t seem too bad for GW’s chances Friday. The Colonials missed four straight free throws down the stretch in that game and Rhode Island, normally a poor free throw shooting team, went 20-22 from the line in the best free throw shooting day in team history. It may be Friday the 13th, but it doesn’t get unluckier than it did in back on that day in January.
The 1-3-1 was deadly for the Rams, who missed all but one of 14 three point shots, and the Colonials will look to disrupt them like that again.
If they can do that, recent history says they should be able to out-pace Rhode Island for the upset. GW has been on a scoring tear lately, averaging 80 points over their last two contests and making 10 or more threes in four of their last five games.