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Kethan Savage

Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald celebrate in GW's win in the A-10 quarterfinals | Hatchet File Photo

Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald celebrate during GW’s win in the A-10 quarterfinals last season. Hatchet File Photo

This post was written by contributing editor Mark Eisenhauer.

It’s prediction time for men’s basketball.

Sports Illustrated was the latest to release its annual preseason predictions, projecting the men’s basketball team to finish fourth in the Atlantic 10 conference behind Virginia Commonwealth, Dayton and Massachusetts.

The Colonials will finish the season with a conference record of 11-7, according to the predictions, which were released Wednesday.

Using a statistical projection system, Sports Illustrated also predicted that juniors Kethan Savage, Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald would lead the team in scoring, in that order. Savage’s projected 14.2 points per game places him at No. 72 in the nation.

Garino, who averaged 12.1 points per game last year, is projected to improve his average to 12.3. Larsen is projected to score 11.5, just 0.1 points better than his average last season. Following an offseason hip surgery, McDonald is expected to average 8.7 points and four assists per game.

The Colonials’ top scorers would be rounded out by sophomore Nick Griffin, projected to score 6.9 points per game, followed by freshmen Yuta Watanabe and Matt Cimino with 5.5 and 5.3 points, respectively.

Sports Illustrated’s projections follow a slew of other preseason lists released in recent months, and many favorably rank the Colonials for the upcoming season.

Matt Norlander of CBS Sports sees GW finishing third in the conference. In his conference preview, Norlander also projected Savage to be a top A-10 guard, placing him on the preseason All-Atlantic 10 Team.

Five other CBS Sports college hoops experts also weighed in with their projected A-10 conference rankings. Chip Patterson, Jerry Palm and Jon Rothstein each have the Colonials finishing second over Dayton and behind VCU, while Gary Parrish has GW finishing third and Doug Gottlieb slates GW to finish fifth.

Beyond the A-10 rankings and regular season standings, USA Today Sports’ Scott Gleeson placed the Colonials in the NCAA tournament field of 68, projecting them to repeat last season with an at-large bid as a No. 9 seed. Gleeson ranked GW as the No. 35 team, and also predicted Savage will be the Colonials player to watch.

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Kethan Savage goes up for a dunk against VCU in a game last season. Hatchet File Photo.

Kethan Savage goes up for a dunk against VCU in a game last season. Hatchet File Photo.

Sports Illustrated has projected that men’s basketball guard Kethan Savage will be a top-100 scorer this upcoming season.

The prediction, which was released last week, has Savage ranked No. 72 with an anticipated scoring average of 14.2 points per game. He is predicted to account for 25 percent of GW possessions and have an overall offensive rating of 107.

Sports Illustrated used a statistical model to forecast points, rebounds and assists per game for all players in the top 11 conferences in NCAA Division I basketball by simulating the season 10,000 times.

Savage will return this season after rehabbing a fractured fifth metatarsal in his left foot, which took him out for eight weeks of last season and made him a non-factor in the Atlantic 10 Championship and NCAA Tournament. Savage was averaging 13.4 points per game on 52 percent shooting when he was injured last January.

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The expectations have begun.

A panel of Atlantic 10 head coaches and media members picked GW to finish second in the conference at basketball media day Tuesday, the best finish since GW was favored to win before the 2005-06 season and an eight-place leap from last season when the team was expected to finish 10th.

GW finished with 343 votes in the poll, behind unanimous first place pick VCU, which finished with 392 points. Junior guard/forward Patricio Garino was also picked for the Preseason All-Conference First Team as well as the All-Defensive team.

Garino wasn’t the only Colonial to will All-Conference honors: Junior forward Kevin Larsen made the Preseason All-Conference Second Team and junior guard Kethan Savage made the Preseason Third team.

Garino earned spots on the All-Conference Third team at the end of last season as well as the All-Defensive team after scoring a team-leading 12.8 points per game in conference play.

Larsen had a breakout performance last season, averaging 12.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in league play en route to the A-10’s most improved player award. He averaged 11.4 points per game for the season as a whole.

Savage could be one of this year’s breakout candidates, even as the team’s leading returning scorer, after a foot fracture caused him to miss most of the last 15 games of last season. He was averaging 13.4 points through 18 games.

The preseason poll heightens the buzz around the team after being picked slightly lower by offseason polls. SB Nation’s Mid-Major Madness had picked the Colonials to finish third behind VCU and Massachusetts, and CBS Sports college basketball writer Matt Norlander picked the team fifth behind Saint Joseph’s, Dayton, Richmond and VCU. The A-10 coaches and media picked Dayton to finish third followed by Massachusetts and then Richmond rounding out the top five.

GW equaled its second-most wins total in program history last year with 24, tied for third in the A-10 regular season and received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The team will be back in action Nov. 8 with an exhibition game against Bloomsburg.

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He was back.

For a minute in GW’s Atlantic 10 Championship semifinals match against VCU, fans got to see sophomore sensation Kethan Savage finally return to the court.

But a few dribbles and an awkward cut later, Savage was back on the Colonials bench, not to return. He would limp slowly back to the locker room and could be seen at practice Tuesday back in a boot.

Sophomore Kethan Savage played one minute against VCU's "havoc" defense. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Kethan Savage played one minute against VCU’s “havoc” defense. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

It’s not 100 percent yet that the guard will be out for GW’s second-round NCAA Tournament game against No. 8 Memphis Friday, but as of now, head coach Mike Lonergan’s game plan is to be without him.

He told reporters during practice Tuesday:

“I’m going into the game plan that we’re not going to have him. It’s been seven, seven-and-a-half weeks and we thought we were gonna play him four minutes the other night and it didn’t work out. He’s got a bright future ahead of him, two more years, so I’ll probably ask the trainer on Thursday and Friday what his thoughts are, but he’s not practicing or anything. And that’s probably the only thing I’m sad about this week, he really was having a monster year and helped us get to this point. And I’m not gonna lie, we’re not the same team without him.”

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Sophomore forward Kevin Larsen loses the ball against two VCU defenders Satruday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore forward Kevin Larsen loses the ball against two VCU defenders Satruday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Ben Krimmel, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

For the first 20 minutes Saturday, the Colonials weathered the storm.

But hampered by a fast-paced tempo and punishing inside play, GW crashed out of the Atlantic 10 Tournament at the hands of VCU.

There is no good time to play a very solid team like VCU, but there is a bad time to play them. And with a quick turnaround from last night’s punishing game against Massachusetts, Saturday afternoon was the wrong time for GW.

After a solid first half, GW entered the halftime interval down a bucket and converting 48.1 percent of its shots from the floor. The only blemish of the opening period was the sight of Kethan Savage limping back to the locker room, as the sophomore’s return to action entailed only one uneventful minute. (Savage never looked comfortable on the floor, and upon returning to the bench after his fleeting flash of action, looked rather relieved to get off his ailing foot.)

During halftime, head coach Mike Lonergan encouraged his team to keep getting the ball to his big men and continue the hot starts of senior Isaiah Armwood and sophomore Kevin Larsen, who combined for 18 points on 8-for-11 from the field.

But VCU was able to neutralize the inside play of the Colonials with their ox of a man: Mo Alie-Cox. Alie-Cox’s strength was immediately apparent as Larsen struggled to gain position on every possession and GW’s 6-foot-10 sophomore could only hope for a stalemate verse the ox.

After the half, Larsen and Armwood would score just five points (2-6 from the floor) as the 6-foot-6, 250 pound Alie-Cox asserted his dominance, grabbing six points and six rebounds during that span.

VCU head coach Shaka Smart was pleased with his 20-year-old’s defense: “He changed a lot of plays around the basket,” Smart said. “He’s credited for two blocks, but he changed so many more, and I thought he did a terrific job on the glass, as well.”

How terrific on the glass? Well GW managed just 11 second-half rebounds compared to 20 corralled by VCU. As the Colonials shooting percentage dipped to 33.3 percent in the second half, second-chance points disappeared with the GW hopes of playing on Sunday.

After the game, Armwood sat at the podium visibly disappointed and took the blame for the poor performance.

“The second half we didn’t do the job on the boards,” he said. “They are known for rebounding and we knew that coming into the game, we just didn’t put a body on them.”

Even with the daunting Alie-Cox and senior forward Juvonte Reddic — who grabbed 10 rebounds — fatigue is what got the Colonials in the end. Fatigued from playing two games in one 18-hour span after a long regular season played with a very short bench. GW may be glad not to have to play again for a few days.

And while there was postgame sulking from Armwood and his head coach, Sunday will be a historic day for the program, as GW will earn their first NCAA Tournament bid in seven years.

Lonergan said it best after the game: “We’ll be miserable for a few hours,” he said. “But I’ll wake up tomorrow and it will be a great day in my life.”

An invite to the dance is the best cure for the Colonials current woes.

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GW had nothing left in the tank.

After trailing the No. 23 team in the country by just two at halftime, shots stopped falling for the Colonials as VCU stayed hot on its way to a 74-55 victory.

GW will now have to wait until 6 p.m. Sunday to find out its fate in the NCAA Tournament. In ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s most recent bracket, the Colonials were picked as a No. 7 seed, taking on No. 8 Pittsburgh in Buffalo, N.Y.

“Disappointed with the loss. I thought it was a pretty good game for about two-thirds of the game,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “I think Nemanja [Mikic] hit a shot with 7:43 left and then after that we just struggled to score.”

The Colonials played the first six minutes without turning the ball over a single time. VCU’s pressure would not change, but the Colonials lost their ability to hold on to the ball. In the final 14 minutes of the half GW turned the ball over 11 times, mostly coming by way of errant and telegraphed passes. The Colonials ended the game with 15 turnovers off nine Ram steals.

GW handled the pressure of VCU’s press early on the game, though, best illustrated by the Colonials first possession of the game. Three crisp passes, first from sophomore Joe McDonald to graduate student Maurice Creek and then to a running Kevin Larsen led to a two-handed slam for senior Isaiah Armwood.

Armwood proved the spark for the Colonials early on, but as it did for the rest of GW, fatigue took its toll as the game progressed. In the first four minutes of the game, the senior scored seven points and grabbed three rebounds, appearing very comfortable in the paint and attacking VCU’s frontcourt on every possession.

“Early in the game we made all the right plays,” Armwood said. “It was the turning point in the game where it wasn’t necessarily them making us turn the ball over, we had some uncharacteristic turnovers that let them take the lead going into halftime and it continued in the second half.”

Senior Nemanja Mikic complemented Armwood’s first-half scoring. For the second straight game, Mikic became GW’s three-point threat, going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc in the first half to finish with 12 points in 16 minutes of play.

Struggling in the first half was Larsen, who had the added responsibility of being ball handler in the absence of Kethan Savage. Larsen turned the ball over five times in the half, but came alive in the second, scoring four straight points for GW to finish with 10.

VCU was led by junior forward Treveon Graham, who despite early foul trouble, still led the Rams with eight points at the half. Graham’s damage would be done in the second half, however, as he scored seven points in the first five minutes – just the beginning of a scoring tear that led to 22 points and four assists.

The Rams as a whole picked up their offense in the second half, seeming to heat up as the Colonials legs grew tired. After shooting 39.4 percent in the first half, VCU shot 56.5 percent in the second half, opening the half 5-for-6 from the field. Junior Briante Weber ran a fluid offense for the Rams, dishing out a game-high eight assists, while scoring 16 points.

The Colonials fought hard to stick with the Rams, but were ultimately unable to match the production and energy of VCU’s scorers. The Colonials limited their second half turnovers to four, but would only shoot 7-for-21 from the field, struggling to find open looks and convert attempts.

VCU’s success would also be found in their ability to out-rebound GW in the second half. After ending the first half tied at 17, VCU ultimately outrebounded the Colonials 37-28, leading to 12 second-chance points.

Senior Isaiah Armwood slams home a dunk Saturday for two of his team-high 15 points. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Senior Isaiah Armwood slams home a dunk Saturday for two of his team-high 15 points. | Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

“If you can outrebound GW by nine, that’s a heck of a feat,” head coach Shaka Smart said.

GW would also miss the production of McDonald and sophomore Patricio Garino, who combined for just nine points Saturday. Garino went scoreless in the first half and after a small offensive run in the second, would go silent for the Colonials finishing with six points on 2-of-9 shooting.

McDonald also struggled to shoot the ball, making just one field goal in the game. McDonald’s role Saturday was as primary ball handler, in which he did a more than exceptional job, but his beat-up body would take one too many hits as he left the game with 5:28 left to play after tweaking his ankle. McDonald returned for a short stint a couple minutes later, but would exit the game for good, fouling out of the game with 3:03 left to play.

“It might have been his ankle, which I felt good about since it wasn’t his hip,” Lonergan said. “I knew it would be tough, but he’s a warrior, he plays so hard and I didn’t have a lot of choices as you can see. Give VCU credit, they wore him out and wore all our team out, but hopefully he’ll be back by NCAA’s.”

Sophomore Kethan Savage made his first appearance since Jan. 18 after fracturing his foot against St. Bonaventure, but unfortunately, it was short lived as he played only one minute.

“He cut and he felt some soreness. I think he told the trainers to have me take him right out, so it was tough,” Lonergan said. “I feel bad, I’m hoping he’s alright and maybe a few more days.”

Sophomores Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino walk offthe court after GW's loss to VCU Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomores Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino walk offthe court after GW’s loss to VCU Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

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Ben Krimmel, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

Did you see him?

Were you able to spot him in the video running around a screen at the Colonials’ practice? No I’m not talking about GW head coach Mike Lonergan running the drill, but the player wearing the No. 21 shirt. Yeah, that guy. You remember his name?

Kethan Savage is back on the floor for the Colonials. Well, at least for practice.

Sophomore Kethan Savage drives past a Rhode Island defender earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

Sophomore Kethan Savage drives past a Rhode Island defender earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

The last time GW fans were able to see Savage running around the court was Jan. 18 during the game at St. Bonaventure when he broke his foot.

Before last Wednesday’s senior night victory over Saint Joseph’s, Savage was walking around the Smith Center without any limp or protective walking boot, which made it seem possible that he was close to a return.

After missing seven weeks, Lonergan would love to get the guard back and finally have six players that can contribute on offense.

But with GW’s positioning in the NCAA Tournament at “lock” status, there is no need to throw Savage back into the lineup before he is ready. While the sophomore may be lacking in-game sharpness, shoehorning him too quickly could delay his return to full health.

While Savage’s foot injury is different than sophomore Patricio Garino’s finger injury, Garino’s rough road to full health would be a good lesson.

After breaking his finger in the lead up to the start of the season, Garino missed GW’s first two games before entering an injury revolving door: in for two games, out for one, then in again for two more before missing nearly all of December. Garino has played in the last 19-straight contests since New Year’s Eve.

Playing Savage this weekend in Brooklyn is a matter of risk and reward: Does the reward of conference tournament success outweigh the risk of losing Savage for the remainder of the season?

As antsy as Savage looked to get back on the court during the past two months, I would make him wait another week before returning to action.

If Lonergan decides to use Savage, I’d expect him to play sparingly and likely not on back-to-back days. (If the Colonials continue to win, they would play three games in three days.)

Garino’s long absence in non-conference play in December came on the heels of playing two games in three days around the Thanksgiving holiday.

While Savage may be running low on patience, another week spent watching games in a shirt and tie is the best look for GW, as it keeps their high-flying guard available for the big dance.

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Saturday, March 8, 2014 12:11 p.m.

Savage set to return for A-10 Tournament

As GW fights for a top four seed Saturday against Fordham, they will do so knowing that breakout sophomore guard Kethan Savage will be returning for the Atlantic 10 tournament, according to ESPN.

ESPN insider Jeff Goodman first reported Friday that Savage will return to the Colonials lineup after missing the last 11 games with a broken foot.

Kethan Savage goes up for a dunk against VCU earlier this season. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

Kethan Savage goes up for a dunk against VCU earlier this season. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

According to the reports, Savage will play limited minutes in the conference tournament, but his return will be a huge boost to the thin bench that head coach Mike Lonergan has had to stretch.

Before Savage’s injury Jan. 18 during the final minutes of a game against St. Bonaventure, the Colonials were 15-3. Since then, GW is 7-4.

Savage will come back as the Colonials second leading scorer, averaging 13.4 points per game prior to his injury.

A win Saturday for the Colonials coupled with either a UMass or Saint Joseph’s loss Sunday, will give GW a top four finish and a double bye in next week’s tournament. A top four finish will give Savage an extra day to prepare for his return, while a fifth seed would give him an extra matchup at full game speed before the NCAA Tournament.

Further reports will be confirmed at the conclusion of Saturday’s game.

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WHO: GW (17-3, 5-1) vs. Dayton (13-8, 1-5)
WHERE: University of Dayton Arena
WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 1 @ 12:30 p.m.

Case for Dayton:

At the end of Novemvber, Dayton was 6-1 and just off a huge 84-79 win over a now 19-3 Gonzaga team. When the non-conference schedule was finished, the Flyers were up to 12-3, ready to take on the best the Atlantic 10 had to offer.

Unfortunately for the Flyers, the A-10′s best has been too much for them to handle, losing five of six conference games to the likes of Saint Louis, Richmond, VCU, Rhode Island and Saint Joseph’s.

Senior forward Isaiah Armwood will look to dominate the paint Saturday, with his team's backcourt depleted with injury. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

Senior forward Isaiah Armwood will look to dominate the paint Saturday, with his team’s backcourt depleted with injury. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

To get back on track against GW Saturday, Dayton will have to do so with its offense. The Flyers rank first in the A-10 in field goal percentage (.475) and second in three-point field goal percentage (.378). Additionally, sophomore Khari price (.443) and junior Jordan Sibert (.434) rank second and third in the league, respectively, in percentage from beyond the arc.

The Flyers dont have any one dominant scorer, but they do spread the ball well, averaging 13 assists a game to get three players – Devin Oliver (12.2 ppg), Dyshawn Pierre (12 ppg) and Silbert (12 ppg) – into double figures.

With Joe McDonald and Kethan Savage both out, the last thing GW wants is for Saturday to turn into a shootout. But if it does, the struggling Flyers will certainly have the edge.

If it turns into a close one down the stretch, look for the more than 12,000 Dayton fans – first in the A-10 in average attendance – to potentially make the difference.

Case for GW:

GW may be a remarkable 10-0 at home this season, but entering University of Dayton Arena will be a completely different – and hostile – environment.

To get the win, over a still strong Flyers’ team, the Colonials will need the continued frontcourt dominance of Isaiah Armwood and Kevin Larsen, as well as veteran performance from graduate student Maurice Creek.

Creek knows that without Savage and McDonald, he will be given a huge number of the backcourt responsibilities, including guarding smaller, quicker guards and running plays from the top of the key. If Creek is able to find open shots, while also controlling the offense for extended periods, he could help carry his team to victory.

There to help carry the load will be the enforcers: Armwood and Larsen. The two have been unstoppable of late, with the Blockness Monster coming off 16 point, 14 rebound night against La Salle, and Larsen averaging 16.6 points per game over the last five matchups. Their presence in the paint will be huge with the depleted backcourt and in winning the all-important rebounding battle.

Dayton ranks first in the A-10, allowing just 31 boards per game, but GW holds a slightly higher rebounding margin and average. If this game boils down to success on the glass, the edge looks to tip in favor of the Colonials.

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Freshman guard Miguel Cartagena looks to go around a VCU defender earlier this month. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

Freshman guard Miguel Cartagena looks to go around a VCU defender earlier this month. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

Ben Krimmel, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

On a basketball court, freshman Miguel Cartagena doesn’t look very imposing. He’s listed as 6-foot, but that might be stretching it. He often looks a bit unsure of himself when taking the ball up the court, or at least, he looks like a freshman.

But Cartagena could be the man that can help GW fans from losing their minds without sophomore Kethan Savage.

Cartagena can’t replace Savage and shouldn’t attempt to play like him. Rather, starting tonight against La Salle, the freshman should emulate the style of play of the once-struggling junior John Kopriva.

During Saturday’s win at George Mason, Cartagena would advance the ball up the court and immediately peer over his shoulder to get instructions from his head coach. The offense was methodical, slow and a few times a better defender could have knocked the ball away from him when he was distracted and looking for guidance.

Now, in Cartagena’s defense, he was virtually on his own, as Nemanja Mikic, John Kopriva, Paris Maragkos and Nick Griffin provided little off the ball movement. During this reserve only time on the floor, Cartagena shot 1-5 with two turnovers and two personal fouls.

In 17 minutes, Kopriva forward had six boards, two points, and added two steals. Kopriva isn’t going to dazzle with sensational scoring numbers, rather his game Saturday was to fill space on defense and rebound. (Based on my last round of GW predictions, expect Kopriva to pour in at least 15 Wednesday night.)

Cartagena just needs to play smart and play a clean game. No one is expecting him to make any all-rookie teams. But if he can control the ball and keep a steady tempo, the rest of the squad can take it away.

Whenever he gets the chance, the freshman should feed the ball to sophomore forward Kevin Larsen. Larsen has responded to criticism following a poor shooting night (3-10 from the field) against La Salle last time with a run of four excellent performances.

The Colonials will look for their fifth straight victory tonight. If GW hopes to survive a lethargic first half, they’ll need another dominating second half when they shoot 66.7 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the arc.

But if the Savage-less Colonials are unable to overcome any offensive sluggishness and fall (again) to La Salle, concern shouldn’t compound with Savage’s gradual march to the locker-room. With a third of the season remaining, GW still have some budding playmakers it can count on.

This post was updated Jan. 29, 2014 at 5:05 p.m. to reflect the following:
Correction appended
The Hatchet misspelled Paris Maragkos’ last name.

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