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Mike Lonergan

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Nora Princiotti

For the first time in over 20 years, the men’s basketball team will play the University of Virginia during the regular season.

Announced Monday by head coach Mike Lonergan, the two teams have agreed to play against each other in a home-and-home deal during out of conference play over the next two seasons.

The Colonials will travel to Charlottesville, Va. next season to face the Cavaliers on Nov. 21. The following season, Virginia will pay a visit to the Smith Center in a matchup scheduled for Nov. 16, 2015.

Sophomores Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino walk off the court after GW's A-10 Championship loss. They'll need to bring their best next season to take down Virginia. Hatchet File Photo

Sophomores Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino walk off the court after GW’s A-10 Championship loss. They’ll need to bring their best next season to take down Virginia. Hatchet File Photo

The Smith Center has hosted just seven Atlantic Coast Conference opponents since it opened in 1975, the latest being Georgia Tech in 1988.

The addition of Virginia to GW’s non-conference schedule next season will undoubtedly bolster their strength of schedule and marks the team’s second-straight matchup against the previous season’s ACC champions. GW defeated 2013 ACC champion Miami in the Wooden Legacy Tournament last November

“Our goal is to play a schedule that is challenging and puts us in a position for a berth to the NCAA Tournament every season,” Lonergan said in a press release. “It’s going to be an exciting regional rivalry for our players, students, alumni and fans.”

The two programs have not faced each other in the regular season since 1984, with the most recent matchup being a 79-66 Virginia win in the first round of the 2004 NIT. History puts the Colonials and Cavaliers relatively on par, with GW having taken 23 out of 48 matchups between the two schools.

Virginia, like GW, is coming off a banner year in which it won both the ACC regular season title and championship title – the first time since 1976. Virginia made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament and finished the season ranked No. 10 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Cavaliers have been ranked as high as No. 7 ESPN’s early preseason poll for 2014-2015, meaning it will be a tough test even for a GW team that equaled its second-most wins – 24 – in program history last year and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The deal shows the growing respect the Atlantic-10 conference is gaining after sending six teams to the big dance this past season. The conference has had its fair share of skeptics in recent months. In March, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski made headlines when he said that the A-10 was getting more credit than it deserved, adding that the competition within the A-10 was weaker than the ACC.

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This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Nora Princiotti.

The men’s basketball team recruited two more highly-touted players, the athletics department announced Thursday, with Matt Cimino and Yuta Watanabe signing National Letters of Intent.

Cimino, the big man from Worcester Academy, posted 13.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in his senior season as a Hilltopper. One of the top 25 centers in the 2014 recruiting class, the three-star recruit could make an immediate impact filling in for graduating senior Isaiah Armwood. With his 6-foot-10 frame and solid outside shooting skills, he will serve as a strong counterpart in the frontcourt alongside sophomore Kevin Larsen.

“Matt is a very skilled post player who can stretch the defense with his outside shooting,” head coach Mike Lonergan said in a release. “He has a nice inside-outside game and with continued hard work in the weight room he will become a very good player for us.”

Watanabe is another three-star recruit who will bring solid international experience and a smooth stroke to the Colonials lineup. Originally from Japan, Watanabe averaged 13 points and six rebounds in a 26-8 season at St. Thomas More Prep, making it to the National Prep Championship game, where he scored a team-high 25 points to cap off his first season in the U.S. Back in Japan last May, the 6-foot-8 forward played for the Japanese National Team in the FIBA East Asia Championships.

“Yuta is a very versatile player who can play several positions,” Lonergan said in the release. “He has the ball-handling and shooting abilities of a guard and the athleticism and height of a forward. We expect him to make an immediate impact for us because of his combination of skills.”

Both players will have opportunities to impact next year’s squad, though physical development is a must. Both Cimino and Watanabe are listed at only 200 lbs.

The recruits, which also includes NLI signees Darian Bryant, Paul Jorgensen and Anthony Swan, will join a team coming off a 24-9 season and trip to the NCAA tournament. The Colonials will strive to fill the holes left by the team’s leading scorer, graduate student guard Maurice Creek, and its captain, Armwood, who averaged 12.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.

“All five of our signees are very talented and driven, and we expect them to mesh well with our returning players to help us continue to build the program and capitalize on the success of the 2013-14 season,” Lonergan said.

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Head coach Mike Lonergan talks to his bench during the A-10 Tournament earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

Head coach Mike Lonergan talks to his bench during the A-10 Tournament earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

Updated: Saturday, March 28 at 9:49 a.m.

After leading GW on an 11-game improvement and a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven years, men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan is being rewarded.

The third-year head coach is set to have his contract renewed through the 2020-21 season, according to early reports from CBSSports.com’s Jon Rothstein. The news was officially announced by the University Friday morning.

“When I was hired at GW three years ago it fulfilled a career-long dream to coach at the highest level of college basketball,” Lonergan said in a press release. “Having had the opportunity to return to my roots and once again coach in the area where I grew up, it’s now my truest hope that this will be where I retire.

In his three years at GW, Lonergan has accumulated a 47-43 record, with the Colonials resurgence to recognition this year undoubtedly being the highlight. His 2013-14 squad finished third this season in the six-bid Atlantic 10, after being picked to finish 10th out of 13 teams in the preseason poll.

“As we continue to strengthen our athletic program, it is important to look well into the future. Securing strong, stable leadership for our men’s basketball program was a high priority. Mike has succeeded in bringing high quality young men to GW, and we are proud of how they have developed both on and off the court,” Director of Athletics and Recreation Patrick Nero said in a press release. “We want this past season to be the foundation for a basketball program that can continue to grow and flourish under Mike’s leadership for many years to come.”

No details of the contract were listed in the release.

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The offseason is only three days old and change is already coming to the men’s basketball team.

Sophomore forward Paris Maragkos has been granted a release to transfer from the program, the athletics department announced Monday.

Then-men's basketball freshman Paris Maragkos competes in Colonial Invasion's military challenge in 2012. Hatchet File Photo

Then-men’s basketball freshman Paris Maragkos competes in Colonial Invasion’s military challenge in 2012. Hatchet File Photo

In his short career at GW, Maragkos averaged 1.1 points and 3.3 minutes over 45 games. The 6-foot-9 forward struggled to find playing time in head coach Mike Lonergan’s rotation, often settling for minimal minutes at the end of games. The Greece native never fully developed into the dynamic player the coaching staff expected and was quickly overshadowed by the maturation of his fellow sophomore teammates.

Maragkos, though, has excelled in the classroom during his two years at GW, twice being named to the Athletic Academic Dean’s List in the past two seasons.

“We’d like to thank Paris for his two years in our program. He was a pleasure to coach and our entire coaching staff and team wish him the best in the future,” head coach Mike Lonergan said in a press release.

Now with an empty roster spot, Lonergan has the ability to bring another high-level transfer to GW, something that he has as done exceptionally well in the past with the additions of senior Isaiah Armwood and graduate student Maurice Creek.

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Friday, March 21, 2014 3:50 p.m.

The Hatchet’s March Madness drinking game

If you get through the drinking game, make sure, make sure to stay on your feet. Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

If you get through the drinking game, make sure, make sure to stay on your feet. Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

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

NCAA Tournament basketball is magical, especially when your team hasn’t been in the big dance in seven years.

But basketball nirvana is also nerve-wracking. When GW tips off against Memphis, you’ll be an anxious mess. Best take off the edge with plenty of alcohol.

Everybody wins with The Hatchet’s drinking game — a little game to help you get through GW’s first 40 minutes of March Madness.

Take a drink:

If the announcers make any political reference.

When your mom texts you asking if you are watching the game.

Every time Nemanja Mikic dribbles the ball.

Whenever announcers mention GW’s win over Creighton.

Every time a GW player pump-fakes.

Get a second drink:

If Charles Barkley says something outlandish.

Take a shot:

Any time President Barack Obama or the White House is mentioned.

Every time Mike Lonergan is shown doing a silly hand motion.

Whenever Isaiah Armwood dunks.

For every Patricio Garino steal.

Every time the announcers wax poetic about Maurice Creek’s comeback.

Finish your drink:

If anybody mentions their bracket being busted.

Stand in the shower and shotgun a Natural Ice:

Any time the announcers say Georgetown instead of GW.

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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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GW players and fans celebrate as GW is given a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament's East region. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

GW players and fans celebrate as GW is given a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament’s East region. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

Updated March 16, 2014 at 10 p.m.

For the first time in seven years, the men’s basketball team is going dancing.

After waiting through three regions of announcements, the Colonials were announced as the No. 9 seed in the East region of the NCAA Tournament. GW will play No. 8 Memphis on Friday in Raleigh, N.C at 6:55 p.m.

“It worked out well, we have a good seed,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “Our conference gets a lot of respect. I think it’s a good first round matchup, a very good, talented Memphis team.”

The bid marks GW’s 11th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament and its first since 2007 when the Colonials earned an automatic bid after winning the Atlantic 10 Championship.

The Colonials, along with athletic director Patrick Nero, University President Steven Knapp and a contingent of GW fans waited and watched as fellow A-10 teams, such as Saint Louis VCU, Dayton, and UMass were announced before the Colonials. In total, it was six bids for the A-10 – tied for second most by any conference – as Saint Joseph’s later had its name called in the same region as GW.

Sophomore Joe McDonald said after the announcement that it was tough waiting to hear his team’s name called. He added that he is excited for the opening round game against the Tigers and a rematch with a former teammate: former GW forward David Pellom, who transferred after last season with one year of eligibility remaining.

“We’re excited, man,” McDonald said. “You know, it’s a close trip and we get to play one of our old teammates in David Pellom at Memphis, so we’re just really excited.”

When asked about immediate preparations or gameplan for the Tigers, Lonergan admitted that he hasn’t watched too many Memphis games over the course of the season, but will scout the team heavily in the coming days.

“I know every year they’ve got a really, really athletic team. They usually win twenty plus games every year. We’ll know a lot more about them in the next 36 to 48 hours,” Lonergan said.

The Tigers enter the tournament with an overall record of 23-9. Memphis is no stranger to the tournament, making its eighth appearance in the last nine seasons.

GW is 4-10 in its 10 prior NCAA Tournament appearances, with first-round victories in 1994 and 2006 and a pair of wins en route to the Sweet 16 in 1993.

Fans interested in making the trip to Raleigh can fill out  fill out the request form posted by the athletics department. The game will be broadcast on TBS.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014 6:39 p.m.

Lonergan adds center to 2014 recruiting class

The men’s basketball team may have found its missing piece for next season, as big man Matt Cimino gave his verbal commitment to GW Sunday, according to reports from Evan Daniels of Scout.com.

Cimino, a 6-foot-10 center from Worcester (Mass.) Academy, will join head coach Mike Lonergan’s 2014 recruiting class that currently includes forwards Yuta Watanabe and Darain Bryant and guard Paul Jorgensen.

Center Matt Cimino, left, plays in a game for Worcester Academy. The big man gave his verbal commitment to GW Sunday. | Courtesy of Flickr

Center Matt Cimino, left, plays in a game for Worcester Academy. The big man gave his verbal commitment to GW Sunday. | Courtesy of Flickr

Cimino made a visit to GW for the Colonials 66-58 victory over District-rival George Mason on March 2, citing that day as a key factor in his decision.

“When I went on my visit and I just met so many people,” Cimino said in an interview with Daniels. “I felt like I was wanted and needed there compared to every other school. I was needed there most there.”

Finding a big man was the biggest hole the Colonials had to fill, with senior forward Isaiah Armwood set to graduate this year. It’s very possible that Cimino could see immediate action next season, complimenting sophomore Kevin Larsen in the frontcourt.

The center is already known for having a unique combination of size and touch around the basket, as well as great hands and the ability to hit a mid-range jumper.

In addition to the prospect of making an immediate impact, Cimino was most attracted to Foggy Bottom by the connections made with the coaching staff.

“First and foremost it’s probably my relationship with the coaches,” Cimino said in an interview. “They’ve been with me for a while and through ups and downs. My relationship with coach Longeran and coach [Hajj] Turner is very good.”

One of the top 25 centers of the 2014 class, Cimino is a three-star recruit according to ESPN and Rivals.com.

Cimino reportedly had other offers form big name schools such as Virginia, Indiana, Boston College, Kansas State, Georgia and Georgia Tech. According to the Scout.com report, Cimino had narrowed his list down to GW, Georgia and Georgia Tech – all of whom offered him a scholarship. With the signing, Lonergan is now left with one available scholarship for 2014.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014 11:56 p.m.

Photos: GW vs. VCU in A-10 semis

Brooklyn, N.Y. – GW’s Atlantic 10 title hopes evaporated on Saturday. The Colonials could not maintain their strong first-half performance, losing to No. 23 VCU.

Here’s what photo editor Samuel Klein captured from the baseline:

Sophomore Joe McDonald goes up for a layup Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Joe McDonald goes up for a layup Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Joe McDonald tries to captain GW's offense against VCU's "havoc" defense. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Kethan Savage made a brief return to the court Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Forward Isaiah Armwood got GW off to a solid start Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Forward Isaiah Armwood got GW off to a solid start Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

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

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

Sophomore Kethan Savage, who has been out for most of the season with a foot injury, saw a brief appearance on the court Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Joe McDonald ties his show after being looked at by trainers at the end of Saturday’s game. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Patricio Garino and Kevin Larsen try to stop a VCU player on Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Patricio Garino and Isaiah Armwood try to stop a VCU player on Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Head coach Mike Lonergan, who has garnered praise this year for turning around GW, instructs players on the sidelines Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Head coach Mike Lonergan, who has garnered praise this year for turning around GW, instructs players on the sidelines Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Forward Kevin Larsen stretches on the sideline before Saturday's game. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Forward Kevin Larsen stretches on the sideline before Saturday’s game. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

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

Senior Nemanja Mikic fires a three in the first half. Mikic carried GW with his hot shooting again on Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Senior Nemanja Mikic fires a three in the first half. Mikic carried GW with his hot shooting again on Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Joe McDonald struggles to get around a VCU defender. The Rams are famous for their "havoc" defense that suffocates offenses. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Joe McDonald struggles to get around a VCU defender. The Rams are famous for their “havoc” defense that suffocates offenses. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

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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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