The SportsTalk Shop: Colonials Rising

Without question one of the top turnaround success stories on the NCAA basketball court belongs to Head Coach Mike Lonergan and the George Washington men’s basketball program.

After a highly successful tenure at Vermont, Coach Lonergan’s Colonials posted back-to-back 20-plus win seasons for the first time since 2006-07 and have gotten off to an incredible start in the 2015-16 campaign.

After consecutive seasons of NCAA or NIT post-season entries, anyone thinking of a letdown this year has been sadly mistaken.

George Washington came out in mid-November and provided the nation with one of college basketball’s first big losses to a team ranked in the top 10, with a 73-68 win over Virginia.  The Cavaliers were the sixth-ranked team in the country at the time of that contest.  The Colonials continued their dominating performances by winning ten of its first 11 ball games (a perfect 8-0 at home), with many victories coming by a double-digit margin.

Moreover, Lonergan’s guidance has led to a resurgence among the Colonial fan base and an extra level of excitement to his team’s contests at the Smith Center.

We had the opportunity on “RCN SportsTalk” to talk with Coach Lonergan about his GW men’s basketball program, their previous years’ successes and about his team’s hot start to the current season.

Before coming to George Washington, Coach Lonergan had great success at Vermont. His teams compiled a .700 or better winning percentage in four of his last five seasons and qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2010 (overall record 25-10).

Before this season started, George Washington had two players, Patricio Garino and Kevin Larsen, named to the All-Conference Second Team, with Garino also named to the A-10 All-Defense Team.  The Colonials also were picked by A-10 experts to finish in the top four spots in the league this winter.

Pre-season Atlantic-10 Poll

  1. Dayton (12 first place votes) – 352 total points
  2. Rhode Island (8) – 347
  3. Davidson (6) – 329
  4. Washington (1) – 285
  5. VCU – 277
  6. Richmond – 262
  7. Saint Joseph’s – 194
  8. Bonaventure – 177
  9. La Salle – 164
  10. Massachusetts – 142
  11. Duquesne – 113
  12. Saint Louis—96
  13. George Mason – 52
  14. Fordham — 45

The Colonials are looking to continue their current four-game winning streak through the holiday season, with some intriguing match-ups on the horizon.

Upcoming Schedule

Dec. 22nd              at DePaul
Dec. 29th               at UCF
Jan. 3rd                  vs. Fordham*
Jan. 6th                  at Saint Louis*
Jan. 9th                  vs. Duquesne*
Jan. 12th              at UMass*
Jan. 15th                at Dayton*
Jan. 22nd               vs. Rhode Island*
*Atlantic-10 Conference games
All home games are played at the Smith Center

We hope that basketball fans check out the Colonials in action as they’ll look to have a number of exciting match-ups coming up over the next few months.  Also, keep checking back to the “SportsTalk Shop” and the “RCN SportsTalk” show for more great guests and insights on this winter’s NCAA basketball season.

The SportsTalk Shop: Mid-Year Predictions – Part 2

Recently here at the “Shop,” we took a look at some of the predictions I made last winter to see how I did.  Today, I look ahead to the next several months and guarantee* they come true!

1)  PREDICTION:  This fall’s HS football season will be more competitive than last year’s.
Last year, it was virtually Parkland and Easton as the favorites in District XI’s EPC league and Northwestern and Southern Lehigh, with Saucon Valley rising to prominence in the Colonial League.  There seemed to be a “next level” of several teams right below the top squads, and then another grouping of teams below them.  This made for a rather predictable season, with hardly any upsets or teams beating other squads not quite at the same talent-level.  While the Trojans and Red Rovers are the early favorites once again in the EPC, I see several teams stepping up and providing tougher competition, making for a more balanced schedule this fall.  Also, among the Colonial teams, Saucon Valley is the only one of the top three that didn’t suffer a huge number of graduate losses and many of the league’s teams that struggled in 2014 will be improved.  After the Panthers?  I could see Northern Lehigh, Northwestern, Southern Lehigh, Pen Argyl, Palmerton and maybe even Salisbury, Wilson or another team all playing competitive football.

I think it will be much more difficult for the football prognosticators to accurately figure out which teams will have the most success, and make for many more “even” games to watch this fall.  For more on the upcoming high school football season, make sure you tune into our “SportsTalk: HS Football Preview” show on RCN-TV on Thursday, August 27, at 7pm—complete with coach and player interviews, insights, analysis, and predictions on many of the teams in the RCN coverage area.

2)   PREDICTION:  Emotions will be running at an all-time high for Eagles fans this season.
We’ll be talking more about the Birds on this Thursday’s “SportsTalk” show with legendary play-by-play broadcaster Merrill Reese, complete with his thoughts on the team’s offseason moves and updates from Eagles training camp.  But regardless of how Philadelphia does this fall, when you tear apart a team—personnel-wise—and move some of the region’s most popular players for ‘high-risk’ returns (see Kiko Alonso’s concussion injury this weekend), fans have been stirred-up for this team well before training camp even started this summer.  The overly passionate fan base has been building emotional steam for months and it won’t take much for people to start boiling over and voicing their excitement/anger (based on a win or loss) with Chip Kelly early and often this fall.

3)  “Stone-Cold Lock” PREDICTION:  The next 12 months will be a banner year for DC sports fans.
I think the Nationals will persevere through an incredible amount of injuries.  The Mets did make some nice moves at the non-waiver deadline, but I still believe that quality pitching—and Washington has a ton—must get the edge.  The impressive return of Stephen Strasburg this weekend can only help, and I think the Nats will soon gain momentum and retake the NL East League.  Even if they don’t and have to settle for a Wild Card berth, with the arms the Nationals have, I think they can challenge any potential National League opponent, perhaps with the exception of the Dodgers, the team that scares me the most.

But the Nats’ potential deep run in the playoffs won’t be the only reason for optimism for Washington sports fans in the near future.  The Redskins will have six wins and improved play (and boast closer margins in their losses than last year).  I also think Georgetown—in both football and basketball—will have solid campaigns.  If you haven’t noticed, Mike Lonergan has transformed the George Washington men’s basketball program and shows no signs of slowing down, and American will again be a major force in what’s shaping up to be another competitive Patriot League season.

I also think the Wizards and Capitals will also continue to improve on the court and ice, respectively, all making for what I feel could be the best stretch of professional and collegiate sports action the DC area has seen in decades.

And even if the Nats don’t get to the World Series—which, granted, will be a major disappointment, they still have a boat-load of talent that will return.  The Nats will still have work to do in the off-season picking and choosing which of their free agents they will bring back, but I think with Max Scherzer in tow, anchoring the staff, there won’t be a major drop-off in 2016.

There you have it.  Mark it down…and we’ll check back to see in a few months how these predictions fared.

*NOTE: ”guaranteed” is used in the most relative-term possible.