Colonials Celebrate NCAA Tournament Berth

GW, with fans in tow, heading to Raleigh for Friday matchup with Memphis.

March 16, 2014

Men's basketball

GW players jump for joy after learning of their at-large berth to the NCAA tournament. The Colonials face Memphis on Friday in Raleigh, N.C.

By James Irwin

A tired smile, the kind that comes when a sliver of good news brightens a tough experience, stretched across Mike Lonergan’s face Saturday night inside the basement-level interview room of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. The George Washington University had just been eliminated by Virginia Commonwealth in the semifinal round of the Atlantic 10 tournament, and yet the Colonials’ season, Mr. Lonergan was reminded, wasn’t over yet.

“I told the guys before the game, if we win we had to prepare for Sunday; if we lose, I’m going to be miserable for a few hours, and then I’ll wake up tomorrow, and it will be a great day in my life,” Mr. Lonergan said. “We’re getting into the tournament—unless, you know, everybody’s wrong.”

It turns out "everybody" wasn't wrong: The Colonials still have basketball left to play. They just had to wait a day to learn the details.

GW secured an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament Sunday evening, and celebrated its bid at the Charles E. Smith Center in front of its fans.

“I’m just happy for GW,” Mr. Lonergan said. “This program has great tradition and history, and I’m glad we have something to show for our hard work. We’re really happy for our fans, the dance team, cheerleaders, the band. We have a lot of support.”

Mr. Lonergan’s smile Sunday was much bigger than the one Saturday night. The third-year GW coach, who has taken the Colonials from 10 wins in his first season to 24 this year, said he and his players are ready for the next phase of the season.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “Our fans and students stuck with us through some tough times, and we have a great opportunity ahead of us.”



GW qualified as a No. 9 seed. The Colonials, making their first NCAA trip since 2007, play Memphis on Friday in Raleigh, N.C.

A crowd that filled the Smith Center’s Colonial Club celebrated GW's NCAA bid. For many, it was an opportunity to celebrate the entire season.

“This event tonight is a blast," said season-ticket holder Mike Herczfeld, B.A. ’04, M.A. ’07. "All year we’ve been so excited to watch this team. And to hear them call GW’s name again on Selection Sunday for the first time since ’07, I couldn’t miss it.”

Many students, like sophomore Julia Tesoro, the events director for the Colonial Army, started making travel plans the second the Colonials appeared on the tournament bracket.

“I’m definitely going no matter what,” she said. “We’re so happy we’re close; we’ll be able to get more fans there. This is great.”

Ms. Tesoro, who was in Mexico over spring break last week, flew back late Thursday night to help set up Sunday’s event.

“We’ve been hard at work today,” she said. “It’s well worth it to be here for this.”

As for the players, many are making their first NCAA appearance. Veterans Maurice Creek and Isaiah Armwood, both transfers, have played a handful of minutes in the tournament. The rest are in it for the first time.

“It’s a new experience for a lot of us,” sophomore forward Patricio Garino said. “I’m sure we’ll learn a lot. We’re going to leave everything on the court.”