After impressive turnaround season, GW ignoring doubters entering NCAA opener vs Memphis

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Plenty of people seem to be disrespecting the George Washington Colonials.

Their first-round opponent guaranteed two NCAA tournament wins. The NCAA's official tournament T-shirts bore the logo of a cross-town rival instead of theirs.

And President Barack Obama picked Memphis to beat GW even though Colonials coach Mike Lonergan quipped Thursday that "his house is right down the street from our campus."

Ninth-seeded GW (24-8) plays No. 8 seed Memphis (23-9) on Friday in the second round of the East Regional.

One of the challenges for the Colonials is tuning everything else out — from those shirts that celebrate a tournament invitation for Georgetown, Obama's pick of the Tigers or Memphis guard Geron Johnson's guarantee after the American Athletic Conference tournament that his team would win two games here.

After the Tigers lost to Connecticut in the AAC quarterfinals, Johnson said, "We will win two games next week ... and you can put my statement on that."

Johnson said Thursday it's more about "you've got to say it to believe it" than a jab, while GW guard Maurice Creek brushed off Johnson's guarantee. Lonergan said he was joking with Obama and wasn't trying to disrespect him.

"We've had some things happen with the logos and stuff," GW guard Joe McDonald said. "We're not worried about that. We're trying to focus on what got us here and continue to have the success."

The Colonials earned their first NCAA tournament berth since 2007 after they outperformed their modest preseason expectations and beat Creighton, Georgia, Virginia Commonwealth and Massachusetts.

Memphis enters the tournament after falling out of the Top 25 for the first time this season.

That came during a slide in which the Tigers dropped three of five to end the season — including a 72-53 thumping at the hands of UConn in the league tournament.

"We've been kind of a little bit up and down in the stretch," coach Josh Pastner said. "... I just think you get here in a one-game situation, anything can happen. I really believe if you make shots and make 3s and you defend the 3, you're probably going to advance. And if you don't make 3s and you don't defend the 3 well, then the plane ride is going to be going back Saturday morning."


Here are five things to watch during the George Washington-Memphis tournament matchup:

COLONIAL TURNAROUND: George Washington had one of the biggest turnarounds in the nation. The Colonials were 13-17 in 2012-13 and their 11-win improvement matched the third-best in Division I.

MEMPHIS' FAB FOUR: The Tigers are led by four senior guards who combine to average nearly 44 points. Joe Jackson, who scores a team-best 14.3 points, was the 2012 Conference USA player of the year and a second-team all-American Athletic Conference pick this year.

HI, STRANGER: David Pellom is coming face to face with some of his old friends. He transferred from GW to Memphis during the offseason and averaged 4.3 points and 2.9 assists with the Tigers this season. He sat out last season at GW with a wrist injury after setting a school record two years ago by making 68.5 percent of his shots with the Colonials. Making things even more familiar: The reunion takes place about 2½ hours from Pellom's hometown in Wilmington, N.C.

NOTHING FREE ABOUT THEM: It's a safe bet that neither team wants this game to come down to foul shots. Memphis ranks ninth in the AAC, hitting just 64.9 percent of its free throws. George Washington isn't much better — the Colonials are a 65.4-percent team from the stripe, ranking 11th in the Atlantic 10.

NO CHANGE IN KETHAN'S STATUS: Lonergan says he's not preparing to have sophomore guard Kethan Savage available after the 13-point scorer missed eight weeks with a broken left foot. Lonergan says he was told before the loss to VCU in the A-10 tournament that Savage could play up to four minutes but he only lasted about 45 seconds before his foot became sore. "Maybe the trainer comes to me tomorrow afternoon and says he wants to try to play," Lonergan said. "That's what happened last game. ... I'm staying out of that one because he's got two years left. He had a great season and I wish he was playing. Maybe he does, but I really don't know."


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