In 2006, college basketbal in DC was really good. Georgetown made an elite eight, Maryland was its usual decent-to-good self, and little George Washington was running the A-10 on the way to a one loss regular season, and 26-2 overall after bowing out of the A10 tournament early. The buzz around this GW team was insane-no one could tell how good they were. They had been ranked in the top 10 at one point but had, admittedly, not beaten anyone out of conference worth noting. They went on to win one game against UNC-Wilmington, before being served up to Duke in the second round in front of a “neutral” crowd in…well…North Carolina.
The “George” everyone took note of that year, however, was George Mason. From the moment Phil’s Mom picked them in Mr. Tony’s celebrity bracket, right through beating North Carolina and UConn to get to the Final Four, Mason was the heartfelt-feel good pick of the year. Especially in DC.
After that-both teams pretty much didn’t do anything and American has been the biggest story with a couple of “almost wins” over Villanova and Tenn. Mason has gone back to its role of decent CAA team, and GW just about drowned in two fairly awful seasons.
Both teams this year do have a little something to talk about. Mason is sitting at 3-3 , playing a lot of big programs and GWU is 4-1 with a few big wins over admittedly weak teams, and the POTUS in attendance for their one loss.
So what do two used-ta-be teams do now that the lime light is over? Well they sell their B-list college hoop celebrity status to the fullest with a grudge match. Behold BeatGeorgeMason.com Yes the “Battle of the Orange Line” is underway, and there are a few tickets left for tonight’s game at the Smith Center in Foggy Bottom. Glad to see the GW is at least trying to make this a rivalry (even if, you know…it isn’t. Yet.)
I, for one, am behind this move and hope that this becomes a full blown rivalry. College hoops is a strange beast that prevents a lot of would be match-ups from happening. Teams with a pedigree like Georgetown and U-MD are loathe to play the likes of Mason and GWU because they occupy that dangerous middle ground: Not cupcakey enough to be an easy win, but not big enough to make any statement should they win. So as much as I would have liked to see Mason/GWU/American vs. UMD/Georgetown that isn’t going to happen.
Cultivating these relationships though, between two teams that are roughly going to be in the same competitive level-well that’s something that (if done properly) will benefit both teams.
It’s actually already getting a little chippy! Mason blogger over at George Mason Basketball essentially insinuated that GWU was only good because it could no longer recruit from fake high schools (called “diploma mills“) that manufacture degrees for students who wanted to play basketball-and there certainly could be some truth to that. Given that players like Omar Williams and Mo Rice almost certainly did come from these types of schools, it’s a fair assessment. When GW fans allegedly tried to correct the GMU blogger that fan favorite “Pops” Mensa-Botsu was NOT a diploma-mill product in the comment section (in fact, he went to St. Augustine Prep) those comments (at least according to Andrew at Colonial Hoops-and I don’t have reason to doubt him) were deleted. Repeatedly. (Again, allegedly.)
I wonder what these fathers of the Revolution would think of such an information war? In any event, this can only be good for our local economy and identity as a city. Hopefully this game will serve as a prototype for other schools to join in the fray and the local DC College Hoops Community will be better served by some intra-area competitive play.
Also-I’m a GW Law alum so RAISE HIGH THE BUFF AND BLUE!