- The Washington Times - Monday, March 14, 2005

George Washington’s reward for winning the Atlantic 10 tournament and earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament is a first-round game against last year’s national runner-up, Georgia Tech, on Friday in Nashville, Tenn.

The Colonials celebrated their first trip to the NCAAs since 1999 by watching the selection show at coach Karl Hobbs’ house in Bowie. Players cheered when they learned they are a 12th seed and will meet No. 5 Georgia Tech in the Albuquerque regional.

“I don’t care if we were a 16 seed,” said point guard T.J. Thompson, a senior from Germantown. “Just the fact that we got into the tournament [is enough]. Once the ball goes in the air, we just have to play.”

The Colonials (22-7) were the area’s only program to reach the NCAA tournament. Maryland, the 2002 national champion, had hoped for an at-large bid, but the Terrapins finished the season with four straight losses and saw their streak of 11 consecutive NCAA appearances snapped.

Maryland will settle for the NIT along with Georgetown, which missed the NCAAs for a fourth consecutive season. The Hoyas, revived in coach John Thompson III’s first season, lost six of their final seven after a promising start.

Illinois was the tournament’s overall top seed and will play No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson in the Chicago regional. North Carolina (Syracuse regional), Duke (Austin regional) and Washington (Albuquerque regional) also were No.1 seeds. Defending champion Connecticut drew a No.2 seed, along with Wake Forest, Kentucky and Oklahoma State.

The national semifinals will be played April2 in St. Louis, with the title game two nights later.

The Big East and Big 12 each provided six teams, one short of the record. The Big Ten, SEC and ACC each had five make it. N.C. State, North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech will represent the ACC.

The tournament opens tomorrow with a play-in game between Oakland (Mich.), which has a 12-18 record after winning the Mid-Continent Conference tournament, and Alabama A&M;, the Southwestern Conference champion. The winner will face North Carolina on Friday in Charlotte, N.C.

The GW-Georgia Tech winner will meet the survivor between No. 4 Louisville and No. 13 Louisiana-Lafayette for a Sweet 16 berth.

The Colonials are in their eighth NCAA tournament, including five in the 1990s. GW reached the Sweet 16 as a 12th seed in 1993 after beating New Mexico and Southern before falling to top-seeded Michigan with Chris Webber 72-64. The Colonials were knocked out in the first round of their last three appearances in 1996, 1997 and 1999.

“It means a great deal,” said Hobbs, in his fourth season in Foggy Bottom. “You look at where the program was four years ago [coming off a 14-18 season that brought the dismissal of coach Tom Penders] and where we are now. To be in the NCAA tournament means the world. It truly does [because of] the excitement around campus, the alumni showing great interest.”

The Colonials would have been considered for an at-large bid had they not won the A-10 tournament but likely would have been left out. GW made sure it would be included by winning the tournament for the first time in its 29 years in the league.

The A-10 usually receives at least one at-large berth, but this season it was shut out. The Colonials had to win their way in as the conference’s lone representative.

“When your grow up, you always dream of playing in the NCAA tournament,” said Thompson, who played with GW in the NIT last season. “To finally take part in it is a great feeling. Last night I was so excited I couldn’t even sleep.”

Meanwhile, Arizona extended the longest consecutive NCAA streak with its 21st straight appearance, followed by Kansas with 16. Delaware State, Oakland, Southeastern Louisiana and Alabama A&M; are making their first appearances.

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