Taking in a George Washington Colonials game at the Smith Center is nothing like I remember it.
Part of that is obvious. Back in February of 2008, George Washington announced a $43 million upgrade to the Smith Center, and Thursday night's game against Bradley was my first chance to see everything that had been done to the place. Gone is the old scoreboard hanging above the court, replaced by a fully HD contraption instead. Behind the west baseline is the Colonials' Club, a luxury box of sorts where high-rollers can watch Colonials games in style. There are some other renovations that were done, most notably a set of new locker rooms, but these are all less noticeable to the fan's eye.
The less obvious change to the GW basketball experience is the gameday experience itself. Even when the team was at its peak recently, sandwiching a pair of Atlantic 10 titles around a 27-3 campaign, taking in a game at the Smith Center was always a pretty straightforward, no-frills experience. Imagine my surprise, then, to see a slickly produced intro video, along with plenty of other touches sprinkled throughout. It's the type of production values you'd expect to see from a big-conference school or a professional team.
The whole situation causes a type of cognitive dissonance. I see a mid-major team on the court, but from all of the surroundings, I'm expecting something bigger. And when we're talking about George Washington, a team that plays in the Atlantic 10, the line truly starts to blur a bit. The A-10 is a straddler, a conference that fits below one half of the Red Line, but sits above the other. Ironically enough, tonight's opponent, Bradley, plays in the Missouri Valley. The Valley is another straddler conference, another group of teams which spend
The game itself was an entertaining back-and-forth affair, with George Washington failing to find a good look on their last possession, and Bradley escaping with a 67-66 win.
But the game almost feels secondary to my state of thorough confusion. Has the mid-major basketball experience simply evolved, and I'd simply been left behind before tonight? Are schools like George Washington just inching away from the traditional definition of a mid-major? At what point has the line been blurred to the point where it shifts altogether?
Something tells me that only time, and more mid-major basketball, will allow these questions to be answered.
BRADLEY 67, at GEORGE WASHINGTON 66 12/15/2011
BRADLEY 5-4 (0-0) -- W. Lemon Jr 8-13 4-6 22; T. Brown 6-13 2-2 15; D. Simms-Edwards 1-7 1-2 4; J. Prosser 3-6 0-0 6; J. Eastman 4-6 0-0 12; S. Shayok 2-2 0-0 4; A. Thompson 1-3 0-2 2; J. Crawford 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 26-52 7-12 67. GEORGE WASHINGTON 4-6 (0-0) -- T. Taylor 4-10 2-3 11; J. Edwards 2-5 0-0 4; L. Kromah 3-10 4-7 10; A. Ware 6-14 0-0 13; J. Kopriva 6-6 0-2 12; N. Mikic 4-12 0-0 8; D. Smith 3-8 0-1 6; B. Bynes 1-5 0-0 2; D. Guest 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-70 6-13 66.
Three-point goals: BRAD 8-16 (T. Brown 1-2; J. Eastman 4-5; D. Simms-Edwards 1-5; W. Lemon 2-3; J. Crawford 0-1), GW 2-10 (T. Taylor 1-2; A. Ware 1-1; B. Bynes 0-1; L. Kromah 0-2; N. Mikic 0-4); Rebounds: BRAD 30 (J. Prosser 9), GW 36 (J. Edwards 7); Assists: BRAD 14 (D. Simms-Edwards 4), GW 15 (L. Kromah 7); Total Fouls -- BRAD 12, GW 12; Fouled Out: BRAD-None; GW-None.