Stop Doubting Danny Ainge

By: Cam Ventola

This offseason saw a radical shake up of the team’s roster, with Danny Ainge shipping off 3 starters and letting another walk. The most significant transaction saw Ainge send Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizi, the 2018 Nets pick and the 2020 Miami 2nd rounder to the Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving. All this came after highly controversial moves such as trading defensive stud Avery Bradley to the Piston and swapping 2017 draft picks with Philly to take Jayson Tatum. Criticism was fierce, and many thought this might be Danny Ainge’s biggest failure as GM of the 17-time NBA champions.

Well, 14 games into the season the Boston Celtics are sitting at 12-2. A quick peak at the standings would show that’s the best record in the NBA, and it’s the result of a 12 game winning streak, including a 95-94 W over Toronto without Kyrie Irving. Losing Gordon Hayward 5 minutes into the season opener hurt, but that hasn’t stopped this team from cooking up something special. The 2016-17 Celtics were a solid roster that finished 53-29 with the #1 seed in the East. One of the team’s more pronounced issues last year was uneven offense–Isaiah Thomas had a career year averaging 28.9 ppg and 5.9 apg, but the Celtics had only 5 players averaging double digit scoring. The 2017-18 Celtics have upped that to 6 players in double digit scoring, and 7 if you include Marcus Smart, who’s just shy at 9.9 ppg. That being said, the Celtics did have a higher overall offensive rating last year (111.2 points per 100 possessions as opposed to 106 points per 100 possessions so far this year). The 2017-18 Celtics, though, arguably have the better offense for one major reason: young talent. 4 of the 5 players on the 2016-17 roster who averaged above 10 ppg were also above the age of 25. This year, 2 of the 6 players averaging above 10 ppg are also over the age of 25, and if we include Marcus Smart then it’s 2 of 7.

The biggest positive change for the Celtics, though, has been on defense. Last year, the Celtics gave up 108.4 points per 100 possessions, whereas this year it’s 97.5 points per 100 possessions. While the Isaiah Thomas trade stung, there’s no denying he was the worst defensive starting point guard in the NBA last year–simply put, when you’re 5’9” it’s pretty hard to guard other players. Kyrie Irving is far from the best defensive PG in the league, but he’s a massive step up from the worst. Not only that, but the Celtics are rebounding better–averaging 47.5 rpg as opposed to 42 rpg last season. This is no small feat, and length and athleticism from young forwards Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have been instrumental in this turnaround–Brown in particular has greatly improved his defensive efficiency from last year: the Celtics allowed 110 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor last year, as opposed to 98 now. Tatum, too, sports a defensive rating of 98, and .9 defensive win shares (an estimate of wins a player adds based on their defense). In fact, Tatum leads all rookie in both offensive and defensive win shares, suggesting Danny Ainge may have been onto something when he swapped picks with Philly and passed over Markelle Fultz (who is currently out indefinitely with shoulder issues).
Maybe Danny Ainge was onto something when he reshaped this entire roster. Maybe we should stop doubting him. Maybe the Celtics are the best team in basketball right now–oh wait, they are.

And just imagine how great they’d be if Hayward could play.

GW MBB heads down to Tallahassee to take on FSU

By: Ben Krauss

George Washington men’s basketball faces its biggest regular season test tonight, squaring off against the Florida State Seminoles at 7:00 PM. The Colonials are looking to build momentum from their home opening win against Howard, where a slew of monster slams and high intensity defense led to a 84-75 win. Senior Forward Yuda Watanabe headlined the high scoring affair with 19 points and 11 rebounds and sophomore Jair Bolden complemented with a career-high 17 points. GW will need repeat performances from these key players if they want to turn around their all time 0-3 record vs FSU.

For the Seminoles, tonight marks the kickoff to their 2017/2018 season. There are a lot questions surrounding the team as over half their scoring from the previous year has graduated or left for professional basketball. With just three scholarship players on roster, FSU will be relying on five freshman and the scoring of junior guard Terrance Mann. George Washington will look to capitalize on this young squad by utilizing the veteran talents of graduate forward Patrick Steeves, who played his undergraduate years at Harvard University. However, Watanabe and Bolden will constitute the bulk of tonight’s scoring as they mark the only two returning players from last year’s starting squad.

Each team lacks significant size, so executing a spread out positionless offense is essential in tonight’s contest.  FSU will be primarily relying on ball movement and a reliable three point shot, while the Colonials will look to utilize Yuda’s athletic slash and kick abilities to jump-start the offense. Ultimately, GW has more offensive talent than the Seminoles and a much more active and experienced defense. In this inter conference matchup, George Washington will stop the three ball and run a fast paced offense. The score, while high scoring, will be in George Washington’s favor: 85-80.

GW WBB looks to rebound in home opener

By: Joseph Politano

After losing their season opener to Princeton 72-52, GW looks to rebound in their home opener against the South Dakota State Jack Rabbits. We’ll preview the matchup, stats, and everything you need to know before tip off at 6:30!

The GW Colonials

In their game against the Princeton Tigers, the Colonials struggled to find consistent offensive scoring and ball movement. The team went through most of the third entirely scoreless until Senior Forward Kelli Prange scored 6 consecutive points. Prange had a amazing night overall, scoring 21 points on 9-19 shooting. The Colonials will be running much of their offense through both her and Junior F Kelsi Mahoney. Look for the colonials to also change up their ball movement and inbounding strategies a bit, as turnovers cost them significantly against the Tigers.

The South Dakota State Jackrabbits

The Jackrabbits are coming off a dominant 92-48 performance against NJIT where 5 scorers put up double digit numbers. Redshirt Junior Guard Macy Miller lead all scorers with 21 points on 9-12 shooting. Redshirt Senior Chynna Stevens also had a double-double off the bench with 14 rebounds and 15 points. The team shot for almost 44% within the arc, and used their significant height advantage to score 72 points on the inside.

Matchup

The Colonials are going to have to fight for baskets on the inside if they want to win this game, which means significant defensive responsibility is going to fall on 6’1 Kelsi Mahoney and 6’5 Kelli Prange. On offense, it’s more important they take their time to develop smart plays through ball movement to generate openings rather than trying to fight one-on-one. The team shouldn’t  rely on two or three main scorers the way they did Friday. It’ll be a tough game either way, but if the Colonials make the necessary adjustments they’ll be in good shape to win. I predict Colonials bounce back and win 63-60.

GW WBB Season Preview 2017-2018

By: Cameron Ventola

Tonight at 6:30 the Colonials will take on the Princeton Tigers in New Jersey for the women’s basketball season opener. With the departure of key rotation players such as Caira Washington, Hannah Schaible and Shannon Cranshaw, the Colonials will be searching for success as younger players start to up their playing time in Coach Jennifer Rizzotti’s second year.

Expect to see Sophomore Guard Kendall Breese, who made great impressions last year with some hard-nosed defense, pick up some extra minutes. Freshmen Chyna Latimer, Lexus Levy and Neila Luma will all compete for play time in a deep roster.

The team is anchored by Seniors Kelli Prange, Brianna Cummings and Camila Tapias. Prange, standing at 6’5”, is coming off a 2016-17 season that saw her put up 8 points and 3.6 rebounds per game–her presence in the paint has been particularly impactful. Running the offense will be Junior Guard Mei-Lyn Bautista, an adept ball-handler with phenomenal court vision.

This is a team with great potential, though the loss of last year’s seniors will definitely disrupt the first few games of the season–it’s all about finding a rhythm. Coach Rizzotti has demonstrated her resolve to get the best out of this program, and managed to coach the Colonials into the WNIT last year and a 20-8 record (13-3 in A10 play).

This is a team that looks like it’ll go 22-6, and will definitely be a staunch competitor for the A10 title.