George Washington taking on Japan sounds like a bad World War II-era comic.
Picture the reanimated corpse of the Founding Father going on missions like a Pacific theater version of Steve Rogers. Maybe that isn’t a bad idea in a world where “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is a successful commercial franchise.
However, George Washington did take on Japan on the court, as Mike Lonergan and the Colonials played four games as a part of a tour of Japan: three against the Japanese national team and one against the Ryuku Golden Kings, a professional team in Japan’s top league. The program is coming out of a tumultuous summer after allegations that a pattern of verbal abuse by Lonergan has caused a number of players to leave D.C.
This story - to take nothing away from its seriousness - has overshadowed a team that won the NIT and should be in the NCAA tournament mix next season. It’s never smart to put much stock in the results of overseas play, but here are a few things to take away from the trip.
1. They Won.
The Colonials went 4-0 which is, of course, a good thing. The margins of victory were impressive - 15, 6, 28 and 24 points - but Lonergan’s minutes distribution is probably the most important stat to consider. The Colonials lost guards Patricio Garino and Joe McDonald to graduation, and Paul Jorgensen transferred to Butler, leaving a void in the back court.
Seton Hall transfer Jaren Sina is expected to be a key part of the team, and he did play a lot on the trip (26.7 minutes per game). Two returning guards -sophomore Jordan Roland (23.4 mpg) and senior Matt Hart (22.4 mpg) - also got heavy minutes, while freshmen guards Jair Bolden (3.9 mpg) and Justin Williams (2.7 mpg) barely played. Not surprisingly, it appears Roland and Hart, even though they each averaged fewer than nine minutes per game last year, will have the upper hand in Lonergan’s back court rotation, at least at first.
2. The Frontcourt.
The Colonials should have a good front court with returning starters Tyler Cavanaugh and Yuta Watanabe, as well as Harvard transfer guard/transfer Patrick Steeves. It looks like Lonergan has the most faith in freshman Kevin Marfo (18.4 mpg), who started three of the four games and played more than fellow freshmen Collin Smith and Arnaldo Toro, as well as sophomore Collin Goss.
For what it’s worth, Cavanaugh started the tour with consecutive 20-point plus games and shot 41.1 percent from three. The senior should be poised for another all-conference season, and this trip did nothing to suggest otherwise. Watanabe was the second-leading scorer on the trip behind Cavanaugh, which is encouraging as he’ll need to play a bigger role offensively.
3. Free Throw Line.
The Colonials were great at getting to the free throw line last season, which helped fuel one of the A-10’s best offenses. McDonald, Garino and the also-graduated Kevin Larsen were a big reason for this, and without them the Colonials had some ups (27 free attempts in Game 2) and downs (10 free throw attempts in Game 4) in Japan. Lonergan’s teams at George Washington have generally been good at generating free throw attempts, and it’ll be important to see if the 2016-17 team can continue that.
What happened in Japan may mean something, or it may not. But it was actual basketball, and you take whatever you can get this time of year.