Mike O'Reilly and Darryl Webster admitted that if George Washington's basketball team had faced national powers such as Michigan State and Kansas in the same week two years ago, the Colonials would have been rather intimidated.
"We would have been a bit awed by those type of teams and felt they were a little better than we were," said O'Reilly, the Colonials' starting point guard. "Now, there's no intimidation factor at all. They are just teams and we're confident if we play as hard and well as we are capable of playing, we can stay on the court with them. Win or lose, we won't look at these games as if we ruined our big chance to get noticed. We'll play other good teams after this week."
Tonight, the Colonials, 4-1 for their best start since the 1977-78 season, will discover just how far they have come under fourth-year Coach Gerry Gimelstob when they play unbeaten Michigan State (6-0) at Smith Center at 7:30.
The Colonials will be host to 15th-ranked Kansas (7-1) Saturday at 5.
"This is definitely a measuring stick for us. Our main concern is to win our conference (Atlantic 10), and playing a Michigan State and a Kansas has to help us," Gimelstob said before yesterday's practice.
"We broke our season down into segments: the first segment was to measure our progress after five games, get a general idea of what we can and can't do well; the second segment was our next three games, see if what we've worked on shows in the game; and the third was in the conference," Gimelstob said.
"I felt we would be ready to play with the Michigan States and Kansases after four years of building our program here. We want to play the best teams we can play."
Gimelstob has been pleased with his team's performance. Senior center Mike Brown is averaging 20.4 points and 13 rebounds per game, Webster is scoring 12.4 points per game and O'Reilly is averaging 8.4 points and 5.6 assists. The Colonials' loss was to Xavier of Ohio, 87-79.
Webster has been playing particularly well. A 6-foot-6 junior forward from Coolidge High School, he has matured greatly and is playing with confidence, according to Gimelstob.
"That extra year of experience makes a big difference," Webster said. "Basketball can be difficult if one becomes frustrated. This season, I plan to work and play as hard as I can and not worry so much about mistakes. We've worked hard thus far and I'm looking forward to these two games. We'll find out a lot about ourselves."
Michigan State features one of the best back courts in the country in 6-2 Sam Vincent (18.8 points) and 6-1 Scott Skiles (16.3), and two good inside power players in 6-9 Ken Johnson (13.2 points, 12.2 rebounds) and 6-8 Larry Polec (11.3, 4.8). The Spartans have two Washington-area players: senior Richard Mudd (McKinley) is the other starting forward and 6-6 freshman Carlton Valentine (DeMatha) is out with a stress fracture of the left ankle.
The Spartans have looked very sharp in their first six games, winning by an average of 17 points. They are adept at the power game and are quick enough to run and shoot effectively.