Although he favors offense, George Washington Coach Tom Penders has nothing against defense. He just knows low-scoring games are not what most fans want to see.
"I have this reputation of being all offense," he said. "But if our defense is good, we'll win. We had some kids last season that played awfully hard on the defensive end and that's why we won 20 games [and won the Atlantic 10 West Division]. You don't win 20 games by just playing run-and-gun."
But it's sometimes hard to notice the defense when the Colonials are launching shots at the dizzying pace they did last season (GW also didn't help its defensive renown by finishing 11th in the 12-team Atlantic 10 in field goal percentage defense). The Colonials took nearly 11 more shots per game than their opponents. That number is likely to increase this season.
Penders will give a lot of offensive freedom to guards Mike King, Bernard Barrow and Val Brown. Of the three, King has the most experience and needs to be the most consistent.
Barrow will have the unenviable task of replacing Shawnta Rogers -- and it won't help that Barrow will remind people of the 5-foot-4 Rogers, since he is 5-8 and weighs 150 pounds. But Barrow also has quickness and playmaking skills; last season at Kilgore (Tex.) College, he averaged 8.7 points, 8.9 assists and 3.4 steals. Brown also is an adept ballhandler. Chris Monroe is a strong, slashing player who will play a lot.
With Yegor Mescheriakov's departure, the front court is strong but less established offensively. Patrick Ngongba, at 236 pounds, can be a force, and his shooting has improved greatly (57 percent from the field and 77 percent from the foul line, after 36 percent from the field and 56 percent from the foul line two seasons ago). Antxon Iturbe is a good rebounder with a knack for the ball. Center Albert Roma is a much more developed player than he was last season. Jason Smith, a 6-8 sophomore, missed most of last season with a hernia but is expected to contribute.
GW's early schedule includes four of the nation's most promising little-known teams -- Indiana State, South Florida, Bradley and Siena.
Last season: 20-9, 13-3 Atlantic 10 Conference (NCAA tournament first round).
Coach: Tom Penders (second season; 29th season overall, 498-328).
Top returning players: F Antxon Iturbe, 6-8, Jr. (3.2 ppg, 5 rpg), G Mike King, 6-4, Jr. (15.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.3 apg); F Patrick Ngongba, 6-8, Jr. (7 ppg, 5.6 rpg); C Albert Roma, 7-0, Soph. (2.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg).
Key departures: G Shawnta Rogers (20.7 ppg, 4 rpg, 6.8 apg, 3.6 spg, Atlantic 10 player of the year); F Yegor Mescheriakov (17.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, second-team all-Atlantic 10).
New faces: G Bernard Barrow, 5-8, Jr. (Kilgore, Tex., College); G Val Brown, 6-1, Fr. (Lee); G Chris Monroe, 6-3, Fr. (Good Counsel); F Arthur Andrews, 6-6, Fr. (Avon, Conn.).
19 vs. Indiana State*, 11
20 vs Oklahoma or Montana State*, TBA
21 vs. TBA*, TBA
27 South Florida, 7:30
30 at Ohio, 7
4 vs. Seton Hall**, 1
5 vs. U-Md. or Illinois**, 3
8 at Bradley, 7:30
11 Siena, 7:30
22 at Clemson, 7
31 UNC Charlotte, 3
3 at Old Dominion, 7:35
8 Duquesne, 2
12 American, 7:30
15 at Virginia Tech, 2
19 at St. Joseph's, 7
22 at Dayton, 2
26 St. Bonaventure, 7:30
29 La Salle, 2
2 at Duquesne, 7:35
5 Xavier, 4
9 Dayton, 7:30
12 at La Salle, 4
17 Virginia Tech, 7:30
19 Rhode Island, noon
22 at Xavier, 9:30
26 at Fordham, 2
29 at Massachusetts, 7:30
4 Temple, noon
8-11 Atlantic 10 tournament in Philadelphia
*Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks, Alaska
** BB&T Classic, MCI Center