The William & Mary men’s basketball team continues hurtling toward a history-making season.
The Tribe rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit on Tuesday night to win at George Mason, 63-60. The victory snapped the Patriots’ 18-game home winning streak against Colonial Athletic Association opponents, and gave the Tribe a four-game winning streak and record-tying ninth road victory of the season.
W&M now sports a 19-7 record, 11-5 and third place in the Colonial Athletic Association. That's drawing them deep into the conversation about which 64 teams will play in the 2010 NCAA tournament. Only five Division I schools have never made the field of an event first contested in 1939: Army, The Citadel, Northwestern, St. Francis (NY) and William & Mary.
W&M is the only visiting team to win at Atlantic Coast Conference powers Maryland and Wake Forest this season. And the Tribe has defeated the University of Richmond, an Associated Press top-25 squad considered a lock for the field of 64.
Throw in nail-biting losses at Connecticut and in triple-overtime at Harvard, and a home setback against probable NCAA participant Old Dominion and it’s clear to all that W&M has played at a remarkably high level against all season.
The Tribe gets another chance to add to its resume on Feb. 19, when it plays at Iona College in New York in a Bracketbuster Weekend game.
Bracketbuster competition was started by ESPN in 2003 to offer NCAA “hopeful” schools national exposure. Twenty-two teams from “mid-major” conferences compete against each other three weeks before Selection Sunday. Most of the games are nationally televised, and the W&M-Iona game will be shown at 9:00 p.m. on ESPNU.
(Fans can also catch the action over the Tribe Radio Network with Jay Colley and Bill McDonald. The broadcast will also be available over the Internet at TribeAthletics.com.)
The Gaels, once coached by the late Jimmy Valvano, play in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, and have a 19-8 record.
The importance of the game shouldn’t be underestimated. David Teel, columnist and basketball expert for the Newport News Daily Press, recently wrote that if the Tribe defeated George Mason and Iona they would be “poised to make a compelling case for inclusion in the NCAA field, regardless of how (they) fare in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.”
Teel knows his hoops. In each of the last two years, he has correctly predicted 33 of the 34 at-large teams invited to March Madness.
What if W&M loses?
“It hurts a little,” Teel said, “but it’s certainly not a death sentence.”
Teel is just one of many nationally respected writers to laud coach Tony Shaver’s team. SI.com’s Seth Davis, USA Today’s Dick Vitale, ESPN.com’s Andy Katz and others have all taken turns extolling the Tribe’s virtues.
The Tribe’s latest victory was a team effort at both ends of the court. Senior guard David Schneider’s driving lay-up with 58 seconds remaining proved to be the game-winner, while fellow classmate Danny Sumner blocked the Patriots' game-winning chance with less than 10 seconds remaining to preserve the win.
Sophomore forward Quinn McDowell topped the Tribe with 19 points, including a 4-of-6 effort from 3-point range, and added eight rebounds. Sumner, who enjoyed a return to his hometown of Fairfax, Va., finished with 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting to go along with two blocked shots.
Schneider scored 15 points, while junior forward Marcus Kitts finished with a game-high nine rebounds and three blocked shots.