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Penn State at George Washington Preview: Lions' First Major Test Should Prove Daunting

The Nittany Lions will face their first top-100 opponent on Tuesday night in a GW team that looks primed to make some noise nationally.

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Who: George Washington Colonials (7-1)
When: Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Charles E. Smith Center, Washington, D.C.
TV: Comcast Sportsnet/A-10 Network (free stream)
KenPom Rank: 46
Vegas Line: GW -11.5

Last season, Penn State used a win over George Washington to springboard their way to an "Others Receiving Votes" position in the polls and a 12-1 finish to the non-con. Tuesday night's game doesn't quite present the same opportunity - the Colonials look set to take the A-10 by storm while PSU is very much in a rebuilding mode - but it will serve as a litmus test of sorts for a Nittany Lions squad that simply hasn't faced a team of GW's caliber in 2015-16.

Scouting The Opposition

The Colonials returned the core from a team that got to the second round of the NIT in 2015. The roster has retained its international flavor, with Patricio Garino (Argentina), Kevin Larsen (Denmark) and Yuta Watanabe (Japan) all producing at a high-level this season: Garino leads the team with 15.3 ppg on an unreal 58% shooting at small forward. Larsen (more on him below) is averaging 11.3 ppg himself from the post, and the lanky Watanabe is capable of big scoring nights as a stretch four.

Mike Lonergan also added to his stable of talent with two transfers this offseason. Guard Alex Mitola will be familiar to the most tuned-in of Penn State fans - the diminutive Dartmouth transfer had 13 points in a 69-49 Big Green loss at the BJC last season. He'll hope to get off the shooting schneid that has plagued his senior season (3-19 3pt FG).

But the addition that can push George Washington into NCAA tournament contention is Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh, who's been excellent for the Colonials after sitting out all of 2014-15. Cavanaugh gives Lonergan a second viable post scorer and rebounder to pair with Larsen, and that pairing has worked wonders so far - Cavanaugh has scored in double figures in every game this season, including an 18-point performance in GW's big win over Virginia at the Smith Center last month.

Defensively, George Washington has succeeded where the Nittany Lions have struggled in 2015-16. The Colonials are 34th nationally in three-point defense thus far, allowing opponents to connect on just 28.9% of their attempts from deep, and you can bet they'll be keying in on Shep Garner, who is surely on every opposing coach's radar after his 8-three performance in Chestnut Hill last week.

What To Watch For

No disrespect is meant to Joe McDonald, but it's fascinating to watch a modern day college team run through the post like GW does. Larsen's ability to pass out of double teams on the low block has been a major factor in the Colonials' early-season success and especially in their famous victory over Tony Bennett's top-ten squad. In fact, it's such a key component of the GW offense that KenPom's algorithm thinks Larsen is the team's point guard:


If (and it's a big if) Penn State's bigs (read: not 210lb Donovon Jack) can handle Larsen 1-on-1 in the post, or at least limit the Dane's effectiveness without fouling, the Nittany Lions might have a puncher's chance if they can knock down some threes. I don't see that happening, personally, but it's fun to dream I guess.


Penn State isn't at GW's level right now. It's unreasonable to think a team as green as PSU can succeed where a well-oiled machine like Virginia struggled. So I won't! Get those points away from me: George Washington 83, Penn State 67.