The Marymount University women's basketball program knows all about success. The Saints have made nine appearances in the NCAA tournament during the last 13 seasons, including a 2009-10 trip to the Sweet 16.
This season, the women's squad is off to its typical strong start, posting a 6-3 mark through Dec. 29. But it isn't the only thriving basketball team on Marymount's Arlington, Va., campus.
The Marymount men, who haven't posted a winning season since 2009-10, have already equaled last season's win total. An 83-76 win at Ferrum Dec. 17 gave coach Chris Rogers' club a 7-2 record. The Saints, who were 7-18 at the end of the 2012-13 season, could be a surprise contender for the Capital Athletic Conference title.
After recording four straight winning seasons, from 2006-07 to 2009-10, the men's program went through a downturn. The Saints were a combined 19-57 during the 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. This season, a roster of productive upperclassmen has helped Marymount rewrite the script.
Senior forward Reed Scott, junior forward JC Hoellich and senior guard Antonio Rouse have helped lift the Saints out of the basement. All three players have made at least 56 percent of their field-goal attempts, while Scott and Hoellich are ranked second and fifth among the conference's rebounding leaders.
A 6-foot-7 senior from Ellicott City, Md., Scott was the team's go-to player last season while averaging 12.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He hasn't had to shoulder as much of a load this winter. Scott still paces the Saints in rebounding (8.3 rebounds per game) and is the team's third-leading scorer (13.8 points per game), but he gets plenty of help up front from Hoellich.
A 6-foot-9 forward from Chesapeake Beach, Md., Hoellich contributed 5.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game last season. He leads the 2013-14 Saints in scoring (14.6 points per game) and snares 8.0 boards per outing. Rouse, from Woodbridge, Va., can pass (2.7 assists per game) and score (14.2 points per game).
While the men are the CAC's most improved team, coach Ashlee Courter's women's squad is trying to remain atop the conference. The Saints, who posted a 76-49 win against Shenandoah Dec. 18, rely on a solid backcourt for most of their production.
Senior guard Katelyn Fischer, the top returning player from last year's 24-5 squad, which advanced to the NCAA tournament's second round, is the team's most complete player. An effective playmaker and distributor, Fischer is leading the team in scoring (13.7 points per game) and assists (8.1 assists per game) for the third consecutive season.
Two imposing sophomore guards -- 5-foot-10 Kievanna Lacey (10.1 points per game, 4.9 rebounds per game, 56.9 percent from the field) and 5-foot-8 Aileen Maknati (12.7 points per game) -- have also played key roles for the defending CAC champions.
The George Washington men's basketball team hasn't been ranked in the national Top 25 in nearly eight years. But that could change soon.
The Colonials, who have been receiving votes in several recent polls, could move into the top 25 with wins at Hofstra (Dec. 28) and Kansas State (Dec. 31). George Washington's most recent national ranking came at the conclusion of the 2005-06 campaign, when the Colonials were ranked 14th by the Associated Press and 19th in the USA Today coaches' poll.
Coach Mike Lonergan's team enters the upcoming road trip with a 10-1 record. With two more wins before the calendar turns, the Colonials would be off to the fifth-best start in program history and the top mark since the 1936-37 team went 14-1 to start the season. The 2005-06 squad holds the all-time school record with its 26-1 start.