NCAA tournament: Georgetown to face either VCU or USC
By Tarik El-Bashir,
Three weeks ago, Chris Wright wondered if he would be afforded another opportunity to lead the Georgetown men’s basketball team. Sunday, the senior point guard found out where — and against whom — he’ll get his second chance.
Wright and the Hoyas received a No. 6 seed and will face the winner of the Virginia Commonwealth-Southern California play-in game Friday in Chicago.
It will be Wright’s first game since he suffered a broken hand against Cincinnati on Feb. 23. But if he can’t help the Hoyas regain their swagger — they’re 0-4 since he got hurt — it will also be his last in the blue and gray.
“It’s going to be good to have our point guard, our floor general, one of our leaders, back on the floor,” senior Austin Freeman said. “To have his ability to penetrate, get his own shot and also get his teammates shots. Right now, he’s getting back into shape and trying to get his shot back. He’ll be fine.”
Georgetown (21-10) will be making its second straight appearance in the NCAA tournament, the 27th in program history and fifth in seven seasons under Thompson. The Hoyas are also one of a record 11 teams from the 16-team Big East conference to receive an invitation, breaking its own record of eight.
Although the Hoyas won’t know who they’re playing until late Wednesday night, they are plenty familiar with much of the field of 68. They’ve played 21 games against 17 tournament-bound teams — and earned 11 wins in those contests. All of Georgetown’s losses, meantime, have come against teams that received invitations.
Thompson said he’s watched a handful games involving VCU (23-11) on television and part of a Southern California (19-14) contest earlier this season.
“Come sun-up I’ll have a comfort level with both of them,” he said before adding, “I wish we knew exactly who we were playing, and I just heard that the game is Wednesday at 9 p.m., so you only have one day to really know who you are going to play. So that’s a challenge that we’re not used to.”
Before Wright got hurt, the Hoyas had won nine of 10 games and appeared to be headed for a No. 3 seed. After the injury, they were projected anywhere from fifth to eighth.
“We got feedback on the status of those kids,” Gene Smith, chairman of the NCAA tournament selection committee, said on a conference call with reporters. “When you’re playing without a player, you still have to execute, still have to perform. We got feedback that they would be able to play. That was important to us to know. [But] you still have to evaluate their performance without those kids.”
Asked what he thought of the seed, Thompson said it was not his focus in recent days.
“Is a six seed fair? I don’t know,” Thompson said. “At this time of year, seeding is not as important as matchups. Seeding does come into play if you advance. But right now it’s about matchups.”
If the Hoyas win, they’ll face either No. 3 Purdue or 14th-seeded Saint Peter’s on Sunday.
Whether they get to that point, though, could hinge on the condition of Wright’s hand.
Wright is scheduled to participate fully in practice on Monday for the first time since suffering the injury. Thompson said Wright will start on Friday.
“I haven’t been on the court in full contact yet, where I’ve tested it and someone has hit my hand, which I’m sure is going to happen,” said Wright, who was not wearing anything on his left hand, but also kept in his back pocked while speaking to reporters. “But I have a high tolerance for pain and if someone hits my hand, I’ll be all right. I’ll just suck it up and keep playing.”
In the days leading up to the season, Wright spoke about the chance for this year’s seniors to author their own legacy.
Later this week, they’ll get that chance.
“I’m ready to play,” Wright said. “This is the NCAA tournament. Win or go home. . . . It could be my last game. God is blessing me and He gave me a second chance to get out there and play with this team. So I’m just going to take it and run with it.”
Hoyas note: Georgetown received an oral commitment from Oakland Mills star Greg Whittington, according to a source with knowledge of his decision. The 6-foot-9 forward was also pursued by Maryland, Texas, Clemson and Duke.