A victory over Villanova on Wednesday would guarantee Georgetown at least a share of the Big East regular season title, a heady achievement for a team whose roster was riddled with question marks after it lost its top three scorers from last season.
Villanova has plenty at stake, as well, in what will be its final regular season game.
While the Wildcats boast three victories over ranked teams (Louisville, Syracuse and Marquette), their 18-12, 9-8 record puts them on the bubble for a spot in the NCAA tournament in the view of most prognosticators. An upset of fifth-ranked Georgetown would make a compelling case, giving them 10 victories and another quality win in the tough Big East.
As Georgetown prepared for the trip to Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center, where the Wildcats toppled then-No. 5 Louisville and then-No. 3 Syracuse earlier this season, junior guard Markel Starks chafed at a suggestion that Villanova might be the hungrier team Wednesday.
“We’re a hungry team!” Starks said of the Hoyas (23-4, 13-3), who have won their past 11 games, prompting talk of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. “I don’t want to make it sound like they are the only ones that haven’t eaten. We don’t feel like we have enough on our plate.”
Starks spoke after practice at McDonough Arena and gestured to the postseason banners displayed overhead to underscore his point.
“Look at these banners up there,” he said. “I don’t see any Sweet 16s, Elite Eights, no Big East [championships] in a while. To me, that’s my mind-set: I’m trying to get a Big East regular season championship, hopefully a [Big East] tournament championship and ultimately get another white [NCAA Final Four] banner.”
It has been five seasons since the Hoyas added to their collection. They won their second consecutive Big East regular season title in 2007-08. The previous season they won the Big East championship and reached the NCAA tournament’s Final Four.
Georgetown fans lit up Internet chat rooms this week, hashing out the fine points of tiebreak scenarios with Louisville and Marquette lurking close behind. If Georgetown beats Villanova, neither Louisville nor Marquette, each 13-4 and tied for second in the Big East standings, could overtake the Hoyas for the regular season title.
Even if Georgetown then loses to Syracuse in its season finale Saturday, Louisville and Marquette could do no better than tie Georgetown with 14-4 conference records. In that case, all three would be declared regular season champions.
A tiebreak would determine seeding in the Big East tournament, and Georgetown would clinch the top seed by virtue of its 2-1 record against the other two. Louisville would be seeded second (1-1 against Georgetown and Marquette); and Marquette (1-2) would be third.
If Georgetown and Marquette end up tied atop the standings, the tiebreak to settle the seeding would go to the squad with the better record against the next team in the standings. That team would be Louisville, which can finish no worse than third in the standings. Because the Hoyas beat Louisville and Marquette lost to the Cardinals, Georgetown would earn the No. 1 seed under that scenario.
Georgetown Coach John Thompson III had no use for any of these scenarios Tuesday, focusing squarely, as he has all season, on the challenge at hand.
Villanova poses a considerable one. It balances potent perimeter scoring with an imposing front court anchored around 6-foot-10 senior Mouphtaou Yarou, who has developed a reliable mid-range jump shot to complement his rebounding and shot-blocking.
“He’s a big body who can really rebound and throw people around down there, but also very skilled,” said junior forward Nate Lubick.
Big East note: Under a separation agreement hammered out between the Big East’s football and basketball schools but not yet signed, Georgetown and the other six basketball-centric schools will launch their new conference next season. The basketball league will keep the “Big East” name and hold its conference championship at Madison Square Garden, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations. In return, the big-time football members will keep roughly 90 percent of the revenue from exit fees of schools that leave the conference. That pool of money is roughly $100 million.
The new Big East is expected to announce a broadcast deal with Fox Sports 1, which was formally unveiled Tuesday in New York, in the coming days.