Georgetown’s flickering NCAA hopes could get a boost with win at No. 6 Villanova


Jabril Trawick and the Hoyas know their NCAA tournament at-large hopes are on the line Saturday when they face Villanova. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Georgetown Coach John Thompson III walked Friday afternoon from one end of the lobby in McDonough Arena to the other, searching for a new location to stand before his usual conference with reporters.

He’s superstitious this time of year, with his team’s future uncertain and Selection Sunday looming. He’s “not obsessive” about the ever-changing bubble talk, but the Hoyas haven’t won a road game in a while. He knows the scenarios at this point.

So the old spot wouldn’t do, not when Georgetown (17-12, 8-9 Big East) needs a win Saturday at No. 6 Villanova (27-3, 15-2) to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive.

“There’s no need to put your head in the sand and pretend that this isn’t a big game,” Thompson said before hopping on the team bus en route to Philadelphia. “Unfortunately, our guys are probably on the Internet and social media and having people tell them what a big game it is a lot more than their coach is, for sure.”

The Hoyas were presented with a straightforward path to the NCAAs when the week began. Following a loss at Marquette last Thursday, Georgetown’s third in four games, they couldn’t afford another setback.

A 75-63 win against No. 13 Creighton on senior night Tuesday cracked the door to an at-large berth slightly more ajar. Another victory away from Verizon Center over the Wildcats, who just clinched the Big East regular season title Thursday, would be hard for the selection committee to ignore.

The Hoyas already have five wins against the top 50 in the Ratings Percentage Index, but another loss would give them a below .500 record in league play. They enter Saturday ranked No. 57 in the NCAA’s official RPI.

Georgetown is also still battling for its seed in next week’s Big East tournament. The Hoyas could secure a bye in the first round with a win if Marquette defeats St. John’s on Saturday and creates a tie for sixth place in the conference standings. Villanova has lost just one home game this year, when Creighton hit a Big East-record 21 three-pointers back on Jan. 20

“We belong in the tournament, but at this point, we control our own destiny and we got to win to get in now,” junior guard Jabril Trawick said.

Trawick had just returned from a broken jaw and played only 12 minutes when Georgetown lost to Villanova, 65-60, in Washington on Jan. 27. Thompson said Friday the Philadelphia native had only been cleared by doctors to play the morning of the game and hadn’t practiced yet.

Trawick’s absence coincided with Georgetown’s January swoon, when it went 1-4 without him in the lineup. But he’s averaging 12.9 points and 4.6 rebounds over the past eight games, and will provide Georgetown another ballhandler against Villanova’s pesky defense. The Hoyas committed 18 turnovers in the first meeting.

Thompson mentioned Trawick’s resurgence, in addition to a strong nonconference schedule, when asked to stump for Georgetown’s inclusion in this year’s field of 68.

“After all that’s said and done, we have to go and win,” Thompson said. “But if you look at who we are when we were struggling, that’s not the group that we have right now. We have everyone back. We’re a different team.”

Trawick can only hope this latest homecoming will go better than the past two.

Last March, in the second-to-last game of the regular season, Villanova snapped Georgetown’s 11-game winning streak. Just more than two weeks later, the Hoyas returned to the Wells Fargo Center as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament and suffered a shocking upset to No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast.

On Friday, senior Markel Starks approached Trawick near the end of an interview to jokingly remind him how emotional it would be 24 hours later. He then asked Trawick what to expect from Georgetown as it makes one final postseason push.

“This is our Super Bowl game,” Trawick said. “We know what’s at stake.”

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