Georgetown Seniors Relish Timely Reward
Monday, March 13, 2006
Georgetown senior forward Brandon Bowman didn't bother to watch the NCAA tournament selection show the past three years because, quite simply, it was too painful for him. He knew the Hoyas weren't going to be one of the 65 teams whose names would flash across the television screen, and he didn't want to be disappointed.
Last night was different. Bowman sat in the Leavey Center, the university's student union, and watched the show alongside his teammates and hundreds of Georgetown students. When Georgetown's name came up halfway through the show, the cheers from the students were so loud that Bowman didn't hear who or where the Hoyas were playing. But it didn't really matter. What did matter was that Georgetown was officially in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001 and the 23rd time overall.
"The longer you wait the more you get nervous," said Bowman, who, like the rest of his teammates, has never played in the NCAAs. "I was sitting next to Jeff [Green] and Pat [Ewing Jr., who is redshirting] and we were like, what if this, what if that happens. We knew we were getting in, and I think we're pretty happy where we are."
The Hoyas (21-9) are the seventh seed in the Minneapolis region, and they will face 10th-seeded Northern Iowa (23-9) in Dayton, Ohio, on Friday. The winner of that game will face the winner of the game between second-seeded Ohio State and 15th-seeded Davidson on Sunday. Villanova is the top seed in the region.
"As the selection show went on, I was wondering whether or not they forgot about us," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said. "You get anxious; you get extremely anxious. You're waiting to see who you have to now start to prepare for. This is an exciting time for our team, but once you see Northern Iowa pop up, you turn around to the assistants and ask, 'Do you know anything about them?' "
Thompson and his assistants immediately headed back to their office to start watching film of the Panthers, one of four Missouri Valley Conference teams to make the tournament. Northern Iowa, which is making its third straight NCAA appearance, tied a school record with 23 victories, which included impressive wins against Iowa, at LSU and against Bucknell. The Panthers made their first-ever appearance in the Associated Press poll in January, when they were ranked 25th.
For Bowman and the rest of the team's seniors, the NCAA bid was a reward for enduring three years of disappointment. As freshmen, they advanced to the finals of the National Invitation Tournament, where they lost to St. John's. As sophomores, they endured a disastrous 13-15 season that ended with their coach, Craig Esherick, losing his job. Last year, they helped the team play its way into NCAA tournament consideration, only to have a five-game losing streak at the end of the regular season push them into the NIT again.
"It's been a long time, you know," fifth-year senior swingman Darrel Owens said. "Going out as a senior, it kind of brought a tear to my eye. The first thing our head manager Justin Zormelo did was grab me and I grabbed him back, and it's a feeling you can't describe. . . . Everything we did this season that was positive came down to 30 minutes ago."
The Hoyas had little to worry about yesterday, having essentially ensured themselves of an at-large bid by winning 10 games in the Big East Conference, which put a record eight teams into the field. The only question was where Georgetown, which beat top-ranked and undefeated Duke in January, would be seeded. A loss at South Florida (7-22) in the regular season finale likely dropped the Hoyas a few spots, but they had a good showing in the Big East tournament, winning two games before falling to a streaking Syracuse team in the semifinals.
"I don't really know how the seeding goes, since this is our first time," senior guard Ashanti Cook said. "But from what I hear, a seven seed is a good seed. In the NCAA tournament, the other team is a good team, otherwise they wouldn't be there."
Regardless of who they face, the Hoyas feel that they are prepared.
"We play in the best conference in the country. Playing in the Big East gets you ready for tournament like this," Owens said. "Obviously we had eight teams get in, and we've already played three number one seeds in the tournament: Duke, Connecticut and Villanova. Those are probably three of the toughest teams in the tournament, so we know what it takes to win."