Much Was Given, Now Much Is Expected
Monday, March 12, 2007
Inside the campus dining hall where the Georgetown men's basketball players and their fans gathered last night to watch the NCAA tournament selection show, there were reminders everywhere of what the Hoyas have already accomplished.
Several players wore the Big East championship hats they were given following Saturday night's 65-42 victory over Pittsburgh, and several students wore T-shirts that commemorated the school's first Big East tournament title since 1989.
But now that the Hoyas know where they will be to start the NCAA tournament on Thursday -- in Winston-Salem, N.C., as the No. 2 seed in the East Region -- and who they will play -- 15th-seeded Belmont, the Atlantic Sun champion -- it is time for them to move on and focus on what else they can achieve.
"We're coming down from all that right now," junior center Roy Hibbert said. "We're going to hang up all our hats and shirts and everything and get ready."
The Hoyas (26-6) are making their second straight NCAA tournament appearance and 24th overall. They have their highest seeding since 1996, when they also received a No. 2 seed and advanced to the East Region final.
North Carolina is the top-seeded team in the East Region and will also play its first- and second-round games in Winston-Salem. If Georgetown beats Belmont (23-9) -- which lost to UCLA in the first round last year -- on Thursday, the Hoyas will face the winner of seventh-seeded Boston College -- a former Big East rival -- and Texas Tech.
The crowd inside O'Donovan Dining Hall -- which included All-Mets Austin Freeman (DeMatha) and Chris Wright (St. John's), two Georgetown signees who sat alongside the current players -- cheered when the Hoyas' spot in the bracket was revealed. But that initial shout was soon dwarfed by a much louder one, which came in response to CBS analyst Seth Davis describing Georgetown as "one of the best two seeds I've ever seen" and saying "I think it's an easy bracket for them."
"I was kind of confused, because there's a lot of great teams in our bracket, so I don't know how they got that thought that we'll have an easy road to get to wherever they think we'll get," junior forward Jeff Green said. "We have to come out ready to play on Thursday and not worry about whether CBS has nice things to say about whether it's going to be an easy bracket. We know teams are going to come after us, the way we've been playing."
Indeed, few teams are entering the tournament playing as well as Georgetown, which has won 15 of its past 16 games. In winning the Big East tournament, the Hoyas showed that they could be successful playing different styles -- they used a smaller, more athletic lineup in a fast-paced game against Notre Dame and then flexed their inside muscle in a physical battle with Pittsburgh -- and that they were resilient.
All season long, the Hoyas have been very good at concentrating on the game at hand, and not looking too far ahead. They took a very business-like approach in New York, and it resulted in three impressive wins.
"They have been very good at focusing and refocusing and then focusing again," said Coach John Thompson III, who gathered his players and coaches in the dining hall kitchen for a brief meeting following the bracket announcement. "What we accomplished last night is extremely special, it was extremely special to me, to these guys, to the program. But at the same time, I think we can put it in perspective and enjoy it, and now move on."
Green, for one, has already moved on. He has given his commemorative T-shirt and hat -- even his Big East championship watch -- to his father, Jeff Green Sr.
"I don't wear all that," said Green, who was named both the conference regular season and tournament most outstanding player. "That's the past now. That stuff is over with, and we have to move on."
But there is one thing he's planning to keep for himself: the Big East championship ring.
"He's not getting that," Green said. "That's something I worked hard for. He can have all the other stuff. I'll probably get a chain and put it around my neck. I don't like wearing jewelry much, but that I'll wear."