Georgetown basketball faces important game against Louisville

Georgetown's Greg Monroe, here with the ball against Syracuse, and his teammates will try to move up in the conference standings.
Georgetown's Greg Monroe, here with the ball against Syracuse, and his teammates will try to move up in the conference standings. (Jonathan Newton/the Washington Post)
  Enlarge Photo     Buy Photo
By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said he had no use for "moral victories" after the Hoyas' gritty late-game rally against Syracuse fell short last Thursday. With four games remaining in the regular season, actual victories are what matters -- whether pretty or ugly, narrow or commanding -- to halt a late-season slide.

After an impressive 11-1 start, Georgetown has gone 7-6.

On Monday the Hoyas fell out of the top 10 (to 11th) following their first back-to-back losses, with the 75-71 defeat to Syracuse (in which they pared a 23-point second-half deficit to one) coming on the heels of lackluster showing at Rutgers.

The Hoyas (18-7, 8-6) have slipped down the Big East standings during the same span, now tied for sixth. And that would make them the seventh seed in the Big East tournament if the five-day, 16-team slugfest at New York's Madison Square Garden were to tip off Tuesday rather than on March 9.

As such, the Hoyas would get a first-round bye and open play March 10 against the winner of the 10th vs. 15th seeds, which currently shapes up as an all-New Jersey battle, pitting Seton Hall against Rutgers.

But Georgetown would lose out on the double-bye accorded the Big East's top four teams, which sail directly into the March 11 quarterfinals without so much as a dribble or a pass.

Thompson insists he's giving no thought to the math, which makes clear that a late-season surge into the Big East's top four isn't out of reach for the Hoyas, who'd likely have to topple Louisville on Tuesday and West Virginia on March 1 to manage it.

West Virginia (21-6, 10-5) is currently fourth in the Big East standings; Louisville (18-9, 9-5) is fifth.

"You just have to worry about the next game," Thompson said. "If I start looking down the road and doing math, I lose focus on what is in front of us. If you play enough good possessions and good halves and good games, then all of that takes care of itself."

For Georgetown fans who suffered through the team's late-season collapse last winter, the team's recent results are sounding alarm bells. Are the Hoyas, who rely heavily on a six-man rotation, running out of gas? Is their chemistry, seemingly an asset, souring somehow?

In the view of ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, Georgetown's tough slog of late is simply a reflection of the rigors of the Big East.

He points to Purdue's three-game slide in early January, in which it lost to Big Ten rivals Wisconsin, Ohio State and Northwestern. Tough conference, Bilas notes. Regrettable stretch. But Purdue (23-3) is now ranked No. 3 in the nation and has reclaimed its place atop the Big Ten.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company