Georgetown expecting Chris Wright to return, but not for Big East tournament

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The Washington Post's Tarik El-Bashir joins the Post Sports Live crew to talk discuss Georgetown's recent struggles and debate whether it is harder to win this year's Big East Tournament or the NCAA Tournament.

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 9, 2011; 12:05 AM

A year ago, the Georgetown men's basketball team scripted a scintillating run through the Big East tournament. It won three games in three days and reached the championship game.

On Wednesday, the Hoyas begin play at Madison Square Garden, again as the tournament's No. 8 seed. This time, though, the degree of difficulty figures to be much greater without senior guard Chris Wright, who has missed the past 21/2 games with a broken bone in his left hand.

"He's progressing as we hoped he would," Coach John Thompson III said. "Obviously, he's limited in what he can do. But it's good to have him back out there and participating in parts of practice. Absolutely we are expecting him to return."

But it almost certainly won't be this week, Thompson said; the target date for his return remains the first round of next week's NCAA tournament. He did, however, say Wright returned to practice on Monday and has been participating in what he called "non-contact drills."

"I doubt very seriously if he will play this week [despite] how well his recovery is going," Thompson said. "One of the reasons he's not going to participate this week is to make [the NCAA tournament] a possibility."

The Hoyas haven't won since Wright walked off the court Feb. 23 against Cincinnati, cradling his hand. And after Georgetown lost by a season-worst 22 points Saturday in the rematch with the Bearcats, the chances of ending that skid at Madison Square Garden seem remote.

On Wednesday, Georgetown (21-9) will face Connecticut, a team it didn't beat even with Wright in the lineup. Getting 31 points from junior guard Kemba Walker, the Huskies defeated the Hoyas, 78-70, in Hartford, Conn., on Feb. 16.

Walker scored 26 points on Tuesday as ninth-seeded Connecticut (22-9) defeated No. 16 seed DePaul, 97-71, in the tournament's opening round.

But stopping Walker won't be Georgetown's only concern.

The Hoyas have averaged a meager 48 points the past three games as Wright's injury has triggered a ripple effect through the offense, which totaled 80 or more points nine times this season.

Cincinnati Coach Mick Cronin and his players said after Saturday's game that Wright's absence made it easier to press the Hoyas and, and as a result, caused Austin Freeman and Jason Clark to wear down from the mental and physical strain of bringing the ball up the floor.

Bearcats senior Rashad Bishop added that it's also easier for opponents to focus their efforts on stopping Freeman, Georgetown's leading scorer (17.8 points; Wright is second, with 13.1 points).


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