If St. John's really is the No. 2 team in the nation, then playing the NCAA tournament will be a waste of time. Georgetown reconfirmed with exclamation tonight that it is the best team in college basketball, whipping the Redmen, 92-80, to win the Big East tournament before 19,591 in Madison Square Garden.
Georgetown won its fourth Big East tournament title in the league's six years and its second straight. The Hoyas (30-2) go into next week's NCAA tournament with 12 consecutive victories.
Most of the Redmen played wretchedly. For a team that is supposed to be one of the most talented in the game, this was a straight-up embarrassment.
Georgetown's Bill Martin played circles around St. John's heralded Walter Berry. Willie Glass, the Redmen's other starting forward, had no points in the second half, no rebounds for the game. And all-America Chris Mullin didn't get off a second-half shot until 12 minutes had gone by.
By then, Georgetown had blown St. John's bye-bye. The victory margin may have been 12, but the tone said 25. St. John's Coach Lou Carnesecca tried to find solace in the fact that playing Georgetown "gets you ready for anything, unless, of course, you're going to die."
The game was briefly interrupted by a fight -- between Georgetown's Reggie Williams and St. John's Ron Rowan; both were ejected. But that couldn't detract from Georgetown's brilliance, especially on offense and in rebounding.
The Hoyas, who shot 57 percent from the floor, got 19 points from point guard Michael Jackson; 18 from Martin, who made eight of 11 shots from the field; 17 from David Wingate, and 14 from Williams.
The Hoyas were so efficient, they were able to increase the lead without all-America Patrick Ewing, the tournament's most valuable player, who picked up three fouls early and played just 19 minutes. Even so, he made five of six shots and grabbed seven rebounds.
When Ewing was on the bench, Ralph Dalton was getting nine points and eight rebounds.
Mullin scored 25 points for the Redmen, but only six in the second half. He made just six of 14 shots. Berry finished with 14 points, most after St. John's was far behind.
The most overwhelming numbers, though, came in the rebounding column. Georgetown held a 36-19 advantage, including a 14-2 edge on the offensive boards, which translated into a 20-4 scoring difference.
As Martin said, "We were getting pretty good first shots and certainly even better second shots."
Georgetown's only stretch of trouble was caused, accidentally, by its coach, John Thompson. The Hoyas were leading, 22-13, when Mullin used a double forearm shiver to run over Georgetown freshman Perry McDonald, who was guarding Mullin in the Hoyas' box-and-one defense.
McDonald was called for an intentional personal foul (two shots) and Mullin was called for nothing. Thompson picked up one technical foul, and Mullin made three of four shots to bring St. John's within 22-16.
During the ensuing television timeout, Thompson got a second technical, and Mullin made two more shots that made it 22-18. When Bill Wennington went inside for his only basket of the half (in five tries), Georgetown's lead had been reduced to 22-20.
And the Hoyas appeared to be in even deeper trouble when Ewing picked up his third foul, on a charging call, with 11:32 to play in the half.
But St. John's did nothing. Well, the Redmen did tie the score twice, at 26 on Mullin's jumper, and at 28 on Mullin's layup with 7:50 left. But he missed a foul shot that could have given St. John's the lead.
And from there, St. John's fell out of the game.
Carnesecca got hit with his second technical; Jackson's free throws made it 30-28. Dalton hit another offensive-rebound basket for 32-28. Martin scored a jumper for 35-30, and a steal by Williams led to two free throws by Jackson for 37-30.
All the while, Ewing watched his teammates run. "Ralph did an outstanding job when Pat wasn't in the game," Thompson said. "And Wingate (eight assists, no turnovers) had an outstanding game."
The Hoyas led, 47-40, at halftime, and got off to a good second-half start when Berry missed a hook he took despite two smothering defenders. When Martin buried a jumper at the other end, Berry wasn't in the picture.
A few possessions later, Martin threw a jumper right over Berry's slapping hand for a 53-44 lead. The rest was basically exercise.
Georgetown's most strenuous moment thereafter was cutting down the nets, an act Thompson joined reluctantly.
"When Pat came over to me and told me to cut down the strings I told him, 'These aren't the strings I want,' " Thompson said.
This certainly wasn't the way Mullin wanted to go out, in his last game as a collegian in New York. He played superbly the first two games of the tournament, not only scoring, but setting up teammates for easy baskets. Tonight, he had one assist.
"Nobody can stop Chris Mullin," Thompson said. "I told our players before the game, 'Let's stop him from being their key playmaker. He's going to get his points, but don't let him get anybody else 12, 13, 14 points. Don't let him break the pressure (by himself).' "
Thompson acknowledged that it's "probably reasonable" for Georgetown to be seeded No. 1 in the East Regional, meaning the Hoyas would play either in Hartford Thursday or Atlanta Friday.
"We feel pretty good going in," Martin said, certainly understating the point. "We don't care where we go; wherever it is, we'll play hard."