For the Georgetown men's basketball team, this isn't the easiest way to bounce back from a disappointing home loss: traveling cross-country to play a Pacific-10 team that hasn't lost a nonconference game on its home court in six years. But that's what the Hoyas will face this afternoon at Oregon.
"The nature of our schedule is that we can have some tough times. We realized that when we put it together," said Georgetown Coach John Thompson III, whose team is 2-1. "But at the end of the day, we have to get ready for the Big East. Hopefully, we will."
Oregon (4-1) has not lost to a nonconference opponent at McArthur Court since December 1999, a stretch of 35 games. Both teams have lost to Vanderbilt -- Georgetown fell, 68-61, at home last Saturday, and Oregon lost, 76-75, on a 30-foot buzzer-beater in Nashville on Wednesday.
This three-game stretch -- Vanderbilt, at Oregon and at No. 12 Illinois on Thursday -- is a prelude to what the Hoyas will face once conference play begins. In mid-January, the Hoyas have a stretch of three road games: at St. John's (where they haven't won since the 1996-97 season), at West Virginia and at Connecticut.
"The challenge up front at the beginning of the season is going to help you at the end of the season," sophomore guard Jonathan Wallace said after the Vanderbilt loss.
Georgetown didn't drop back-to-back games last year until late in the season, when a five-game losing streak essentially took it out of NCAA tournament consideration. Thompson said the lesson the Hoyas learned from that stretch -- aside from "winning is fun and losing is not" -- is that they do have the ability to bounce back. The Hoyas played well in the Big East tournament, nearly upsetting U-Conn., and then made a run to the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament.
"Hopefully, it will get us to a point where we can learn some lessons that we learned late last year -- possibly we can learn them early this year," Thompson said. "Hopefully, we don't lose games along the way. Hopefully, we can learn the hardness that is necessary -- mentally, physically, emotionally -- the hardness that is necessary to win."
And it's never too early to start thinking about what it will take to get into the NCAA tournament -- the ultimate goal. There have been years when the Hoyas padded their nonconference schedule with easy wins, but at the end of the season it wasn't enough to get invited.
"I look at our schedule, and I think we've challenged ourselves, especially in the eyes of, if we've played our way into an opportunity to be selected for the NCAAs," Georgetown Athletic Director Bernard Muir said earlier in the week. "We've gone out and done what the NCAA wants us to do, which is to play people."
But what does the current coach's father, Hall of Famer John Thompson Jr., think when he looks at the Hoyas' schedule?
"That I'm a fool," Thompson III said. "That's a fact."
Hoyas Note: Following his nine-rebound performance against Vanderbilt, senior forward Brandon Bowman moved into 20th place on the school's career list. He now has 588 rebounds, four more than NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue (1959-62).