The problem of being a Georgetown hoops fan these days is that you spend a lot more time thinking about former glories than current ones. And last week might mark the nadir of a program that looks to this outsider to be in complete free fall.
The first blow came Tuesday night when Georgetown took on Maryland in a marquee matchup of local powerhouses. (Maryland has been the more powerful of the two in recent years.) After a back-and-forth affair in the first half, Georgetown opened up a steady five- to seven-point lead for much of the second. In fact, the Hoyas led by five with 29 seconds left in the game — a scenario in which the team leading wins 99 percent of the time. Georgetown lost — seemingly stunned by the Terrapins full-court press into terrible turnovers and dumb fouls. Final score: Maryland 76, Georgetown 75.
That was bad. Really bad. Especially for a team that had finished 15-18 last season, missing out on all postseason play and racking up the team's first losing season since 2003-2004. (After that season, Hoya coach Craig Esherick was fired.) Georgetown needed an early-season signature win to boost confidence and their NCAA tournament appeal — Maryland came into the game ranked No. 25 nationally — and they got neither.
Early season, I told myself. Maryland is a more experienced team, I thought. Not a great loss but maybe an understandable one, I rationalized.
Then came Thursday night and a matchup against the Arkansas State Red Wolves. Arkansas State was picked to finish 10th (out of 12 teams) in the lightly regarded Sun Belt Conference, and the game was so under-the-radar that Georgetown played it at their on-campus McDonough Arena — the first time the team had played there since 2014. The Red Wolves came into the game as 20-plus-point underdogs but didn't play like it. They dominated the game, leading the Hoyas by 19 at halftime and withstanding a furious run by Georgetown in the game's final minutes to win 78-72.
One play typified the Hoyas night. With 13 seconds to go and Georgetown down three and in possession of the ball, a timeout was called. The Hoyas's L.J. Peak promptly threw away the inbound pass and, with it, the game.
As the outcome became clear, a “Fire Thompson” chant could be heard in the gym. As in head coach John Thompson III, the son of legendary Hoya coach John Thompson Jr.
It's not hard to understand the students' frustration. After taking Georgetown to the Final Four in his third season in 2006-2007, Thompson hasn't made it to the Sweet 16 since. And the team has famously flamed out in the early rounds of the tournament — outclassed by the likes of Florida Gulf Coast and Ohio University in recent years.
That Thompson is the 10th-highest-paid men's basketball coach in the country (more than $2.8 million in salary yearly) doesn't help matters. (Arkansas State first year coach Grant McCasland is set to make $350,000 this year.)
I want nothing more than to eat my words on this Hoya team. As as alumni, I — and so many people I know — desperately want this team to be relevant again on the national stage. But this week proved we are as far from that relevance as at any time in decades. Ugh.