With the Big East tournament set to begin in three weeks, the 10th-ranked Georgetown men’s basketball team has something to focus on as it enters the stretch run of the regular season schedule.
Actually, make that two somethings.
Teams seeded first through fourth in the conference tournament receive a double-bye into the quarterfinals, while those seeded 5-8 receive only a single bye. At 9-4 in conference play, the Hoyas are tied with South Florida for fourth place behind Syracuse (13-1), Marquette (10-3) and Notre Dame (10-3).
That means Georgetown’s margin for error is small as it opens a road trip that makes stops in Providence, R.I., and Newark over the next four days. But it also means the reward for finishing strong could be huge.
Since the Big East tournament started inviting all 16 teams to Madison Square garden three seasons ago, two of the three champions have been recipients of the double bye — Louisville in 2009 and West Virginia in 2010. (Last season, ninth-seeded Connecticut didn’t get a bye at all, but was willed to the title by NBA lottery pick Kemba Walker.)
Although earning the double-bye does not guarantee tournament success — the top four seeds are only 6-6 in quarterfinal matchups — there’s no question that it’s easier to win three games as opposed to four or five.
“It’s very important to get the double-bye or the bye,” senior captain Jason Clark said Thursday at McDonough Gymnasium. “That helps you go on in the tournament. That’s [one] or two less games that you don’t have to deal with being tired from playing.”
Added junior swingman Hollis Thompson: “It’s definitely a big motivator. I just found out about it. You should definitely be motivated by it, but you can’t really think about it because so much can change in so little time.”
Indeed, much can change. But the Hoyas (19-5 overall) would seem to have an opportunity to cement their place among the Big East’s top four teams in the coming week with games against Providence, Seton Hall and Villanova, none of which owns a winning Big East record.
The stretch run begins Saturday at Dunkin’ Donuts Center, where the Hoyas face struggling Providence, which is mired in last place at 2-12. The Friars have lost four in a row and eight of their past nine.
On Tuesday, Georgetown plays Seton Hall at Prudential Center in Newark. The Pirates have won three in a row but are 7-7 in the conference.
A week from Saturday, the Hoyas host Villanova, which has dropped four of its past five games and has a 4-9 mark in the Big East. The Wildcats’ lone win during that stretch came against Providence.
After Villanova, the schedule gets considerably tougher for Georgetown, which closes out the season at home against Notre Dame and on the road against Marquette, which has won the teams’ last two meetings in Milwaukee.
“We’re in the top four, and we would like to remain in the top four,” sophomore guard Markel Starks said. “The coaching staff, the players, everybody involved will do everything humanly possible to make sure that we can possibly have that double-bye.”
Hoyas notes: Sophomore forward Nate Lubick, a native of Southboro, Mass., said a relative has purchased an entire section at Dunkin’ Donuts Center and he is expecting “close to 100” friends and family members to be in attendance. “It’s as close as I get to coming home,” he said. . . .
Starks, who lists serving as a U.S. congressman as one of his goals, is running for vice president of Georgetown’s student body. “This is preparation,” he said, adding that Sen. John Kerry and President Obama sparked his interest in politics.