“If we don’t do what we have to do now, then we won’t be in good position then,” Georgetown’s Hollis Thompson said of the Hoyas’ NCAA tournament prospects. “We just have to stay focused.” (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Even after Tuesday’s unsightly defeat at Seton Hall, the Georgetown men’s basketball team is expected to receive a No. 3 seed in next month’s NCAA tournament, according to a projection by bracket expert Jerry Palm.

But to avoid slipping, Palm said, the ninth-ranked Hoyas will need strong performances in their final three regular season games and a respectable showing in next month’s Big East tournament.

“It gets competitive at that part of the bracket,” Palm said in a telephone interview. “They’re a good team, a very accomplished team. There’s not a whole lot negative. But they need to keep it going.”

Georgetown’s regular season enters its stretch run Saturday against Villanova, which has lost six of its past seven games but has been competitive of late. Guard Maalik Wayns and the Wildcats pushed their last two opponents — No. 20 Notre Dame and Connecticut — to overtime, losing by a combined seven points.

Senior captain Jason Clark said the Hoyas (20-6, 10-5) are focused on the Wildcats (11-16, 4-11). But with only 16 days remaining before Selection Sunday, he also acknowledged that it’s difficult not to peek at projections such as Palm’s.

“It’s always tough at this point in the year because it’s all over the place, all over TV, all over the Internet,” Clark said. “I try not to [pay attention], but it’s like you turn on the TV and you’re watching ESPN, minding your business, and it’s right there.”

After hosting Villanova, the Hoyas celebrate senior night Monday when Notre Dame visits Verizon Center. They wrap up the regular season at No. 10 Marquette on March 3 and, three days later, arrive in New York City for the Big East tournament.

“The thing you’ve got to understand is the season doesn’t end with Villanova, Notre Dame and Marquette,” said Palm, who founded the Web site CollegeRPI.
and also projects the NCAA tournament field for CBSSports.
com. “The conference tournament counts, too. You can’t [win out in the regular season] and then take a bad loss in the first round of the tournament.”

As of Friday, Georgetown was ranked 15th in RPI and its strength of schedule ranked 16th. The Hoyas are 7-4 against opponents ranked in Palm’s top 50.

As a result, Palm described the Georgetown’s body of work as “solid,” adding that the wins over Marquette, Louisville, Memphis (twice) and Alabama will serve them well on Selection Sunday.

“Yeah, they didn’t beat Syracuse or Kansas,” Palm said. “But who does?”

The Hoyas’ only blemishes, he added, are last month’s losses to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. But even those aren’t what Palm considers “bad.” The Bearcats, in fact, have reentered the tournament discussion after winning five of their last six games, including Thursday’s victory over No. 17 Louisville.

The Hoyas could potentially ascend to a No. 2 seed, Palm said. But upward mobility likely hinges on them winning their remaining regular season games and claiming the Big East crown — with a triumph over second-ranked Syracuse along the way.

“If they do that, then yeah, they’d probably crack the top eight, for sure,” he said. “But you’re talking about needing a pretty healthy winning streak to compete with the teams that are up there — the Ohio States, Michigan States, the Kansases.”

Falling, Palm cautioned, is much easier than rising. Two regular season losses coupled with an early ouster at Madison Square Garden could drop the Hoyas as far as a No. 5 seed, he said.

Indeed, much can change in the coming weeks.

But if any pressure is being felt by the Hoyas, it was hard to detect Thursday afternoon at McDonough Gymnasium.

“We’re a three seed right now?” junior forward Hollis Thompson asked. “In the tournament?”

Then Thompson just smiled.

“If we don’t do what we have to do now, then we won’t be in good position then,” he said. “We just have to stay focused.”