- Chris Wright and the Hoyas begin a season-defining stretch Saturday at Villanova. (Photo: Associated Press)
When I last discussed the Georgetown University basketball team in this space, they had just lost to Pitt on their home floor by 15 points (and it wasn't even that close), and were staring down the barrel of a 1-4 Big East record and a three-game losing streak. The consensus in the Verizon Center media room went something like this: If the Hoyas were to split their next two games (at Rutgers and at Seton Hall), they would be in very real trouble. And in the college basketball world, trouble is spelled N-I-T.
It's been exactly two weeks since that plundering by the Panthers, and while the Hoyas haven't gotten themselves entirely out of trouble (as I'll touch on in a bit), they're in a much better spot than they were immediately after Pitt danced on their floor.
Georgetown moved up to 4-4 in the Big East Conference Wednesday night after sportingly allowing St. John's to hang around for about 25 minutes before making their shooting advantage tell and pulling away to win 77-52.
The win moved Georgetown up to 4-4 in the megapolis that is the 16-team Big East Conference, good enough to tie with Marquette for 9th place, three games behind the aforementioned Pitt Panthers, who sit alone atop the conference standings. With eight games played on their conference schedule, and 10 games remaining, the Hoyas are essentially where they were back on December 29, when they opened conference play with a 69-55 loss at Notre Dame. At 15-5, Georgetown is even three-quarters of the way to 20 wins, that psychologically significant mark which usually (but not always) ensures that a major conference team will make the field of 68.
But, as I said above the jump, Georgetown's not out of trouble quite yet. They have 10 games left to play in the conference, starting with Saturday's trip to Villanova, who, as if to re-prove the wonderful wacky randomness of the Big East, was blown away by Providence Thursday night and will no doubt be made ready to play by their very fine coach, Jay Wright. The rest of Georgetown's schedule is as follows: home to Louisville Monday, home to suddenly dangerous Providence February 5, a home-and-home against Syracuse (away game on February 9, home game February 26), home to Marquette February 13, a trip to Hartford to play Connecticut February 16, a trip to Tampa to face South Florida February 19, and a home-and-home against Cincinnati (home game February 23, road game in the regular season finale on March 5). That's 10 games, two likely wins (Providence and South Florida), and eight games that will define the success or failure of Georgetown's season.
Georgetown coach John Thompson III wasn't ready to talk about Villanova Wednesday night beyond stating, "They have pretty good perimeter players and we have pretty good perimeter players ... [For now], we'll just focus on making our shots and guarding their guys."
"We knew that we didn't play particularly well [in the 61-58 loss to St. John's January 3 at Madison Square Garden]," said senior guard Chris Wright. "We wanted to come out here and beat them on the boards." Which Georgetown proceeded to do, outrebounding St. John's 39-30 on a night that saw freshman forward Nate Lubick get a start for the first time this season over sophomore Hollis Thompson. John Thompson III shrugged off the change by saying, quite sensibly, "Whoever starts when the score is 0-0 and there's 40 minutes left to play doesn't mean a whole lot." As if to prove his coach's point, Thompson went 5-for-6 from the field, scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds. Lubick, for the record, scored six points, also grabbed six points, and only played three more minutes than Thompson (21 to 18).
So the Hoyas will make their way to Philadelphia with a renewed sense of purpose at this crucial point of the season, but with many questions still surrounding them. In particular, the spotlight is continuing to shine harshly on Wright, who scored nine points on 4-of-12 shooting in 32 minutes. In the eight Big East games Wright has played, he has made just 29 of his 81 field goal attempts (35.8%). In Georgetown's 12 non-conference games, Wright made 53 of his 113 field goal attempts (47.0%). Scoring just nine points is not likely to get the job done Saturday against Villanova. But that hasn't changed his bravado, as when he was asked about the possibility of Georgetown bouncing back up the Big East standings.
"It doesn't matter to us," Wright said of a week that, in addition to Villanova's loss, saw Syracuse smashed by Seton Hall by 22 points on its home floor. "Obviously we want [other teams in the conference] to loose, but as long as we take care of our business, I could care less."
The Hoyas in general, and Wright in particular, will have a very large piece of business to take care of starting Saturday in South Philadelphia.