Georgetown's NCAA Tournament Chances

By: Tim Van Blarcom, Feature Writer

No team has been more up and down this season than the Georgetown Hoyas, but at least they let you know what you were in for early on.A humiliating home loss against Northeastern, who currently ranks 200+ in both RPI and BPI, was quickly followed with dominant wins against Kansas State and VCU.  Georgetown used that momentum to roll through December and its non-conference schedule, picking up only one loss at Kansas.

In January, Georgetown’s momentum came crashing down as they lost center Joshua Smith to academic issues, and forward Jabril Trawik to a broken jaw.  After those losses, Georgetown squeaked out a win in OT at Butler but lost every other game, including a bad home loss to Seton Hall.

Since then Georgetown has rallied with the help of replacement forward Mikael Hopkins and a huge win at Madison Square Garden against Michigan State.  That win has sparked Georgetown’s current 4 game winning streak and has been a breath of life for their NCAA tournament aspirations.

Georgetown (15-9, 6-6 Big East) is currently the first team out of the bracket in the latest Bracketology with Joe Lunardi (ESPN).  They rank 53rd in RPI and 63rd in BPI, relying heavily on their great wins to overcome their disappointing losses.

With only six games remaining in the regular season, Georgetown’s margin for error is pretty thin but their current win streak has them in good position with momentum.  The next two games at St. John’s and at Seton Hall are must wins against below average competition but Georgetown has shown this season that it isn’t a safe bet on these games.  

Georgetown finishes the season with games against the current top 4 teams in the Big East.  They’ll get two of these at home and two on the road. Villanova (9-1) and Creighton (9-2) are currently neck and neck for the Big East regular season title and neither will go down easy.  Realistically, Georgetown needs to beat either Villanova or Creighton in the last 2 games and go at least 4-2 down the stretch.

Finishing the regular season 4-2, the Big East tournament will be a great opportunity to increase Georgetown’s seed in the NCAA tournament.  At 3-3 they’d still be on the bubble and anything less would realistically eliminate them.  In the Big East tournament, Georgetown is currently the 6th seed but with Big East teams having at least six conference games left that is certainly subject to change.  

Georgetown could end up ranked as high as the 3rd seed if they finish the regular season with a winning record.  Regardless, Georgetown should get a first round bye and start play in the quarterfinals.  If Georgetown maintains momentum and finishes the regular season in good position, they should be favored heading into the semifinals and be competitive.

At 4-2 in the remaining regular season, at least, and a competitive game in the semifinals of the Big East tournament, Georgetown should be a lock to make the NCAA tournament.  For all that to happen however, Georgetown needs to continue its winning streak by playing at an extremely high level.  Here are some keys for Georgetown on the court.

Keys for Georgetown

1. Get the guards involved early.  D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks combined have scored nearly half of Georgetown’s points this season (813/1713 total) and average more than 30 minutes per game.  Both guards are prone to have cold streaks however, and can leave Georgetown hanging for a half or more at a time.  Neither are elite shooters beyond the arc with Smith-Rivera recently coming off of an 0-17 streak.  Keeping both starting guards hot and involved will go a long way to keep Georgetown winning.

2.  Consistent play from the front court.  It’s no secret that Georgetown has struggled replacing Joshua Smith.  Smith is an imposing physical force on both sides of the court and his absence was a big part of Georgetown’s losing streak in January.  Georgetown has tried a combination of players to replace Smith including senior center Moses Ayegba, and natural forwards Nate Lubick and Mikael Hopkins to mixed results.  

As a group they’ve flashed at times but are quick to pick up fouls and lack the physicality Smith brings on defense.  Having one them step up their play and show ability to stop opposing bigmen would go a long way for Georgetown.

3.  Avoiding foul trouble.  Georgetown averages 22.0 fouls per game, which ranks among the absolute bottom of Division I basketball.  The front court tends to pick up fouls quickly which exposes Georgetown’s depth and scares the team away from playing good defense.  This also leads to Georgetown being one of the most generous teams in giving their opponent free throw opportunities.  

Reigning in sloppy defensive play and limiting free points for their opponents would be a huge factor in elevating Georgetown into NCAA tournament contention.

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