Big East coaches slotted Georgetown and Notre Dame in the bottom half of the conference entering the season, projecting a 10th- and ninth-place finish, respectively. Now entering the final week of the regular season, the fourth-place Hoyas sit one game behind the third-place Fighting Irish. So much for preseason forecasts. The two apparent overachievers square off Monday night in the Hoyas' final home game of the season and the final home game ever for seniors Jason Clark and Henry Sims. Both sides have already clinched an opening-round bye in next weeks conference tournament and remain in contention for a coveted double bye. Only two of the four spots remain, with Syracuse and Marquette having secured their place. No. 20 Notre Dame (20-9, 12-4) will earn its spot with a win over the No. 11 Hoyas. Georgetown closes its regular season Saturday at No. 8 Marquette, thus putting Mondays clash into near must-win territory for the double bye.
Broadening out the picture, a win over Notre Dame would be Georgetowns second in six games against likely NCAA tournament-bound teams since beating Marquette on Jan. 4. The Hoyas defeated reeling Connecticut and a South Florida squad still on the wrong side of the bubble talk - but lost to West Virginia, Cincinnati, Syracuse and Seton Hall. The Hoyas enter the match-up coming off one of their top all-around efforts in Saturdays 67-46 win over undermanned Villanova as they held the Wildcats to 28 percent shooting. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irishs nine-game winning streak came crashing down on Saturday under the weight of wayward shooting from beyond the arc (4-of-31, 12.9 percent) at St. Johns.Both are offensively challenged at times the Hoyas rank 12th among Big East teams in scoring, the Fighting Irish 13th. Both teams make up for scoring lapses with defensive effort; Georgetown sits third in scoring defense, one spot behind Notre Dame. Guards and D.C. area natives Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant lead the Fighting Irish in scoring, but power forward Jack Cooleys inside presence has been leading the way. On the season, the junior banger is averaging 12.4 points and 9.3 rebounds, but over the last five games, Cooley has upped his production to 18.4 points and 12.4 rebounds while shooting 73 percent (38-of-52). Physical types have been problematic at times for the Hoyas this season.
As for Markel Starks, the media have had two opportunities to ask Hoyas coach John Thompson III about why he kept his usual starting guard on the bench for the entirety of the Villanova win and whether the sophomore will play against Notre Dame. Thompson hasn't given any information.Starks missed eight of nine shots in last weeks lopsided loss at Seton Hall. However, apparently an issue with his defense had the Hoyas coach screaming at Starks as the teams shook hands, according to a report.Starks production and effectiveness have dipped considerably since he scored 20 points in the Hoyas' Dec. 28 upset of Louisville. But will Starks stay planted on the bench?"We'll decide once we get there," Thompson said.