Georgetown now preparing to enter into phase 3 of their season
Georgetown's path toward NCAA Tournament redemption goes through the South, with a detour in Philadelphia.
The Big East regular season co-champions will participate in the ultimate March Madness event as the No. 2 seed in the South region, the selection committee revealed on Sunday evening. The Hoyas quest for the program's initial round of 16 and Final Four appearance since 2007 begins Friday in Philadelphia against No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast, winners of the Atlantic Sun conference tournament.
"It's awesome," junior forward Nate Lubick said. "This is the highest we've been [seeded] since I've been here. This is the time of the year you play basketball for, to be in March Madness, to be in the dance."
With an opening game victory, Georgetown would play either No. 7 San Diego State or No. 10 Oklahoma on Sunday. Another triumph would advance coach John Thompson III's team to the regionals held March 29-31 in Arlington, Texas at Cowboys Stadium.
Along with the Hoyas, the top seeds in the South region are No. 1 Kansas, No. 3 Florida and No. 4 Michigan.
This year's Final Four is in Atlanta with the national semifinals on April 6 followed by the championship game on April 8.
Any chance of landing a No. 1 seed disappeared with Friday's Big East Tournament semifinal loss to Syracuse, but the Hoyas overall resume proved potent enough. Not the coach was concerned one way or another.
"The seeding - and I may the only coach in the country who feels this way - I don't go into worried about what we're going to be seeded," Thompson said. "It's the opposition. Because there can be times where you can be a three seed and have a better matchup than you can have as a two seed or a four seed. It's all about Florida Gulf Coast as opposed to our seed."
Only in its second season in Division 1, Florida Gulf Coast posted a 24-10 record. The Eagles defeated ACC champion Miami 63-51 and also faced Duke, VCU and St. John's.
Beyond the record and results, Thompson is learning about his next opponent on the fly.
Asked after the selection show how he knows about the Eagles, the coach said, "If we had this tomorrow, I'd be much better prepared to answer that. The name goes up and you immediately go to the computer and see they played a terrific schedule: VCU, Duke, St. John's, getting a win against Miami."
Georgetown is a No.2 seed for the third time since 2007, all under Thompson, and fourth time in program history. The Hoyas were a two-seed during their Final Four run, but also had that slot the following season when losing to Davidson in the second round.
The Georgetown players and coaches along with throngs of students and fans watched the bracket unveiling from the Leo O'Donovan dining hall on campus. The scene was pep rally than mere watch party especially when Georgetown's name popped up on the screen.
The Hoyas rose up the Big East standings and the national rankings by winning 11 straight games and 12 of 13 closing the regular season. In the conference's final season as currently constituted, Georgetown finished tied with Louisville and Marquette for first place, winning the program's third title under coach John Thompson III.
Following the departures of several conference rivals, most notably Syracuse, Georgetown and the Big East's other basketball-centric schools are leaving the football schools to form a new-look Big East starting next season
After starting conference play with two losses, Georgetown lost second-leading scorer and rebounder Greg Whittington due to an academic suspension. That's oddly when the turnaround began thanks largely to sophomore Otto Porter's production and the team's stingy defense.
Entering the season as Georgetown's best player, the 6-foot-8 sophomore emerged as the Big East top performer and one of the premier weapons in the nation. Porter averages 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.9 steals while shooting 42.7 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, leading the Hoyas in all four categories.
Tagged by Syracuse's Jim Boeheim as the best all-around small forward in Big East history, Porter also averages 2.7 assists, 1.0 block while shooting 49 percent from the field and 78 percent on free throws.
Georgetown led the Big East in scoring defense and held 15 of its last 18 opponents under 40 percent shooting from the field.
Markel Starks paces the backcourt scoring options with 12.5 points. Over his last three games, the chatty junior guard is averaging 15.3 points while shooting 50 percent (10 of 20) from beyond the 3-point arc.
Despite the recent lofty seeds, the Hoyas have a 2-4 record in four NCAA Tournament trips since reaching the Final Four in 2007. Last year as a three seed in the Midwest, Georgetown snapped a three-game losing streak by defeating Belmont, but lost to No. 11 NC State in the round of 32.
Asked what the players can take from those past setbacks, Starks searched for a profound response.
"It's the thing to your ears and thing off to the left of your chest, it takes a lot of that, a lot of that," Stark said. "When you're going through the tournament - obviously, I've never been deep enough to reflect on that, but I can talk about the tough losses, VCU, NC State. Those hurt.
"You sit in those locker rooms and you're just saying, 'for those seniors, this is their last chance of being able to be in this situation'. And then you sit back and say to yourself, ' I don't want to be in this situation my senior year'. I want to have a smile on my face, go deep in the tournament. Constantly having people talk about Georgetown basketball. Having those losses puts an extra chip on your shoulder."
Because the Verizon Center is the host site for the East Regional, Georgetown knew it would play in the South, Midwest or West regions.
Georgetown and Florida were to meet in the season opener on an Aircraft Carrier, but the game was cancelled at halftime due to slippery court conditions. Should both teams reach the second weekend, they would play, hopefully, a full game in the round of 16.
Eight teams in the current Big East made the tournament, the most for any conference. Among those in the Field of 68, include Marquette and Villanova, two of the teams joining Georgetown in the retooled Big East basketball-centric conference next season.