Some 90 odd minutes after Mercer ended Duke's NCAA Tournament on Friday afternoon, Georgetown men's basketball team met with the media to discuss its upcoming NIT matchup. Head coach John Thompson III and senior guard Markel Starks hadn't watched the upset unfold, but knew the result. They also recognized the scenario.
Every March basketball-playing David's slingshot their way past hooping Goliaths. Atlantic Sun Tournament champion Mercer joined the club one year after its conference rival did the same. Florida Gulf Coast represented the A-Sun in the NCAA's last season and did so in ticket-tape parade fashion with a run to the East Region's Round 16.
Defeating second-seeded Georgetown as the No. 15 seed started the attention-getting.
"You can't look at the name across the jersey. At this point in the season, everybody is good," said Starks, who unfortunately learned that lesson several times on the Hilltop including last season's second-round loss to FGCU.
Asked to explain the Cinderella phenomenon as someone with unwanted experience in such matters, the candid Starks said, "Those teams have nothing to lose. They come out and just play really, really hard. I think a lot of times big names schools look at the names - as much as they say they don't - they come out kind of lax, really take it kind of easy."
Last year in Philadelphia, Georgetown went from tied at 31-31 early in the second half to trailing FGCU 52-33 with 12:30 remaining. Starks led a subsequent rally and the Hoyas pulled within five points, but couldn't avoid their latest early round exit.
"Then you realize you're down, six, seven, nine 10, 11 [points] and then you start to wake up. By that time the [underdog] team is in a rhythm. It kinds of puts you in a desperation situation so you're playing not how you would normally play. It's a lot of factors that go into a [tournament loss]."
One factor in the national shock comes from those numbers assigned to each team.
"You get to this point and everybody is good," Thompson said to a group of reporters. "Because of how it's structured, I have to be a one [seed], you have to be a two, he has to be a three, she has to be a four on down to 16.
"But a lot of times, it's a magnification of small differences. Especially from a lot of those conferences that are getting one bid, you know the team is playing well. They just won their championship."
Starting in 2008, three of Georgetown's five NCAA Tournament loses have come versus teams from one-bid leagues: Davidson, Ohio and Florida Gulf Coast. The Hoyas were heavy favorites in those matchups, just as Duke was against Mercer.
"If you're asking if on the surface it's a surprise that Mercer beat Duke, yes. But anyone can win any game in that tournament this time of year."
The "tournament" for the Hoyas this year is the NIT. After knocking off West Virginia on Tuesday, Starks and crew will play at Florida State on Monday. Ironically, the Seminoles denied Georgetown a revenge opportunity by defeating FGCU in the opening round.
On a day in which a major program fell to an Atlantic Sun school, the Hoyas leading scorer was asked if, as he described above, his team looked past last year's lower-seeded foe.
"It was just one of those games," Starks said. "Hopefully moving forward we've learned from that and future teams realize that there are no easy games once it comes to this time of the year. February and March is the most important time of the season. That's when the committee is looking to see who is going to be able to give us the better game, who is able to come in and compete.
"Just last year around this time, it was just one of those days."