Newly ranked Hoyas solidly in NCAA, Big East chase

Newly ranked Hoyas solidly in NCAA, Big East chase
February 4, 2013, 3:45 pm
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Thanks to the surging Hoyas, the DMV is back in the AP Top 25 college basketball rankings.

Following a stretch of four straight wins and victories in 6 of 7 games, the Hoyas (16-4, 6-3 Big East) re-entered the rankings at No. 20 after John Thompson III's team was in the nose pressed against the glass No. 26 slot last week. In the USA Today Coaches Poll, the Hoyas ranked No. 21.

Reporting change of status from others receiving votes to elite-ish is done because rankings matter too many even if the numerical grade has no impact on conference crowns or postseason berths. Regardless, when Georgetown fell out of the AP Top 25 last month following a Jan. 19 loss at South Florida, reasonable minds wondered when - or - if the Hoyas would become ranked again this season.

Even if the assumption was of course, doing so this quickly seemed unlikely considering consecutive games against ranked foes - at Notre Dame., vs. Louisville - came next.

We know what actually happened next: Georgetown throttled the Irish in South Bend, pushed back the Cardinals with Aaron Bowen's athletic putback and then soundly defeated Seton Hall and St. John's this past week. Over the seven-game stretch, the Hoyas have shown fewer signs of the offensively challenged squad that opened conference play with two low-scoring losses.

What the Hoyas have also done is put themselves directly into the Big East regular season race and into a control your own destiny scenario for an NCAA Tournament at-large berth. Again, at 0-2 and without Greg Whittington, not sure anyone would have assumed either occurring this rapidly.

At their current trajectory, the Hoyas are a No. 5 seed according to one NCAA Tournament bracket figure-outer, though it's unclear how much insight such early February projections offer.

(*My free advice to all the bracketologists out there:  take the current numbers for each team and combine them with forecasts for the remaining games. Factoring in remaining strength of schedule seems like a better indicator of what the actual bracket will look like.)

As for the conference, Georgetown sits in third place, tied with Notre Dame, Louisville and Cincinnati, one-half game behind Marquette and Syracuse. Those six teams plus Pittsburgh are ranked this week. The Orange hosts the Irish tonight while the Hoyas are idle until Saturday's matchup at Rutgers.

Seeing as half their conference games remain and another three teams (St. John's Connecticut, Pittsburgh) are only one game back, there is little point in imagining all required for a Hoyas regular season title. Keep winning is the best advice. Actually, that obvious suggestion could be tricky over the next two weeks especially with upcoming games against usual nemeses Cincinnati and Marquette.

Still, with six Big East wins, Georgetown needs only three more victories to reach .500. Combined with a solid enough non-conference resume, a .500 record for a Big East program historically means an NCAA Tournament team (assuming viable eligibility. Sorry, Connecticut).

Of their remaining nine games, the Hoyas face four teams with losing conference records: Rutgers twice, DePaul and Villanova. Yes, two notable games with Syracuse, as well.

Talking about the Hoyas being in strong position for the NCCA Tournament is not stunning. However, doing so this soon after a rough start in Big East play and knowing what came next, yeah, a little bit.