Hoyas enter Big East Tournament trying to jump off NCAA bubble
“Energy and effort” might as well be the new “Hoya Saxa,” Georgetown’s official cheer.
The two E-words are Patrick Ewing’s favorite refrain when discussing what the Hoyas were lacking in a loss, like last week’s blowout at the hands of DePaul. The coach is clearly preoccupied with those intangibles as the Hoyas head into Thursday’s Big East Tournament quarterfinal game against Seton Hall.
“If we don’t come with the energy and effort both mentally and physically that we need, then Thursday will be our last game in the tournament,” Ewing said. “But if we come with the energy and the effort knowing the circumstances that we’re in, then anything is possible.”
And they have leaked into his players’ vocabulary. Take freshman James Akinjo when he spoke about how to build off last Saturday’s upset win at Marquette entering the conference tournament.
“We’re in a great conference,” he said. “We may not play as good, we may not make a lot of shots, but we’re just focused on having our energy and our effort the same going into the Seton Hall game.”
If it’s true that it’s all about energy and effort to get the Hoyas going, this most urgent of weeks should provide all the motivation they need. Georgetown is stuck on the NCAA tournament bubble and needs a good showing at Madison Square Garden in New York to earn an at-large bid into the big dance.
Ewing’s second season coaching Georgetown was a promising step forward from last year’s 15-15 finish. The Hoyas finished the regular season 19-12 overall, in a four-way tie for third place in the league. As the No. 6 seed, they avoid having to play in the first round of the Big East Tournament, which they did last year with a disappointing loss to St. John’s.
Beating Marquette on the road Saturday, 86-84, gave the Hoyas their fifth “Quadrant 1” win of the year, in bracketology terms. That’s a fair number for their resume. But analysts tend to agree that in order to earn an at-large NCAA bid, Georgetown will need to beat third-seed Seton Hall and then likely beat Marquette again in the semifinals.
“Nationally, we take it one game at a time, but our goal is to make the NCAA tournament,” Ewing said. “Hopefully we’ve had two significant wins, Villanova and Marquette, so hopefully that helps our process. We have 19 wins, (if) we win Thursday that gives us 20 wins, makes it a lot more appealing, but you never know.”
Georgetown is competing for an at-large bid with the likes of Indiana, Alabama, TCU and conference foe Creighton. Its other option is less likely but still perfectly valid: Run the table and win the Big East Tournament to secure the automatic bid.
If the Hoyas fall short of the national tournament, this will be the last week senior Jessie Govan wears Georgetown blue and gray. The decorated center eschewed the NBA Draft last year to play with a talented freshman class led by James Akinjo, Mac McClung and Josh LeBlanc.
Govan said his goal from here on out is “to make a run,” but outside that, he spoke positively of where the Hoyas are headed when he leaves.
“I think it’s going in the right direction. 9-9, tied for third in the Big East I know we’re the six seed, but tied for third in the Big East, that’s definitely an accomplishment,” Govan said. “I feel like these guys have the program going in the right direction. They work hard, they’re tough, they don’t like to be showed up or anything.”
Seton Hall and its All-Big East guard, Myles Powell, will provide a stiff test in the 6-versus-3 matchup. Georgetown split the season series with the Pirates, most recently beating them 77-71 at home on March 2.
Georgetown beating Seton Hall would be an “upset” in seed only. In fact, due to how close the league was this year with third through 10th place separated by just two games it could be a bracket rife with upsets.
“We’re in third it’s just because of whatever the tiebreakers, (Seton Hall) got the third seed,” Ewing said. “But it’s close. We can beat them, they can beat us. ... It’s very close and on any given night, the bottom half or the bottom part of the league can beat the top.”