To many members of the Georgetown community, the news that the Hoyas were seeded fourth in one of the weaker groupings (Duke, the #1 seed in Georgetown’s grouping, has both good wins and shocking losses) was great – a nice chance to watch Georgetown beat up a weak team before going on to play some more difficult games.
For other fans, however, it might bring up a dreaded sense of déjà vu.
In the past 6 years, including this year, Georgetown has been seeded five times in the NCAA tournament, and every time has been seeded sixth or higher, generally reflecting the prestige of Georgetown and the Big East. In 2010, Georgetown, a #3 seed, lost to Ohio University (not Ohio State University) 93-87, despite being led by future first round center Greg Monroe. In 2011, Georgetown, seeded 6th, lost to Virginia Commonwealth University, survivor of the first “First Four” in tournament history, 74-56. In 2012, Georgetown, seeded 3rd, actually managed to beat its first round opponent, Belmont, 74-59. It promptly lost to North Carolina State, the 11th seed, 66-63. Finally, in 2013, in perhaps the most infamous of the upsets, Georgetown, a #2 seed, lost to Florida Gulf Coast University, 78-68, in the first round.
Combined with losing to Davidson during its run with Stephen Curry (despite Georgetown having both Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green), Georgetown has managed to play the unwitting Fairy Godmother to the most famous recent tournament Cinderellas. Thus, it is no surprise that Georgetown has already become a popular choice to flameout in the first round, to Eastern Washington, and very few prognosticators have Georgetown getting past #5 Utah in the second round.
Is there anything that distinguishes this team from the teams that failed to escape the first weekend of the tournament? Looking at the talent of the older teams is not helpful – teams manned by Greg Monroe and Otto Porter both lost in the first round. Relative success in the Big East Tournament has not proven a useful predictor either – the 2010 team made a run to the Big East Finals before losing to Ohio.
One major difference is that virtually all of the players have changed since that time. Of the starters playing against FGCU in 2013, only Jabril Trawick and Mikael Hopkins remain. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, a key bench player in 2013, has become a leader of the team this year, along with transfer Joshua Smith. Smith might make a difference – in 2013, surprisingly for Georgetown, the Hoyas lacked a traditional center, instead playing with a combination of Nate Lubick and Mikael Hopkins awkwardly playing that role.
Georgetown has traditionally found its strength from a sturdy defense, with a slower-paced, deliberate, Princeton-style offense accompanying it. The pattern has proven mostly successful in the regular season, though seems to have come up short in the tournament. After the 2013 loss to FGCU, Coach John Thompson III could not explain the upsets, saying, “I’ve tried to analyze it, think about it, look at it, think about what we should do differently and I don’t know.”
Looking on the other side of the court, the Cinderellas that have beaten Georgetown have taken different forms. VCU is perhaps most famous for its never-ending full court press, and won mostly due to its defense. On the other hand, Florida Gulf Coast was more well-known for its aggressive offensive play, and became known as “Dunk City” during its tournament run.
Eastern Washington, Georgetown’s first round opponent, is from the Big Sky Conference, a small conference (though so were all of the teams that beat Georgetown, other than NC State). For the most part, rankings don’t treat it kindly, but Eastern Washington did beat Indiana. Additionally, Tyler Harvey, one of Eastern Washington’s players, has scored the most points in college basketball this year, and Eastern Washington is the third-highest scoring team in college basketball.
Unfortunately for Georgetown, it allows a relatively high number of three-point shots, which Eastern Washington relies on. Thus, unless Georgetown can either make a strategic shift to combat three-point shooting, otherwise disrupt their long-range shots, or count on Eastern Washington to miss more than its average number of three point shots, it could be a long night for Hoyas fans.