- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2004

Georgetown coach Craig Esherick insists there is still hope for the Hoyas this season despite Wednesday’s disheartening 65-58 loss to a depleted St. John’s team that includes four walk-ons.

“You may think I’m crazy, but until we are mathematically eliminated, we need to focus on [making] the NCAA tournament,” Esherick said. “We need to get away from that game, both physically and mentally, throw it out the window and move on. Hopefully, we’re over it.”

Esherick is right. His team still has a chance to gain an NCAA tournament berth. But to do so, the Hoyas might have to win the Big East tournament — and they’re not even assured of qualifying.

With five games left, including today’s contest against reigning national champion Syracuse (16-6, 6-5 Big East) at MCI Center, the Hoyas (13-9, 4-7) appear to need one victory in their final five games to clinch a Big East tournament spot over St. John’s and Miami. The top 12 finishers in the 14-school conference qualify for the Big East tournament, and Georgetown has never failed to qualify.

The Hoyas are 11th in the standings and hold the tiebreaker over Miami, which is 3-9 in conference play and has four games remaining.

Syracuse’s 2-3 zone could probe a problem for Georgetown. In four games against teams that play strictly zone, the Hoyas have averaged 54.7 points. In fact, Georgetown’s four lowest offensive outputs of the season were against those teams: West Virginia (58 points), No.19 Providence (50 points), Temple (53 points) and St. John’s (58 points).

“The good thing going into this game is that we know they are going to play that way,” Esherick said. “We’ve got to shoot better against the zone. We’ve been working on it and trying to be more patient in practice.”

The Hoyas also need at least one win in their final five games to be eligible for an NIT berth. The NIT offers invitations only to teams that are .500 or better.

“It’s probably too early to talk about it, but we’re in no position to turn down any offers,” Esherick said.

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