- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 8, 2005

Under first-year coach John Thompson III, the Georgetown Hoyas look nothing like the 11th- or 12th-best team in the 12-team Big East.

Georgetown’s stunning 67-64 victory at No. 16 Pittsburgh on Wednesday — and the way the Hoyas achieved it — squashed those gloomy preseason predictions and raised the expectation level for a young team.

“I don’t know if [that’s true], but it raised our confidence,” Thompson said. “What we feel internally is not what the general public thinks.”

Certainly the team’s profile has risen. When the university released its men’s basketball schedule in the fall, none of the Hoyas’ games was scheduled to be televised. Now 10 of the remaining 15 will be shown, including today’s noon showdown at MCI Center against defending national champion and No. 10 Connecticut (8-2, 0-1 Big East).

The Hoyas (9-3, 1-0) bombed Pittsburgh into submission by knocking down 11 of 21 3-pointers (52.4 percent) in their first win over a ranked team in nearly three years. And it occurred in one of the most hostile gyms for opponents in college basketball.

“We have to temper that win — it’s a long year,” Thompson said. “We can’t leave all our eggs, feelings and emotions in that one game. The nature of Big East Conference basketball is to move on.”

It’s debatable whether former coach Craig Esherick won a game in his five seasons as significant as the Pittsburgh victory. Though Esherick’s Hoyas reached the Sweet 16 in 2002, that was more a product of the bracket collapsing when Hampton upset Iowa State in the first round than of Georgetown taking out ranked teams.

Thompson said Georgetown’s early turnaround was more a result of a better mental approach than of the Hoyas running his Princeton offense. Yet there is something to be said about Thompson’s spread scheme. The Hoyas rank second in 3-point percentage in the conference at 39.1 percent.

“It’s a process, a change in thinking more than talking about the Princeton offense,” Thompson said. “It’s how you think through a game.”

UConn, called by Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim the most talented team in the Big East, offers the Hoyas another barometer. The Huskies are big, fast and skilled and should be considered a legitimate Final Four contender.

UConn center Josh Boone (17.5 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.7 blocks) and power forward Charlie Villanueva (10.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.9 blocks), both 6-foot-10, form an inside package few other teams can match.

“With their size and height, [Boone and Villanueva] have a misleading skill level,” Thompson said. “They can do things a [small forward] can do and things a [center] can do. They’re huge and a very, very good team. They bring guys off the bench as good as the ones they are replacing out there.”

Thompson said he’s not using the media’s preseason perception of his team as a motivational tool.

“I don’t talk about what the national people are saying,” he said. “We do have a few pieces. It’s all about us, and that’s all I talk about.”

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