- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mission plausible.

Its postseason hopes suddenly resurrected via Saturday’s upset victory at No. 11 Villanova, Georgetown heads down the stretch in decent position to sneak into college basketball’s big bracket.

“It’s human nature [to have a shift in attitude after you win],” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said Monday. “You feel better about yourself. You feel better after winning than losing, but how we go about preparing for St. John’s is the same as we have all year.”

The Hoyas (15-12, 6-10 Big East) wouldn’t seem a likely at-large candidate at first blush, but their win total, league record and recent trend are likely to look a bit better after this final week of the regular season. The Hoyas close their Big East slate at St. John’s on Tuesday and vs. DePaul on Saturday. While coaches have spent the entire season explaining that no team in the conference can be overlooked, not all slumbering dragons are created equal.

Neither the Red Storm (14-15, 5-11) nor the Blue Demons (8-21, 0-16) have beaten a team of Georgetown’s caliber (top-30 RPI). The Hoyas have won the past five in their series against St. John’s by an average margin of 21.0 points, and they haven’t lost to DePaul in three tries since the Blue Demons entered the league.

If the Hoyas take care of those two opponents, they likely would go to New York for the Big East tournament as the 11th seed to face South Florida (8-20, 3-13) in the opening round - with West Virginia (20-9, 9-7), Providence (18-11, 10-7) or Syracuse (21-8, 9-7) awaiting the winner.

Win two games in the Big East tournament - and only one against a semidaunting opponent - and Georgetown would have 19 wins, five straight victories, an RPI in the top 40 and a handful of marquee wins (at least four vs. top-30 RPI) to go with the nation’s toughest schedule.

That’s a pretty strong NCAA tournament profile.

“I would not be optimistic if the Hoyas won only one game at the Big East tournament. But then again, the teams they are chasing aren’t exactly the ‘76 Indiana Hoosiers,” ESPN analyst Joe Lunardi said. “I think they need to win two games in New York to get in the conversation because that first game won’t even count in the eyes of the committee.

“The schedule had to lighten up for them [over the final week of the regular season] because it’s been so brutal all season. That’s good because it gives them a chance to string together some wins and put some distance between them and the losing streak. Obviously, a loss this week ends the conversation.”

The Hoyas dominated St. John’s 74-42 at the Garden last season, handing the Red Storm their worst Big East loss in the building. St. John’s was dealt a nasty blow when leading scorer Anthony Mason Jr. was lost to injury in the team’s third game and has never totally recovered in what most expect to be Norm Roberts’ final season.