- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 10, 2010

With all due respect to next week’s Big Dance, there’s a college basketball game taking place Thursday that’s worth staying home from work to watch: Georgetown-Syracuse.

The Hoyas, seeded eighth in the Big East tournament in New York City, get their third shot this season at Syracuse, and the third game could be a classic.

Coach John Thompson III’s team dominated a gritty South Florida squad at Madison Square Garden Wednesday afternoon, beating the Bulls by 20, 69-49, setting up a quarterfinal showdown Thursday with Syracuse.

The Orangemen have beaten the Hoyas twice this season, but Georgetown almost pulled off an epic comeback on Feb. 18 at the Verizon Center that would have become one of the signature victories in one of college basketball’s most heated rivalries.

Instead, Archbishop Carroll alum Kris Joseph, another Washington-area star who has made the trek north to play for Jim Boeheim, sealed the game for the Orange with a lay-up in the final minute.

Instead of a classic Georgetown win, the Hoyas just became another W on the Orange’s gaudy 28-3 record.

Since then, the Hoyas have been up and down, but all the pieces looked sharp Wednesday afternoon against South Florida: smothering defense, good inside-out play and a strong game from sophomore center Greg Monroe.

Monroe, with 16, led three players in double figures (Chris Wright, 15; Jason Clark, 16). Austin Freeman, who is still adjusting to his recent diabetes diagnosis, added eight despite a tough shooting day, but the Hoyas’ grip on the game never seemed in doubt.

Bracketologists say the resurgent Hoyas have played themselves back into next week’s NCAA tournament — maybe even as high as a 4 seed — no matter what happens Thursday against Syracuse.

But a win against the No. 3 team in the nation and the regular season Big East champs would signal that Thompson’s up-and-down squad is finally living up to its NBA-caliber potential.

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