With each minute that dribbled away, Chris Wright became more nervous.
Finally, the Georgetown point guard pulled out his cell phone Sunday night and shot a text to coach John Thompson III. The NCAA tournament selection show blared on a big screen television in front of him at the Leo O’Donovan Dining Hall. But Wright had to know the Hoyas’ opponent that instant.
“I was sitting there sweating bullets,” Wright said. “They should’ve started with us first.”
Thompson texted back the answer. Georgetown would be a No. 6 seed and face the winner of the Virginia Commonwealth-Southern California first-round game Friday at Chicago’s United Center.
Wright whispered the news to Austin Freeman. No one else knew. Minutes later the news popped up on the big screen. While the room erupted in cheers, Wright and Freeman wore poker faces.
“We were too anxious,” said Freeman, who joked that he would have given the team a No. 1 seed. “We couldn’t take it anymore, so we had to find out.”
Said Thompson: “In previous years I told them. This year I let them sit there for a while. … I’m not at liberty to discuss (how I found out). Some coaches find out sooner than others.”
Three weeks ago, Georgetown (21-10) was ranked. No. 9 in the country and projected as a No. 3 seed in the tournament. Since then the Hoyas have dropped five of six games.
The last three losses came without Wright, the do-everything senior who broke a bone in his left hand Feb. 23. Without Wright, Georgetown’s scoring dropped by almost 20 points per game, assists were halved and post play struggled. Though he was only a third-team All-Big East pick, the Hoyas were a different team without him.
But Wright returns to practice Monday and Thompson said he’ll start Friday.
“God is blessing me in many ways. He gave me a second chance to get back out there and help this team,” Wright said. “This has been very tough for me because I know I can help. I know I can be a very big help for this team.”
With Wright back, Georgetown’s biggest challenge is the unusual situation of preparing to face two teams. USC (19-14) and VCU (23-11) play Wednesday at 9 p.m. in Dayton, Ohio. That’s part of the tournament’s expansion to 68 teams, which added four first-round play-in games this year.
That was Thompson’s biggest complaint about his team’s draw. He plans on a couple of all-nighters for his staff to compile game tape and scouting reports on both teams.
“I wish we knew exactly who we were playing. You have one day to really know who you’ll play. That’s a challenge we’re not used to,” said Thompson, who has watched several VCU games this season and parts of one USC contest.
If Georgetown pulls off a win Friday in its fifth straight NCAA tournament appearance, it’ll face the winner of No. 4 seed Purdue and Saint Peter’s. That game would be Sunday in Chicago.
Wright wouldn’t say if his hand will 100 percent by Friday. But he’s been doing cardio work and won’t have any limitations on the court.
Freeman is looking forward to the return of Wright’s ability to run the offense, penetrate and create shots for himself and others. That return is bigger, better news for Georgetown than any tournament seed or matchup.
“All that’s over,” Wright said. “Everything’s in the past. Everybody’s 0-0.”
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