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He has reason to be optimistic about this year’s team because of the way it persevered after an 0-2 start in Big East play, during a stretch in which the Hoyas had barely a lick of offense. The loss of starter Greg Whittington for academic reasons appeared to be a fatal blow, but it instead prompted Thompson to go younger, smaller, faster and deeper with his rotation. The defense was always there, but now Georgetown was starting to score again, and Porter began showing a new level of assertiveness that led to the conference regular season title.

“At 0-2,” Thompson said, “I told the guys, `We expect to win the league this year.’”

Thompson was his usual stoic self when Georgetown’s name appeared during the selection broadcast, keeping his arms folded on the table while everyone around him was waving arms and was cheering. He explained later that he wasn’t being a party-pooper _ he was just taken aback when he saw that the Hoyas had drawn a completely unfamiliar opponent.

“To be in a position where you know your name’s going to be called is a great feeling,” Thompson said. “Now, what immediately goes through my head is, `How long is it going to take (the sports information director) to get me stats on this team?’ And he was pretty quick.”

While the selection event was still ongoing, Thompson dispatched some assistants to start breaking down the Eagles of Florida Gulf Coast, a state university in Fort Myers that admitted its first student in 1997 and made the NCAAs in its second year of Division I eligibility by winning this month’s Atlantic Sun tournament.

“I may be the only coach in the country to feel this way: I don’t go into it worrying about what are we going to be seeded,” Thompson said. “It’s the opposition, because there can be times when you can be a third seed and you have a better matchup than a two seed or a four seed, and so it’s all about Florida Gulf Coast as opposed to our seed.”

Although his team is young, Thompson has a major reason to accelerate his expectations this year. This might be the last chance he gets with Porter, a sophomore who remains cagey about whether he plans to bolt for the NBA this summer.

“I don’t know yet,” Porter said Sunday. “We’ll see.”


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(This version CORRECTS APNewsNow. Corrects to South Region in 3rd paragraph. With AP Photos.)