By now, sifting through the wreckage of another Georgetown early exit from the NCAA tournament is as much of a March tradition as hand-wringing over busted brackets, shrieking announcers and on-court dancing of questionable proficiency.
Each of Georgetown’s five NCAA appearances since 2008 have ended with a loss to a double-digit seed.
Davidson. Ohio. Virginia Commonwealth. NC State.
And the latest, of course, 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast.
If that university wasn’t familiar before the Eagles — yep, that’s their nickname — ran Georgetown out of the Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center on Friday, you’re not alone. Florida Gulf Coast didn’t play Division I basketball until 2007-08, when Davidson commenced Georgetown’s March misery with a four-point upset.
Just 1.5 percent of 3 million entrants in one online bracket contest picked Florida Gulf Coast to beat Georgetown. History certainly favored that approach. Six No. 15s have managed to beat No. 2s in tournament history, the rarest of March surprises.
But what happened Friday didn’t look like much of a surprise or, save for the delirious postgame dancing, a bracket-crumpling upset. Florida Gulf Coast, the same beachfront university in Fort Myers that didn’t hold a class until 1997 and offers students free water-skiing, looked like the better team. Yes, the better team.
And Georgetown’s tournament ended with the thud of Chase Fieler’s alley-oop dunk with 1:54 remaining. It was the sort of dunk No. 2 seeds throw down on their hapless, small-conference victims, not the Georgetowns of the world.
Thing is, this year’s squad felt different. Looked different. Played different. Aggressive defense. Toughness. All that. A quiet, do-everything star in Otto Porter Jr. Ten freshmen and sophomores. Everyone had a role.
Even coach John Thompson III pledged to a roomful of supporters Selection Sunday that Georgetown planned “on being around for a while.”
That optimism was well-founded. Georgetown captured a share of the Big East regular-season title, won 13 of its last 15 games, and roared into the tournament looking every bit the threat to not just advance, but make a run at the university’s first Final Four since 2007.
That lasted about as long as the meteor that streaked over Washington on Friday night as Florida Gulf Coast locked down Porter to 5-for-17 shooting and thwarted any attempted rally.
Georgetown understands, more than most, the inherent unpredictability of March basketball.
That unpredictability is why we love March, even as we curse spoiled brackets consigned to the wastebasket. Those blood-pumping finishes to see if that university you’ve never heard of can eek out a victory. That unbridled joy on the faces of youngsters who did what 98.5 percent of the country figured was impossible.