The Washington Times - February 23, 2009, 10:56PM

Take a look at the Verizon Center.

Georgetown sits at 14-12 after a 10-1 start. The Hoyas are assured a losing record in the Big East for the first time in Thompson’s five seasons, and any sort of window for earning an NCAA tournament berth based exclusively on the regular season just closed completely.


It’s a deep conference tournament run —- maybe even five wins in five days to win the darn thing —- that pretty much holds whatever hope the Hoyas possess at this stage.

“You think about it, but I don’t know,” Thompson said. “We need to play significantly better than we did today. The beauty of being in this conference is you can go to New York. You get the chance to fight and a chance to win it. We have to continue to improve and we have to be better once we get to New York. It’s as simple as that.”

There’s no shame per se in getting hammered at home by a top-10 team. It’s just that it’s hard to rationalize postseason talk after yet another loss, this one as ugly as almost any the Hoyas have taken this season.

True, it is more explainable than a loss at Seton Hall, and probably doesn’t quite sting as much as the back-to-back overtime stumbles earlier this month to Cincinnati and Syracuse.

Yet there comes a time when the totality of a season becomes worthy of scrutiny. And now, with three games left in an increasingly lost regular season, is quite possibly that time for the wounded Hoyas.

“Once you lose and you go through a stretch like we’re going through, you don’t feel as good about yourself —- it’s as simple as that …,” Thompson said. “Right now, for obvious reasons, we don’t. We have to remember this is the same group. We have to keep trying to improve. This group, that group, our group has to keep trying to improve. Hopefully, we do. There’s still a lot of ball to play.”

If only. True, Georgetown has a chance to snap out of its funk Saturday at Villanova. But then come a pair of games against St. John’s and DePaul, contests that could add to the win column but not exactly a boon to a postseason resume. Losses would harm Georgetown much more than victories would help, though at this stage the Hoyas could use a 2-0 week.

After that, the time runs out on the regular season.

It basically expired early last night on the Hoyas, who were within single digits for all of 100 seconds in the second half. The margin hovered around 12 for much of the half, with discombobulated Georgetown simply unable to overcome its own shortcomings to make a run.

It exposed a flawed team, one without depth and a couple struggling veterans.

Senior Jessie Sapp came off the bench to score nine points, a good outing by this year’s standards. But The Hoyas are 8-12 when he’s held to single digits, and even someone who receives a handful of looks at Georgetown can see he’s not the same player.

Then there’s DaJuan Summers, at one-time viewed as a sure-fire lottery pick who crashed to a season-low four points. He reached double figures in his first 18 games; since then, just three times in eight games.

Summers is emblematic of the greater puzzle with the Hoyas, who clearly possess pro talent at the top of their roster. Summers, Greg Monroe and Chris Wright would theoretically be able to carry most teams to the NCAA tournament, and it makes you wonder just how this cratering is occurring.

The most convenient culprit is the deep Big East, which has to an extent devoured Georgetown and Notre Dame this season. But it hasn’t destroyed Louisville, or Pittsburgh, or Connecticut, or Marquette, or Villanova, or West Virginia, and the logical conclusion to draw is those teams are vastly better than the Hoyas. But should they be? It’s highly debatable, given the collection of talent.

This was the worst drubbing of the season for the Hoyas, who had a few promising spurts but nothing of substance for an extended period.

“That’s what hurts the most, because we feel like we’re really good,” Wright said. “We just can’t turn the corner.”

And who knows if it can happen? It is a freefall with no end in sight, and a 16-14 or 17-14 record at the end of the regular season looks like a much safer bet than anything in the neighborhood of 19 or 20 victories.

“If I didn’t think this group could do it, it’d be like ‘What the hell,’” Thompson said as Wright and Monroe flanked him. “I said it then and I believe it now. I have a lot of confidence in these two and everyone else in that locker room. Together, and I said this in good times and it applies in bad times, we have to figure it out.”

If they don’t, that Verizon Center calendar won’t have a gaping hole in mid-March for much longer.

—- Patrick Stevens