- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 6, 2002

Georgetown is three Big East tournament blows from a bid.
Two weeks ago, it looked as if the Hoyas (18-10) had little hope of returning to the NCAA tournament. But courtesy of a three-game winning streak sparked by the scintillating play of senior point man Kevin Braswell, and aided by Syracuse's complete stretch swoon, Georgetown heads to New York with its fingers on an NCAA invite.
"We're playing better than we have all season," Georgetown coach Craig Esherick said on Monday. "If we keep that up this week at the Garden, then hopefully we can put ourselves in a position to control our own destiny."
ESPN analyst Digger Phelps, like most pundits, believes the Hoyas need at least two wins in the Big East tournament to secure an at-large NCAA bid. But everybody agrees that three victories in New York will cement Georgetown's spot.
"Were going up there to win the thing," said Braswell on Saturday after dropping 18 points and 16 assists on Rutgers in his final home game. "We're a very confident team right now."
The same cannot be said of Providence, today's first-round opponent for the Hoyas. Despite the record-setting exploits of senior guard John Linehan, who set the NCAA career record for steals two weeks ago, the Friars (15-15) limp into the Garden losers of three straight.
The teams did not meet during the regular season, but Providence handed Georgetown by far its most embarrassing defeat last season (103-79).
"We're definitely not going to show the guys that tape," said Esherick. "In fact, I'm not sure we even have that tape anymore. I think I might have burned it."
In that game, Linehan and Co. bedeviled the Georgetown backcourt on both ends of the floor, recording 16 steals and burying the Hoyas under a hail of 3-pointers, finishing an astounding 14-for-19 from behind the arc. In Braswell's personal Hades, Linehan certainly earns the starring role as Satan. But the two big men that kept Georgetown in check last season are gone, giving the Hoyas a huge advantage in the paint.
"That's been our primary strength all year," said Esherick. "Frankly, I like our matchups inside with almost anybody we play."
That could be especially true given Georgetown's draw in New York. None of the teams blocking the Hoyas' likely path to the tournament final (Providence, Miami and Pittsburgh) have a frontcourt that can compare to Georgetown's tandem of first-team All-Big East power forward Mike Sweetney (19.3 points, 10.1 rebounds) and 6-foot-11 junior center Wesley Wilson (12.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.4 blocks) although seventh-ranked Pittsburgh and No.20 Miami were a combined 3-0 against the Hoyas this season.
"Mike and I have definitely got some good chemistry going inside," said Wilson, who is averaging 14.4 points and 7.5 rebounds over his last eight games.
Wilson's resurgence after a midseason slump and Braswell's brilliance of late are the primary reasons Phelps and others have picked the Hoyas to challenge for the Big East laurels.
"It took us a lot longer than anyone thought it would to hit our stride, but we're finally rolling," said Braswell, who had 28 assists and two turnovers in Georgetown's last two games. "We feel like we're playing better than anybody in the league right now, and we're ready to prove that in New York. This isn't pressure, it's fun."


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