- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Georgetown’s remarkable 29-year run of receiving postseason basketball invitations is in danger.

Georgetown won’t be in a position to RSVP next week if the 12th-seeded Hoyas (13-14, 4-12 Big East) don’t upset No.5 seed Boston College (21-8, 10-6) today in the first round of the conference tournament at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

The Hoyas need to win at least two games in the tournament to become NIT eligible and continue their three-decade string of postseason invitations. Two years ago, Georgetown spurned an NIT offer as a protest after being snubbed by the NCAA selection committee.

With the Hoyas riding an eight-game losing streak and one loss shy of tying the program’s modern record for most consecutive losses, coach Craig Esherick and Co. are in no position to reject any offer.

The Hoyas’ season was extended one game Saturday when Miami lost to West Virginia, enabling the Hoyas to snatch the 12th and final Big East tournament berth from the Hurricanes.

“We had to beat Miami twice in order to qualify, so I think we earned the right to be the 12th seed,” Esherick said. “I don’t think we played particularly well over the course of the season. I think we played hard, but I was certainly relieved and I know the team was when we found out that West Virginia had beaten Miami.”

The Big East tournament gives Georgetown a chance to avoid its second losing season since 1972-73. If the Hoyas upset BC, they would have to shock No.19 and fourth-seeded Syracuse (21-6, 11-5) in tomorrow’s quarterfinals to become NIT eligible.

“It’s a good sign to me that with spring break this week, these guys were looking forward to going up to New York,” Esherick said. “That is an indication to me that these guys are excited about the tournament and want to get another chance to play well this season. … There is a lot of things we can do in this tournament, but the most important thing is that we’re going to have to win.”

Winning is something the Hoyas haven’t done since Feb.7 at MCI Center, when they defeated Miami 80-64.

“You can say what you want, but they are still a very talented group that has the potential to play with anyone,” BC coach Al Skinner said. “They can defend, they can score — we’ve got to make sure that we’re prepared to play. If we’re not, they can very easily win the basketball game.”

The Hoyas played respectably against the Eagles in a 72-64 loss at MCI Center on Jan.6 in their only meeting. Georgetown came into that game 10-0 after feasting on a buffet of cupcakes in the nonconference portion of its schedule. Since the BC game, the Hoyas have gone 3-14.

“I thought we played a halfway decent game against them in January, but I think they are a different team now,” Esherick said.

Esherick said his biggest concern, and rightfully so, is BC’s dominant inside game. Last time, 6-foot-7, 265-pound forward Craig Smith, a first-team All-Big East selection, took over the game in the second half, scoring 21 of his 24 points. For the season, he averages 17.1 points and 8.0 rebounds.

Center Uka Agbai (10.7 points, 5.3 rebounds) also offers brawn in the middle for the Eagles at 6-8 and 262. Like Smith, Agbai shot a high percentage against the Hoyas, scoring 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting.

Freshman small forward Jared Dudley, a unanimous choice on the Big East’s All-Rookie team, is another problem for Georgetown. Dudley averaged 12.4 points and 6.7 rebounds.

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