- The Washington Times - Monday, February 26, 2007

This one goes to 11.

Georgetown heads to Syracuse with history on tap and a disconcerting crack suddenly showing in the midst of an 11-game winning streak.

In spite of virtually clinching the Big East regular season title with their victory over 10th-ranked Pittsburgh on Saturday, the Hoyas (22-5, 12-2 Big East) still have plenty to play for tonight at Syracuse. Beyond the obvious fact the Orange (20-8, 9-5) represent Georgetown’s oldest and ultimate league rival, much will be at stake for the Hoyas in the Carrier Dome.

First, not only would a victory cement Georgetown’s first outright regular season Big East title since 1989, it would extend the Hoyas’ league winning streak to a school-record 12 games, bettering the 11-game mark established by the 1984-85 squad.

Second, tonight’s matchup gives Georgetown’s Jeff Green an opportunity to all but etch his name on the league’s MVP award. Perhaps there are still some Big East coaches who put more stock in raw stats than refined stardom, some who value basic input over bottom-line impact. Tonight, Green gets a chance to flip his few remaining doubters when ESPN’s Big Monday casts its subplot spotlight on the player-of-the-year battle between Green and Syracuse’s Demetris Nichols, the senior swingman who leads the league in scoring (18.9 points).

A 3-point specialist, Nichols has the higher scoring average, but Green is considered a favorite to win the award because of his superior versatility (13.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists) and pivotal role in Georgetown’s perfect six-week sprint to the top of the conference standings.

“I’m not the type of player who wants to take 30 shots a game,” Green after Saturday’s 61-53 victory over Pitt. “It’s like that Adidas commercial: ‘It Takes Five.’ That’s my motto. I need help from my team, from my teammates. I feel like I have a good group of guys who can put points on the board instead of me going out there and trying to score 30 points a game. So I put my trust in my teammates.”

Green likely will need substantial help from his compatriots tonight, when he and fellow frontcourt focal point Roy Hibbert face perhaps their least favorable matchup of the season in Syracuse seniors Darryl Watkins and Terrence Roberts. Though both the 6-foot-11, 253-pound Watkins (8.7 points, 7.3 rebounds) and the 6-9, 228-pound Roberts (9.1 points, 7.8 rebounds) are career underachievers, both are talented players capable of dominating games. Watkins leads all active Big East players with 242 career blocks. And Roberts closed January with five consecutive double-digit scoring efforts before falling into a February funk that has lost him significant chunks of playing time to touted freshman Paul Harris.

Handling that Syracuse frontcourt foursome (Nichols, Watkins, Roberts and Harris) looks like an even tougher chore given Georgetown’s last two outings, the team’s poorest all season on the defensive boards. Both Cincinnati (19 offensive rebounds) and Pittsburgh (22 offensive rebounds) savaged the Hoyas with putbacks, follow-ups and two- and three-shot possessions. The Panthers allowed just eight offensive rebounds and took 20 more field goal attempts than the Hoyas.

“They got 22 offensive rebounds,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “That’s more than a lot. That can’t happen.”

If it happens again tonight, the Orange likely will put the kibosh on the streak.

Finally, and most importantly, the Hoyas are playing from now through the Big East tournament for NCAA seeding. Georgetown has the nation’s 16th-best RPI and was ranked 12th in the Associated Press poll last week. A new poll comes out today, and with the Hoyas peaking late in the season, they could be a No. 2 or No. 3 seed for the NCAAs.

In the last decade no outright Big East regular season champion has drawn worse than a No. 3, but Georgetown could slide to a No. 4 with a loss to either Syracuse or Connecticut and a one-and-done trip to New York. The difference between a two- and three-seed is basically immaterial, but a four-seed is slotted to meet a No. 1 in the Sweet 16.

“We’ve reached the No. 1 spot in the Big East, but at the same time, you know everybody’s gunning for you, so we know we can’t become content with that,” Georgetown junior point guard Jonathan Wallace said. “We’ll enjoy this win, but then we’ll go back to the drawing board and get focused again to play Syracuse on the road.”

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