- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2008

When Georgetown’s name flashed on the screen as the No. 2 seed in the Midwest bracket of the NCAA tournament, the large contingent of students gathered in O’Donovan Dining Hall to watch the selection show erupted. Sitting clustered in the center of the cafeteria, the Georgetown players did not.

“I think we were still thinking a little bit about yesterday’s game,” junior guard Jessie Sapp said. “We know we have to put that behind us and look forward, but I think that’s why we weren’t all big smiles or jumping up and down or whatever.”

It seemed liked Big Ten champion Wisconsin would bump the Hoyas (27-5) off the two-line following Georgetown’s upset loss to Pittsburgh in the Big East tournament final. Instead, the Hoyas earned the No. 2 seed in a bracket headlined by Big 12 champion Kansas (31-3) and will open play Friday in Raleigh, N.C., against Maryland-Baltimore County (24-8).

“I know [UMBC’s Randy Monroe] is a terrific coach,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “Our guys are familiar with their personnel from the Kenner League and playing ball with them around town.”

Though the selection committee didn’t punish the Hoyas for Saturday’s 74-65 loss to the Panthers, the team still punished itself.

“We didn’t take care of our business in New York, plain and simple,” senior forward Patrick Ewing Jr. said. “We’ve got to play with more heart, man. That was the real difference in that game and the biggest thing you learn coming away from it. People aren’t just going to come lay down for you. Every game is a battle, and you’ve got to go with all you’ve got for 40 minutes plus. We didn’t do that, and that’s why we got beat. For my part, I didn’t rebound at all. I was horrible.”

Though the squad’s stumble in New York dampened yesterday’s festivities, don’t expect the team to pout in Raleigh. The Hoyas are one of the nation’s most experienced squads, featuring the senior leadership of Ewing, center Roy Hibbert and point guard Jonathan Wallace, who has logged more career starts (134) than any player in the nation. Thompson won’t watch the Pitt film and hopes his charges have put the experience behind them.

“We’ve got to take whatever lessons we can from that, and they’re pretty obvious, and move on,” Thompson said. “It’s something that’s extremely disappointing. But at the same time, you can get caught up in that and dwell on that and forget to get prepared for what’s in the future. You can beat yourself up with that and forget that you’re pretty good.”

Perhaps this group is even better than the team that advanced to the Final Four last season. Though 2007 Big East player of the year Jeff Green is gone, every other principal from that run to Atlanta returns this postseason. This Georgetown team has improved defensively, leading the nation in field goal percentage defense. And with the additions of freshman guards Austin Freeman and Chris Wright, the Hoyas are deeper, quicker and more capable from the perimeter. Add in last season’s positive postseason experience and the Hoyas likely will appear in plenty of Final Four projections for San Antonio.

Said Ewing: “There’s not really anything specific from last year’s tournament that we’re going to carry into it. It’s more just knowing that you’ve been there. That you know what it takes.”

If the Hoyas survive their sub-region, which includes Davidson and Gonzaga, they likely would have a regional semifinal matchup with Wisconsin, Southern Cal or Kansas State. Then their road to the Final Four probably would lead through a Kansas team that might pose the worst matchup for Georgetown of anybody in the draw. The Jayhawks’ roster probably features more future pros than any in the college game.

“[Is Kansas] in our bracket?” Thompson asked. “I haven’t looked at it. I know that they are deep, deep, deep at every position and extremely talented.”

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