- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Hoyas are in free-fall mode, with a clang here and a clank there from 3-point distance, hoping against hope to revive their season Saturday against Marquette.

The Hoyas have lost four in a row and six of their last eight games. At 12-7, the worthiness of their NCAA tournament qualifications is now open to question.

The Hoyas’ record is in need of considerable burnishing. They have quality victories over Memphis, Connecticut and Syracuse … and too many puzzling finishes.

The Hoyas revert to the 3-point attempt and ignore the low-post presence of Greg Monroe even if he is being defended by a vertically challenged walk-on center from Seton Hall.

The Hoyas revert to the 3-point attempt even if their 3-point shooting has been found wanting in a particular venue. That was Austin Freeman hitting the side of the backboard and Jessie Sapp hoisting an air ball from 3-point distance in the waning seconds at Seton Hall.

The Hoyas apparently believe in the power of positive thinking even if there is a chorus of “No, no, no” all about them.

The Hoyas have converted only 15 of 70 3-point attempts in the last four games. That comes out to a masonlike 21.4 percent, which hardly justifies their 17.5 3-point attempt average in that period.

The Hoyas have not adjusted to the absence of Roy Hibbert and Jonathan Wallace, leaders both, even if they sometimes have wrestled with the age-old basketball question of whose team it was.

It was Jeff Green’s team two seasons ago, when the Hoyas advanced to the Final Four and Green was content to make the key pass or grab the key rebound or loose ball, if not waltz his way to the game-winning shot against Vanderbilt in the NCAA tournament.

The Hoyas lack that sustenance-providing player now. They do not rebound with conviction. They do not make the extra pass associated with the Princeton offense. There is a dearth of backdoor cuts that lead to layups. There is no midrange game. They do not have a high-energy player in the manner of Patrick Ewing Jr.

DaJuan Summers, who leads the team in scoring at 14.7 points, does not stuff the stat sheet in a convincing fashion. The 6-foot-8 forward is averaging a mere 4.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists. His assist haul of 21 is trumped by 46 turnovers.

The Hoyas have been outrebounded in three of their last four games. They have managed only 28 assists in their last three games. Not that any of this comes as news to the Hoyas. John Thompson III is no doubt making the same points in more forceful fashion.

The Hoyas also are up against self-doubt in Milwaukee on Saturday. It is the kind of self-doubt that comes to a team after four consecutive losses. It is the kind of self-doubt that comes to a team with a quality opponent in view.

The eighth-ranked Golden Eagles have an 18-2 record, are undefeated in the Big East and have not lost at home in 14 games. This is not exactly the get-well opponent the supporters of the Hoyas have in mind.

This, of course, is the cold reality of the Big East, the nation’s third-rated conference in the latest RPI and touting as many as 10 tournament candidates.

The Hoyas have 10 games left to provide a corrective element to their season. They will be favored in possibly five of the games: at home vs. Rutgers, Cincinnati and DePaul and on the road against South Florida and St. John’s.

The rest of the schedule is dependent upon which Hoyas surface - the team that won at UConn or the one in the throes of a slide.

For now, they live with the incriminating assessment that they are less than the sum of their parts. It is left to the Hoyas to show that the four-game losing streak was either a blip on their schedule or indicative of a team that failed to congeal as one.

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