- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A season sabotaged by intangibles has all the earmarks of a poor ending.

Among all the postseason brackets, it’s hard to find a matchup featuring two teams trending in such opposite directions as Georgetown and Baylor, who meet Wednesday night at Baylor’s Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas, in the opening round of the NIT.

After beginning the season with a promising 12-3 mark that included victories over big-bracket denizens Maryland, Memphis, Connecticut and Syracuse and earning a top-10 ranking, the Hoyas (16-14) limped to the tape by losing 11 of 15 games. Georgetown hasn’t broken the 60-point barrier since Feb. 21 and completed a dismal Big East campaign by losing twice to erstwhile league pushover St. John’s in a span of eight days.

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Baylor (20-14), on the other hand, is coming off a surprising surge that saw the Bears oust Kansas and Texas on consecutive days on the way to an unlikely appearance in the Big 12 tournament final.

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“Yeah, they are playing their best basketball right now, and we certainly haven’t been,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “They’ve got a bunch of seniors out there who obviously don’t want to stop playing.”

The Bears’ primary six-man rotation features three seniors and two juniors hoping to notch the program’s first postseason victory since 1950.

“We’ll be motivated to play a big-name team like Georgetown,” Baylor senior leading scorer Curtis Jerrells (16.0 points) told the Waco Tribune.

But will the Hoyas be motivated to respond?

Among the many other issues cited for Georgetown’s collapse (youth, chemistry, confidence), the Hoyas also routinely seemed to play with a lack of passion and intensity during their two-month swoon. As one of only two teams that appeared in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll this season but failed to earn an NCAA tournament bid (Notre Dame also), the Hoyas harbored grander postseason dreams than a trip to Waco.

Now they’re a No. 6 seed in the NIT. And this is the same program that displayed its banner from the 2000 NIT above the locker room urinals under former coach Craig Esherick.

“We lost in New York [in the Big East tournament] on Tuesday, came home Wednesday and took off Thursday and Friday to try and get a fresh start,” Thompson said. “When the guys came back to practice on Saturday, they definitely seemed refreshed.”

Perhaps physically, but with only one scholarship senior, Georgetown’s emotional state after a disappointing season is an unknown. It remains to be seen whether there’s an urge simply to be done with this season and regroup in the fall with a clean slate.

“I haven’t seen that at all, to be honest,” Thompson said. “I think we’re ready to play. There’s definitely an appreciation that we still have the opportunity to bounce back and end the season on a high note. I think we’re all excited to play.”

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