- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 11, 2012

Minutes slipped away without mention of Georgetown on the sprawling television blaring the NCAA tournament selection show inside the Leo O’Donovan Dining Hall. So, Jason Clark leaned over to Henry Sims.

“What if we didn’t get in?” Clark whispered.

The Georgetown senior was joking, of course.

Then came the news Clark, Sims and the rest of Georgetown’s basketball team waited for Sunday night: The Hoyas will face Belmont as a No. 3 seed Friday at approximately 3:10 p.m. in Columbus, Ohio. If Georgetown advances, it gets the winner of the San Diego State-North Carolina State contest Sunday.

Before the announcement, Clark warned Sims not to ask coach John Thompson III where the team was headed. Thanks to a mysterious source last year, Thompson tipped off seniors Austin Freeman and Chris Wright they would play in Chicago long before the information was public.

But the biggest drama Sunday was not if Georgetown would get in, as Clark quipped, but how losing two of its last three games would affect the seed. Thompson thought his seed could range from No. 3 to No. 6.

When the student-led cheers quieted, the live television shot from CBS clicked off, top recruit Nerlens Noel and his flattop haircut departed and the free hot dogs and hamburgers disappeared, serious looks occupied the faces of Sims and Clark.

On a team with 10 freshmen and sophomores, they understand the heartache the NCAA tournament can bring. The two seniors haven’t won a game there, suffering upsets to Ohio in 2010 and Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011.

This is their last chance.

“That doesn’t leave your mind at all,” Clark said. “This team is a lot hungrier than the team in the past.”

In a preseason poll, Big East coaches picked Georgetown (22-8 overall, 13-7 conference) to finish 10th in the league. But behind a talented group of freshmen and the much-improved Sims, the Hoyas are ranked No. 13 in the country.

Belmont (26-7, 19-2) won the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament and will move to the Ohio Valley Conference next season. Thompson has at least two game tapes of Belmont (the coach suspects there may be more) and noted the team’s complex offense with plenty of movement that leaves defenders in awkward positions.

Belmont opened the season with a one-point loss to Duke.

Sims, still smarting from Thursday’s double-overtime loss to Cincinnati in the Big East tournament, simply was relieved to hear Georgetown’s name called.

“It was a little nerve-wracking even though you know you’re in,” Sims said. “You just want to hear your name called and get it over with. … It was like a burden off our shoulders.”

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