- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 24, 2013

PHILADELPHIA — It wasn’t enough time for Georgetown coach John Thompson III to reflect. He was not 20 minutes removed from his second-seeded Hoyas’ loss to 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast, the biggest upset of the NCAA tournament

“It’s hard to sit here right now just with the extreme disappointment and recap, think about the entire season,” Thompson said, “because it came to an end quickly.”

Just about impossible.

It wasn’t enough time for Otto Porter Jr., a projected NBA lottery pick, to decide his next move.

“I haven’t,” the sophomore forward said. “I haven’t made it through that process yet.”

Porter’s process includes deliberating between a third season on the Hilltop and a move to the pros. He could stick around, test the waters or make a clean break. But no matter what, it’s a decision featuring defined options.

Georgetown’s grieving process and where the program goes next after another successful season ended with an early NCAA tournament exit is much more complicated. Thompson couldn’t explain why the Hoyas were eliminated by a double-digit seeds in each of their past five appearances.

“More than anyone on this Earth, I’ve tried to analyze it, think about it, look at it, think about what we should do differently, and I don’t know,” he said.

Players thought the recipe was different this time, and thus the result would follow. Porter put together a Big East Player of the Year season and the Hoyas won a share of the conference regular-season title, looking every bit like a team that could make a run in March.

Porter’s decision will influence Georgetown’s future and the likelihood of getting back to this point in a year with another opportunity at redemption. In retrospect, the Hoyas thought this was their chance, so failing to capitalize made the regular season feel like a tease.

“It’s tough to think positively right now and reflect on the season,” junior forward Nate Lubick said. “The NCAA tournament was everything to us. That’s all that we can think about right now.”

It was everything to Porter, too. Asked Thursday about his impressive season, he said it didn’t matter. All that mattered was putting together team wins and advancing.

Instead, Georgetown’s stay in Philadelphia was brief, as Porter was held to four points for the first 29 minutes of the 78-68 loss to FGCU.

“When things aren’t going your way, it’s hard,” Porter said. “Winning is hard.”

Obviously, it could be harder for Georgetown to match or surpass this year’s success if Porter bolts to the NBA.

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to make the best decision for yourself,” Lubick said.

Porter couldn’t muster much about his future. “Disappointment” was what he was feeling, his thoughts not yet about pingpong balls and the riches that come with professional basketball.

Porter called his sophomore season at Georgetown “great.” But that came with the caveat that the end was far from satisfactory.

“We’ve been playing tough games in the Big East, just to be prepared for this game,” Porter said. “We do realize what we have accomplished. We do realize that we have a lot more to accomplish, a lot more to work at.”

Porter has a chance of winning the John R. Wooden Award as the nation’s top player, leaving only team accolades to accomplish if he sticks around. That Georgetown fell victim to another early NCAA tournament exit won’t play a role in his decision.

“That’s very irrelevant,” Porter said. “Right now, it just hurts that we lost. That’s what I’m feeling right now. Nothing else.”

That emotion was not limited to Porter, even though he felt the need to try to will the Hoyas back after they fell behind. Junior guard Markel Starks said he was sick to his stomach after losing to No. 11 seed NC State a year ago, and this wasn’t any better.

“It’s an even worse feeling,” Lubick said.

Younger players knew what upperclassmen went through in recent years because the team discussed it plenty before this tournament trip. Feeling it themselves means players such as freshman guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera will remember what it’s like.

“I definitely will,” he said. “Just to come in even more prepared. We’ll definitely be back next year.”

While avoiding another NCAA tournament meltdown is paramount to the future of Georgetown’s program, whether Porter is a part of next year is the biggest question.

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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