- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 15, 2015

Recent history has already written off Georgetown.

Over the past five years, the Hoyas have become a classic upset pick, routinely losing to double-digit seeds in the first round of the NCAA tournament and serving as the first domino in Cinderella runs. In 2013, they lost to Florida Gulf Coast. In 2011, it was VCU. In 2010, Ohio.

This year, Georgetown’s goal is to break that trend against No. 13 seed Eastern Washington. The Eagles play in the Big Sky conference and are largely forgotten on a national scale, but they have Tyler Harvey, the top scorer in Division I, and rank among the nation’s highest-scoring teams at 80.8 points per game.

“They can put points on the board,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III told reporters. “Quickly.”

Despite their recent reputation, the Hoyas have a deep rotation and an ideal balance of youth and experience. They have a go-to scorer in junior D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who averages 16.2 points per game, and a potentially dominant big man in senior Joshua Smith, who checks in at 6 feet 10 and 350 pounds. Their bench, replete with length and athleticism, is capable of keeping them in any game.

For an example, look no further than the Big East semifinals against Xavier on Friday, when Georgetown found itself down by more than 20 points midway through the second half. Runs of 20-6 and 9-2 changed that, and the Hoyas ultimately lost by only two points, 65-63.

SEE ALSO: Maryland prepares for first trip to NCAA tournament since 2010

“I think this comeback shows how deep of a team we are,” freshman Isaac Copeland said after the game. “It’s not easy to come back from down 20 like we were. It shows we have a lot of heart.”

Copeland could prove to be a pivotal piece for Georgetown in a possible NCAA tournament run. The 6-foot-9 freshman was one of two Hoyas to be named to the Big East’s all-rookie team and garnered conference rookie of the week honors three times. He turned up his game late in the season and finished in double figures in seven conference games, including a career-high 20 points against Seton Hall.

For Copeland, and the other three freshmen who play regular minutes for Georgetown, simply being in the NCAA tournament will require some sort of an adjustment.

“Kind of speechless,” Copeland told reporters Sunday. “My first time playing in the NCAA tournament. I’m very excited. Looking forward to playing a very good team.”

Georgetown Hoyas

Seed: No. 4 in South Region

SEE ALSO: Virginia not concerned about being a No. 2 seed

Record: 21-10, 12-6 Big East

Bid: At-large

Last appearance: 2013, Lost in first round, 78-68, to Florida Gulf Coast

First opponent: No. 13 Eastern Washington

Others in region: No. 1 Duke. No. 3 Iowa State, No. 5 Utah

Top players: Junior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (16.2 ppg, 1.6 spg), senior center Joshua Smith (11.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg)

Strengths: Length. Between Mikael Hopkins, Isaac Copeland and Paul White, the Hoyas have several athletic players taller than 6 feet 8, creating problems on both ends of the court. At 350 pounds, Smith also has the ability to bully opposing centers in the post.

Weaknesses: Inconsistency. Georgetown sometimes falls into prolonged droughts, as it did in the conference semifinals Friday and has a history of early exits in the NCAA tournament.

• Tom Schad can be reached at tschad@washingtontimes.com.

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