There are names of players - Patrick Ewing, say - and opponents - Houston’s Phi Slamma Jamma, for example - that conjure up wonderful NCAA tournament memories for the Georgetown Hoyas and their fans.
A national championship in 1984. Other Final Four appearances, as recently as 2007.
And then there are the past half-dozen years, which have been far less glorious. Missing out on March Madness entirely a year ago, relegated instead to the NIT. Winning a grand total of one game in the NCAAs since 2009. Losing to a team seeded 10th or worse in each of the Hoyas’ last five NCAA appearances.
So even if the faces have changed, and history does not dictate what happens now, with fourth-seeded Georgetown’s South Region opener against 13th-seeded Eastern Washington at Portland, Oregon, approaching Thursday night, Hoyas coach John Thompson III said, “We’ll absolutely talk about the past.”
“The preparation that is needed,” said the man known as JT3, son of the coach who led Ewing’s Hoyas to their NCAA title three decades ago. “The focus that is needed.”
Lesson learned, he hopes.
The last time Georgetown was in the tournament, in 2013, it helped make the “Dunk City” kids from Florida Gulf Coast a 15th-seeded sensation. That followed NCAA exits against No. 10 Davidson, No. 11 Ohio, No. 11 VCU and No. 11 North Carolina State.
Which is why Thompson insists that his players must do what they can to think only about how to get past Eastern Washington and not spend a moment pondering what potentially could come next.
“This is a time frame that, by nature, by design, is almost structured to force you to look ahead. Everyone - we’re not - is going to fill out their pool. All the chatter around campus (will be), ‘Well, if this happens and that happens.’ … Hey, forget all that,” Thompson said. “It’s Eastern Washington. That’s all it is. It’s nothing else. That’s all it is. It’s Thursday, whatever time. That’s all we need to focus on.”
Georgetown (21-10), ranked 22nd in The Associated Press’ final poll, is led by junior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who averaged 16.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists. Four first-year players play heavy minutes, including starters L.J. Peak and Isaac Copeland, the first pair of Georgetown freshmen in nearly a quarter-century to earn Big East All-Rookie honors in the same season.
But the key to the Hoyas’ success this time around could very well be 6-foot-10, 350-or-so-pound center Joshua Smith, who wavers between dominant and passive but will get to face an opponent Thursday that features no regular larger than 6-8, 230.
Eastern Washington (26-8), champion of the Big Sky Conference, averaged about 10 points per game more than Georgetown and is led by the nation’s leading scorer, guard Tyler Harvey (22.9 ppg). Its tough nonconference schedule included a victory at Indiana and a loss at SMU, both in November.
But if NCAA Tournament resumes mattered, the Eagles would worry about having never won a game in the bracket: In their only previous appearance, in 2004, they lost their opener against Oklahoma State.
Georgetown’s Smith-Rivera figures results of the past only matter so much.
“You can’t dwell on them,” he said. “We got knocked out early my freshman year. Didn’t make it last year. So it’s another chance to get after it and hopefully succeed past where we’ve been.”
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