Monday, February 23, 2004

It’s not even March, but Georgetown’s postseason has begun.

With four regular-season games remaining, the Hoyas (13-10, 4-8 Big East) are ahead of only St. John’s and Miami in the 14-team Big East. The top 12 finishers qualify for the conference tournament at New York’s Madison Square Garden (March 10-13).

The Hoyas appear to be in pretty good shape because they hold the tiebreaker over the Hurricanes (13-14, 3-10). Hence, Miami would have to win at least two of its remaining three games and hope the Hoyas lose out. Depleted St. John’s, meanwhile, has only one conference victory — over the Hoyas, of course.

“Clearly, we’re playing for something now,” said Georgetown coach Craig Esherick, whose team has lost a season-high four straight and 10 of its last 13. “We’re playing for postseason, and we’re playing to get into the postseason.”

Plus, one victory in its final four regular-season games would leave Georgetown eligible for the NIT, which only offers invitations to teams with at least a .500 record, regardless of what happens in the Big East tournament.

“Right now, we’re in the process of thinking about getting into the Big East tournament, and we have a couple games to go,” Georgetown senior co-captain Gerald Riley said. “We’ve got to forget about all the stuff we’ve done so far and move on to the next couple of games coming up.”

The first one could be a doozy: The Hoyas play host to third-ranked Pittsburgh (24-2, 10-2) tonight at MCI Center.

To have a chance, Georgetown probably will have to shoot better than it did in its 57-54 loss to Syracuse on Saturday. Against the Orangemen, the Hoyas played outstanding defense and posted perhaps their best rebounding game (24 offensive rebounds) but shot 27.7 percent from the field, their worst shooting game of the season.

Esherick conceded yesterday his team has yet to play a complete game.

“We have to put the whole thing together, put the whole thing together for 40 minutes, and we haven’t done it,” Esherick said. “I don’t know if we’ve played a complete game.”

Even though it was a loss, the Syracuse game provided some positives for the Hoyas, especially coming off the 65-58 loss to St. John’s, which had just nine players — including four walk-ons — because of a much-publicized sex scandal.

“In the last couple games that we’ve had, it’s natural for people to think negatively, just like if you had won four or five,” Esherick said. “When we won 10 in a row, you start to think you’re better than you really are. It’s my job to let them know that they are not as bad as our record lately indicates. We’re better than that.”

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