(The Exorcist Stairs, Georgetown)
It’s really that time, Hoya Fans. Seems like just yesterday the team was traveling to the Bahamas to compete in the Battle4Atlantis to cut their teeth, especially the Freshmen Five (Peak, Copeland, White, Campbell and Mourning), and here we sit, with five games remaining, starting with a visit from the Johnnies tonight here in the Phone Booth.
With the season in jeopardy and the Hoyas dropping from the Top 25 for the second time this season after a loss to Providence at home followed by a blowout by the Villanova Wildcats in Philly, the Hoyas acquitted themselves well with a strong performance at Seton Hall. They took advantage of a team, the Pirates, that had started the season strong but apparently is losing its grip at the wrong time and at a rapid pace–last night Sterling Gibbs capped that slide with a physical blow to the face of the Cats’ Ryan Arcidiacano–and dominated the Pirates for much of the game leading to a 20-point victory.
The Red Storm Arrive in a Snow Storm: Tonight the Hoyas can build on that significant victory when they face the Red Storm at home, a team they will meet for the first time this season. St. John’s is now 17-8 overall and 6-6 in the Big East, to the Hoyas’ 16-8 and 8-5 in the conference, and is contending for a spot as the likely 6th team from the Big East to qualify for the NCAA Tournament and so bet on the fact they will come to play. They are led in scoring by senior guard D’Angelo Harrison, who averages 19 points per game. Sophomore guard Rysheed Jordan averages 14 ppg. Senior guard Sir Dominic Pointer (Vote for Best Name in Big East?) and junior forward Chris Obekpa lead the team in rebounding with 7 rpg each. I think it’s fair to say this is the strongest team assembled for the Johnnies in some time, and everyone who cares about the conference is rooting for a strong St. John’s, the New York based team in a NYC-HQ’d Big East. Right now the Red Storm sit just below 7-7 Xavier in the conference standings at #6, 2 behind Georgetown, so Steve Lavin and team will be no pushover. After a mid-season slide, losing 6 of 8 (one to Duke, 77-68, having stayed with the Blue Devils much of that game), the Red Storm have rebounded by winning 4 of their last 5, having beaten both Xavier and Providence in that stretch and having lost only to Butler on February 3rd at Butler, 85-62.
Where The Hoyas Stand After Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Weekend, Rankings Run Amuck:
#4 in the Big East and #31 in the AP Poll, behind Providence, Murray State (?) and Temple. # 32 in the Coaches Poll, behind Indiana (whom they have beaten on a neutral court), Michigan State and Dayton. To those who care, the Hoyas dropped out of the ESPN Top 25 Power Rankings to #27 after Dan Diego State. Clearly, the ESPN prognosticators thinks more highly of the Hoyas than Providence (who beat us twice), Dayton, Michigan State and Texas. #23 in the RPI, #22 in the BPI, does any of this make sense when the Hoyas rank #3 or 4 in Strength of Schedule (SOS) and teams like Gonzaga and Kentucky have played nobody this season and are locks on the #1 tournament seed as of today? Last but not least, Self-Appointed Chief Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has the Hoyas a 7 seed in the Midwest, playing Temple in Omaha. Don’t worry, Fans, this will all change soon.
The Sixth Man?: Since classes were cancelled today because one of those predicted mega snowstorms in DC that never quite pan out but are large enough to shut the city and federal government down, Hoya fans, including students, should be present in large numbers tonight to cheer on their Hoyas.
So, Where Do We Stand on the 1/31/15 ProminentPlay Scenarios:In a prior post, I set forth 3 scenarios with 9 games to go. To recap,
(I) The ProminentPlay Scenario predicted that the Hoyas, in the best case scenario, would go 7-2 in its final 9 games to finish 21-8, 13-5 in the Big East, finish in the Top 25 (between 20 and 25) and have momentum going into the post-season tourney. win the Big East regular season outright or share with other team/s, with 2 of its losses will coming on the road, at Villanova, St. John’s or Seton Hall.
2/17/15 UPDATE–GOOD NEWS! THE HOYAS STILL HAVE A CHANCE TO PLAY OUT THIS SCENARIO IF THEY SWEEP THE NEXT 5 GAMES. What is unlikely is that share of a regular season title with the Wildcats now in first at 11-2, unlikely to lose 3 of the their final 5 games. Kiss that goodbye. However, don’t kiss off a second place finish when the Hoyas have another shot at #2 in the conference (#19 in the nation) Butler on March 3rd. Butlers third leading scorer, sophomore forward Andrew Chrabascz is out for the rest of the regular season with a broken bone in his hand and that could impact the Bulldogs’ final stretch. As of today I’m bullish and think this scenario is 70% possible IF–A BIG IF–the Hoyas can continue to play with the focus and skill shown in the victories over Nova and the Hall.
(II) The LessProminent Scenario predicted that the team will finish would go 6-3-in its final 9 games to finish 20-9, 12-6 in the Big East, perhaps finish in the Top 25 (close to 25) and have less momentum going into the post-season tourney. The Hoyas could have an opportunity to share in the Big East regular season title although it was likely that the then #7 Wildcats would take that prize. Predicted that 2 or 3 losses will come on the road, at Villanova, Butler, or Seton Hall, and that the Hoyas may drop another home game to Providence or The Hall.
2/17/15 UPDATE–TODAY I BELIEVE THIS SCENARIO HAS ONLY A 25% CHANCE OF PLAYING OUT AND THIS WOULD INVOLVE A LOSS AT ST. JOHN’S OR BUTLER. However, if the Hoyas beat the Johnnies tonight and should beat DePaul on Saturday, I think they will have sufficient momentum to knock out the St. John’s on the road on February 28th and Butler on March 3rd, then finish up with a strong win at home against the faltering Hall.
Today I provide only a 5% chance of this scary scenario, that is, (III) The “We’dBetterRecaptureProminence” at the Big East Tournament Scenario had the Hoyas losing 3 or 4 on the road or 3 on the road and one at home to finish 5-4 in the last 9, 19-10 and 11-7 in conference, their post-season status relying much more on what they accomplish in the Big East tourney. Whew!
Finally, the Exorcist Stairs. A perfect image at a time when the Hoyas and fans everywhere look to 2015 as a year to exorcise all of those post-season demons. It started in Atlantis where the young Hoyas (we now frequently have 2 or 3 freshmen playing many minutes) beat Florida and played a strong, winnable game against mighty Wisconsin. A close loss to Butler ended that early season tournament. Now the question is will the Hoyas build on the experience of a long and challenging season, which also included a close loss to Kansas and victories over a very good Indiana team, a blowout of Villanova at home and some strong conference road wins to lead the team, a game at a time, to the end of the season and into the post?
In a week where Hoyas Bill Clinton and Dikembe enjoyed the NBA All Star Game together, Hoya thespian and former rower Bradley Cooper locked lips with nonagenarian sex symbol Betty White, doesn’t it seem that the time might be right for some action, love, redemption?!