Skate, or Wait?
For the 18-8 Hoyas, it’s the antepenultimate game of the regular season. It’s a rematch against the 19-8 St. John’s Red Storm at the World’s Most Famous Arena. While some fans may lull themselves into believing this game isn’t huge for the Hoyas, I beg to differ. In my opinion, this game will be a showcase of what to expect from the post-season Hoyas, in the BIG EAST tournament and beyond. The difference between a win and a loss is the difference between a team that believes that it can create some magic in the post-season and a team that will be satisfied with less, perhaps a decent showing in the BET and a first round win in The Big Dance.
Why Do I Believe This?
I. This harkens back to my columns over the past few weeks–is this Georgetown Team a “Prominent” Team or a “LessProminent” One? The Team holds fate in its hands. A win at the Garden, a home away from home for the Georgetown Hoyas where so much BIG EAST history has been written, would give the Hoyas a 19-8 record on the season, the #2 ranking in the conference (pending Butler’s next game), and a return visit to the Top 25. A loss, by contrast, hands the Johnnies a 20-win season (20-8) and may ensure the Red Storm an NCAA tournament berth (barring any subsequent breakdown) while adding pressure to the Hoyas to finish its season with a win at Butler then a home victory against Seton Hall on Senior Day next weekend to achieve a 20-win season, which must be one of the goals this team has set for itself.
II. This is the time for a team to build upon its confidence coming off of wins on the road at Seton Hall, home against St. John’s, and a rather shaky finish in a win at home against DePaul, a perennial bottom dweller in the conference. This is the time to shake off any cobwebs, set aside the blowouts (really only two, Villanova and Xavier on the road), and focus on the positive and what must be done–tomorrow, and game by game–to keep improving as a team. This won’t be an easy task against St. John’s, who has dreams and goals of its own after several years of suffering and missing the NCAA tourney. (Hoya fans, let’s not forget our reward last season was a trip to the NIT).
III. It’s February 28th and no more excuses can be made, such as “we haven’t figured out our best combination” and after two months of playing in the conference, with at least one game against every team, the Hoyas know what it takes to win, as well as what will cause a loss. Having dominated the Johnnies at home on 2/17, we also know that does not ensure a similar result on the road (e.g., Villanova). So, at this point in the season, these are the contests that separate the Contenders from the Pretenders, and the Best in Show from the Just Don’t Know.
It’s Been (Such a Short Time) Since Last We Met: Eleven days ago in DC at the Phone Booth (2/17) when the Hoyas prevailed, 79-57. Hoyas’ Balanced Scoring and Teamwork: In its first contest, six Hoyas scored in double figures, including Mikael Hopkins off the bench, who shot a perfect 5-5 from the field, 2 for 4 at the line, with 8 boards and 3 steals in 20 minutes. Freshman Sir’Isaac Copeland (If the Johnnies have a “Sir”, the Hoyas must too!) scored 12 points to lead a balanced Georgetown offense. Josh Smith, L.J. Peak and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (DSR) each scored 12, and Jabril Trawick added 11. The Hoyas had only 9 turnovers and a total of 15 assists, 7 steals and 7 assists while dominating the boards, 46-31. Copeland had 9 rebounds (along with 3 blocks), DSR had 10 and Hopkins, 8. Freshman Paul White contributed 6 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 15 minutes of play. Phil Greene IV led the Red Storm (17-9, 6-7) with 18 points and Sir’Dominic Pointer added 16.
The Johnnies’ Freefall: Then #17 in the nation St. John’s started to self-destruct on December 31st, losing to Seton Hall then going 3-6 early in conference play. Since then the Johnnies have sputtered along, overall now 8-7 in the BIG EAST with its last loss coming to the Hoyas on February 17th. Over its last 8 games, the Red Storm have regained momentum, are 6-2, having lost to Georgetown and at Butler, 85-62. The Johnnies hung around with #5 Duke for much of its game on January 25th, finally succumbing, 77-68.
Not sure what this means, but …
Thirty Years Ago Yesterday (2/27/85): The infamous Sweater Game in which the #2 Georgetown Hoyas met the #1 St. John’s Redmen at the Garden. Two future Hall of Fame coaches in the initial decade of what would become a legendary conference met in what has become one of the most celebrated games in college basketball history. Televised nationally on the then 6-year old ESPN network, a game and season with a rich history and background too lengthy for the scope of this blog entry, it may be enough to say that tickets for a game of the #1 vs #2 team in the nation, in the same conference late in the season, listed at $12.50 were being scalped for $300 apiece. In 1985.
At the end of the day on 2/27/85 the Hoyas topped #1 St. John’s, 85-69, with conference legends and college and future NBA superstars, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin, among others, going head to head. Ewing was 10-13 from the floor and dominated inside: 20 points, nine rebounds, six blocks. Sophomore Reggie Williams scored a then career-high 25 points on 9-13 from the field and 7-8 from the line. Mullin was held to 21 points on 8-16 shooting and was no match defensively for Williams. David Wingate added 12 for the Hoyas. Walter Berry had 15 for the Redmen. In pre-game warmups, Carnesecca came out wearing his “lucky” sweater that he had worn for consecutive games as his team rolled through that season. As the crowd rose to see Carnesecca meet Thompson, Coach Thompson opened his coat to show a $9 t-shirt replica of the same sweater. The packed arena roared with laughter. As Coach Thompson stated, “With all the talk about the sweater, I thought I’d better get one, too,” said Thompson. “If the sweater can carry us to victory, I wanted one.”
While history of this magnitude may not be created tomorrow, both teams have something tangible to play for in each team’s quest to return to greatness.
NB: They are no longer the Redmen. Dan Snyder, take note–it can be accomplished.
Miscellany: The series with St. John’s is the longest in program history. While the Hoyas trail 54-48, they have won seven of the last eight games.