Craig Esherick might no longer be the coach of the Georgetown men's basketball team but his spirit continues to haunt them in light of the first back-to-back losses of the season. The first was understandable, losing to Notre Dame at South Bend (notoriously difficult for visitors). But last night's loss to struggling St. John's was inexcusable. The Hoyas were outrebounded 39-23, shot a meager 19 percent from beyond the arc, and trailed at halftime, 45-29. The defeat gave the Red Storm only its third conference win of the year. Meanwhile, the Hoyas remain at 16-8, 8-5 in the Big East--just two games away from the magical 10-conference-wins threshold. Even assuming Georgetown beats Providence at home, the team will either have to beat No. 25 Villanova at home or No. 18 Connecticut away. (Georgetown already beat the Wildcats once, at Villanova.) Can it be done? In the immortal words of Rocco Lampone, "Difficult, but not impossible."
Most of the tension this late in the season stems from the Esherick legacy: Last year, under Craig Esherick's tutelage, Georgetown lost 13 of its remaining 15 games, scarring fans like myself for life. We now presume the worst. That the meltdown has begun. And come March, we'll be tuning in to ESPN +Plus for the NIT. But despite a good number of the players being Esherick recruits, the coach is not. John Thompson III has spent the bulk of his time rewiring the older players and, more important, building a solid foundation for the younger ones. (The team itself is comprised mostly of 19-year-olds.)
So despite some chatter that the season is over, that Big East rookie of the year (my prediction) Jeff Green has hit the "freshman wall," and, as one friend put it, "the Georgetown team we all know and love is back," it is far from over. The team has two weeks to prove they aren't the same head-cases from a year ago. Next Sunday against Villanova would be a good start.
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