That full-fledged brawl in China, at first glance the height of embarrassment, has instead morphed into a bonding experience for the Georgetown basketball team.
Despite being unranked to start the season (the melee in Beijing took place during preseason), the Hoyas leaped out to a 13-1 start (unlike Xavier, which has gone 11-11 since that Dec. 10 Cincy brawl), a run that included key wins over then-ranked No. 12 Alabama (Dec. 1), No. 4 Louisville (Dec. 28), and No. 20 Marquette (Jan. 4).
John Thompson III has pulled his side up by the bootstraps the way he knows best: by instilling his basic tenets of defense, tough-nosed mentality, and efficient offense to blistering effect.
Making those wins against Alabama and Louisville even more impressive was the fact that the Hoyas took out both teams on the road–a fantastic sign of their tournament readiness.
Heading into this season, Georgetown was forced to cope with the losses of sharpshooter Austin Freeman—last season's leading scorer at 17.6 per game—point guard Chris Wright (12.9 points, 5.3 assists) and big man Julian Vaughn, who clocked in at 7.8 points and 6.1 rebounds.
That 2010-11 team had been upset in the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season (in 2010, the No. 3-seeded Hoyas were shocked by No. 14 Ohio), dropping their opening round game to 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth. (The Hoyas were a six seed).
The 74-56 beating suffered at the hands of the Rams was perhaps alleviated by the fact that VCU ended up in the Final Four, but the fact remained.
Since making it to the 2007 Final Four, however, Georgetown has managed to win just one tournament game.
When asked about what had to be done ahead of the 2011-12 season, head coach John Thompson III offered this statement:
“I think that once the season is over, you know, as a coach, as the head of a program, you go through introspection, and we’ll take time, and I’ll do that,” Thompson said. “A lot will be discussed about this group and what they have and haven’t done in the postseason. We’ll evaluate that.”
That one win will be looming ever larger over Thompson's head in the wake of Georgetown's loss to Cincinnati (small world) in the Big East tournament on March 8.
Georgetown finish their regular season with a 23-8 (12-6 Big East) record—far superior to their 21-10, 10-8 mark at this same point last season, but the questions remain: Can the Hoyas make a run in the NCAA's?
They are currently ranked No. 15 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, and despite the loss to the Bearcats in the conference quarterfinals, they were granted a No. 3 seed.
Should fans be worried about another potential upset? After all, Georgetown was a 3-seed against Ohio, and they're a 3-seed again this season. Hmm..like they say, history doesn't repeat, but it does rhyme.
The Midwest is shaping up as a taxing road for Georgetown to travel, yet their rugged defense and systematic offense could also lead to a lengthy run.
After all, those two qualities were UCLA's bread and butter during their run of three consecutive Final Fours from 2006 to 2008.
Read on to see what the experts are saying about Georgetown's tourney chances this season.