As the Georgetown Hoyas enter the most difficult stretch of their schedule to date, they will be without one of their key players. Josh Smith was suspended for the rest of the season on Friday due to academic troubles.
The Hoyas will kick their week off with a home game against Villanova on Monday, and then they will have to travel to New York to face Michigan State on Saturday.
If that brutal week isn't bad enough for John Thompson III and company, they are also in the middle of a four-game losing streak and have won just one of their last six games.
With their dreams of qualifying for the NCAA men's basketball tournament thrown out the window—unless the Hoyas pull off a miracle run at the Big East tournament—Thompson and his remaining players must attempt to salvage their disappointing season.
Heading into the season, the Hoyas were not expected to win the Big East, but they were expected to be one of the top four teams in the conference alongside Creighton, Marquette and Villanova.
Instead, Georgetown has fallen flat in big games against Oregon and Kansas, along with losing to Seton Hall on its home floor on January 18.
Literally nothing is going right for the Hoyas.
Now with Smith gone, they will have to somehow pick up the pieces and move on to avoid sharing the basement of the conference standings with longtime rival St. John's, a team that is also having a terrible 2013-14 campaign.
With Smith out of the picture, the Hoyas do not have a strong presence in the paint, as Mikael Hopkins and Nate Lubick are now Thompson's best options.
Both Hopkins and Lubick have the height to play down low, but they are nowhere close to Smith in the weight department, and both could get battered around in the paint if they try to emulate the UCLA transfer's play.
The Hoyas did not have to worry about their perimeter shooting, but now that Smith is gone for the season, opponents will begin to put more pressure on D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks in the backcourt.
Smith-Rivera (17.5 points per game) and Starks (16.2 PPG) have been two bright spots on an incomplete Georgetown team, and they will have to step up even more in the upcoming weeks as their team begins to play for pride instead of a berth in the postseason.
There is some good news—if there is such a thing this season—on the horizon, though.
The Hoyas will face a fairly easy stretch of five games after they compete against Michigan State.
With DePaul, Butler, Providence, St. John's and Seton Hall on the docket in February, Georgetown has a chance to regain some pride by beating up on the lesser teams in the conference.
That will not be as easy as it seems, though, because Providence is proving to be a surprise team in the conference at 5-2, and Seton Hall already took down the Hoyas this season. Butler pushed the Hoyas to overtime on January 11 at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
If Georgetown can pull it all together during that five-game span in the heart of February, it could pull off an upset against the big guns of the conference. That will be a difficult task without a major paint presence such as Smith.
All four of the Hoyas' final opponents (Xavier, Marquette, Villanova and Creighton) have big men who can take over a game in an instant, and they will all be licking their chops when they line up against the Hoyas, who lack depth and girth in the paint.
Simply put, Georgetown could enjoy some success during February, but when it comes down to crunch time, it will fall short because it lacks a big man in Smith.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!