NCAA March Madness: The Silver Lining in Georgetown's Loss to Ohio
On the wildest first day of March Madness in recent memory (or ever?), the biggest upset of the day came in the early evening, when the No. 14 seed Ohio Bobcats destroyed the No. 3 seed Georgetown Hoyas in Providence, R.I., 97-83.
The Bobcats, who finished 7-9 in the Mid-American Conference, and only punched their tourney ticket by winning the MAC tournament, shot so well against Georgetown that Hoya fans started having flashbacks to the 1985 NCAA championship game against Villanova. (Ohio shot 58.2 percent from the floor, and 56.5 percent [13-23] from downtown.)
The 97 points that Ohio scored represents the most than any team has scored against Georgetown in the NCAA tournament, and also happens to be the most points any team seeded No. 13 or below has ever scored in the NCAA tournament.
Okay, so it might be easier to find the Fountain of Youth than to find the silver lining for Georgetown in a loss like this.
But if you’re like me today, you probably feel like chugging a bottle of rubbing alcohol. (Or if you're like the guys at CasualHoya , you may be considering jamming your hand down your garbage disposal.)
So let's join together and try to put this loss in perspective.
If you’re looking for an analysis of how Ohio shocked the Hoyas, why the Hoyas suddenly forgot to play defense in their most important game of the year, or why Julian Vaughn played a total of 10 minutes…stop reading here. That article will be coming later this weekend, and it’ll have a decidedly less “sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows" tone.
Until then…here’s why a loss to Ohio isn’t the end of the world for Georgetown fans. (Even though it may feel like that for the next three weeks.)
Greg Monroe’s Post-Game Quotes
From the Twitter account of Fanhouse’s own Dan Graziano: Georgetown's Greg Monroe, asked if this was his last game at GU: "No. It wasn't."
And from the post-game media session , in a follow-up question about his future, Monroe responded, “The season just finished. Basically I'm not looking to the future right now. I'm ready to go back and see how I can help my team next year.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa, Miss Lippy.
Look, I realize that it’s pure lunacy to take a guy’s word 20 minutes after what had to be one of the most deflating losses he’s ever experienced.
But the fact is, a week ago today, Monroe completely undressed Marquette with a 23/13/7 game, and the thought of him returning to G’town next year appeared all but dead. If there's any hope of Monroe returning because of this game, then it wasn't a total wash.
Maybe Monroe realizes that if he can't fight through a double-team of mid-major white guys, he needs to continue bulking up to have any shot at making an impact in the NBA. Or maybe, as Georgetown coach John Thompson III continually points out, Monroe legitimately enjoys college, and doesn't want to leave Georgetown with zero NCAA tournament wins on his resume.
Hope springs eternal. And if Monroe somehow decides to come back for his junior season, the Hoyas wouldn't lose a single player from this season's team (barring transfers), while adding Nate Lubick, Markel Starks, and Aaron Bowen. That's got the makings of a top-five team, if the Hoyas could escape their inconsistencies.
And let's be real: If you asked me on Monday if I'd take a first-round NCAA knockout this year if it meant Monroe came back next year, I'd absolutely, unequivocally, 100 percent say yes.
I'd still make the same choice today, despite the dark cloud that would be hanging over my head for the next three weeks.
Austin Freeman's Health
In the midst of a February slump, Hoya fans got a huge dose of reality slapped in their face when junior guard Austin Freeman, Georgetown's leading scorer, was suddenly diagnosed with diabetes.
Freeman returned with a tour de force against Cincinnati in Georgetown's final game of the regular season, dropping 24 points in 30 minutes while looking like the same old Awesome Freeman. After the game, Freeman swore that his newly-diagnosed disease had no effect on his energy, and promised that he'd continue being the same old Austin.
In Georgetown's next five games (four in the Big East tournament and the fifth in the NCAAs), Freeman scored eight, 18, 12, 14, and nine points respectively. He averaged 16.5 per game on the season. He only cracked the 50 percent shooting plateau once (against Marquette), despite going nine of 12 against Louisville a week before his diagnosis.
And for a guy with a 44.4 percent three-point average on the season, Freeman suddenly went cold at the worst possible time. A-Free knocked down only three three-balls total in all five games (two against WVU, one against Ohio).
Clearly, something was suddenly bothering him.
You'll be hard-pressed to find an athlete who will admit that an injury or a disease hampered him/her in any way. Athletes pride themselves on their toughness and no athlete wants to be accused of using an injury as a crutch or an excuse.
Freeman will likely never admit that his recent diagnosis affected his play. But diabetes isn't something you can brush off and forget about. (In the spirit of full disclosure, my dad's brother died of diabetes in his early-20s.)
Freeman now has a full offseason to acclimate himself with living with the disease. He'll learn how to regulate his energy better, and he'll have an opportunity to push himself and learn his limits without having to worry about if he can recover in time for a basketball game.
John Thompson III's Development
Amazingly, some Georgetown fans have tried coping with the loss by throwing coach Thompson under a bus.
Forgetting about the Final Four appearance, the three Big East tournament championship berths in four years, and the back-to-back Big East regular season championships (something that his famous father could never accomplish at Georgetown), these Hoya fans are up in arms about JT III's recent tournament record. And it's hard to fault them there.
It's not hard to fault any Hoya fans that are overreacting and calling for III's head. (Being a Philly fan, this reeks of the love-hate relationship that Eagles fans have with Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb.)
Anyone mouthing off about the Princeton offense today clearly didn't watch the game against Ohio—defense lost that game, not offense.
And anyone saying "III can't get his players motivated"...well, golly, if the team can't get motivated for their first NCAA tournament game in two years, III's got much bigger problems on his hands. He shouldn't have to motivate them.
JT III's lived and died by the "one game at a time" motto. When Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert, and Jon Wallace were all at Georgetown, III's teams appeared to buy in to that mentality, as they'd handily beat bottom-feeders as expected.
If anything, this game should alert Thompson that his message to his players isn't getting through. And while it's frustrating to hear him refer to the team as a "young" team that's going through "growing pains" in March, III will have most (if not all) of his roster come back next year.
Those "growing pains" resulted in this team outperforming last year's by leaps and bounds.
If those "growing pains" result in a Final Four berth next year, or God forbid, a national championship...wouldn't it all be worth it?
Keep hope alive, Hoya fans. This year may be over, but the future is still bright for Georgetown.
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