“March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb”.  If that’s the case this year, it’s because there’s a roar in the district surrounding the diminishing season of Georgetown men’s basketball…with coach John Thompson III going out like a sacrificial lamb if certain fans and alumni have their way.  The Hoyas’ February fade saw the team go 1-6 last month with a loss to cellar-dwelling DePaul.  Barring a Big East Tournament run of four wins in four nights a losing record is all but assured for the second straight winter.  And just how likely is four straight wins at MSG?  Georgetown has won a total of four Big East Tournament games since 2010.  Instead of a rebound from last winter’s 15-18 thud, the program is dangerously close to matching that record.  And like any school with a National Championship and multiple Final Fours in its past, the locals are getting restless.  “Fire Thompson!” has been chanted at Verizon Center, the student newspaper has called for his job, and just to show how 21st century fans are there was a sign reading #FireJT3 at a recent game. 

As mentioned, the team went 15-18 last year.  That was supposed to be an aberration; instead the 22-11 team from the season before that lost during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is becoming the outlier of the last four years.  Since the Final Four team of 2007, victories in March have been few and far between.  Davidson, Ohio, VCU, and Florida Gulf Coast each took their turn with the slingshot in ending Georgetown’s postseason of great expectations.  The top-tier talent coming to Georgetown has also dried up.  When Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert led the Hoyas to the Final Four, it seemed as though the pro prospect faucets had been turned on again.  But in the last ten years, who turned your head on the hilltop?  Otto Porter is the lone kid who had a great Georgetown career before moving onto the pros.  Greg Monroe and Hollis Thompson are two other former Hoyas in the NBA at this time.  Missing out on top-level talent in a league has resulted in a program that’s relying on a graduate transfer (Rodney Pryor) to try to keep things afloat.  Add in the recent rash of transfers (Isaac Copeland being the latest) and you have a future that doesn’t look a lot more better than the present.

Okay, so Georgetown fires Thompson.  What’s next?  Which coach comes to DC to lead a team that practices in the John Thompson, Jr. Intercollegiate Athletic Center?  For those new to the area, Thompson Jr. is the father of John Thompson III and is responsible for building Georgetown from a mid-Atlantic independent of minimal notoriety into a national power.  Take away Thompson and Georgetown is a highly regarded school that produced a U.S. President-like Dickinson or Amherst-but one that has more in common in basketball with American University than the University of Maryland.  Since retiring in 1999, Thompson has remained associated with the program and university.  Suffice it to say, Big John is big in stature and influence.  And he’s not shy about voicing his opinions, even at age 75.  Speak softly and carry a big stick?  Big John speaks so loudly you wish he was carrying a stick instead.

Even if somehow JT3 exits gracefully in a manner that doesn’t upset his Hall of Fame father, what’s next?  The new practice facility is nice, but to be honest the school built the wrong type of building.  What they needed to construct was an on-campus arena.  A McDonough Gymnasium 2.0 modeled on Duke’s Cameron Indoor.  Have you seen a Georgetown game lately at Verizon Center?  Unless it’s for Syracuse or maybe Villanova, you’re in danger of four-digit crowds and when 5,158 show up to watch St. John’s it feels like 500 people.  Does a prospective recruit, even with the Fox Sports 1 TV deal that has the occasional 11am tipoff (I know, tempting), want to play in that kind of atmosphere?  Stack that up against XFinity Center (Maryland), Eagle Bank Arena (George Mason) or the Smith Center (George Washington).

Then look at DePaul.  Another private, catholic school set in a big city minus an on-campus arena.  See how they thrived under Hall of Fame Coach Ray Meyer.  See how they wilted under his son Joey during his 13-year tenure.  See also the lack of success after the school moved on from the son of the man who put the program on the map.  Even with being located in a major metropolitan area that is overflowing with talent.  DePaul is on its fourth coach and fifth regime (Dave Leito is in year two of his second tenure, I guess making him the Grover Cleveland of Blue Demons basketball).  At least DePaul is moving its home games from Allstate Arena in Rosemont (18.5 miles away from campus) to an arena on the Near South Shore (4.4 miles from the school).  Verizon Center sits 3.3 miles away from McDonough Gymnasium;  no matter how they handle their current coaching position Georgetown feels like a million miles from where it wants to be.

Alma Mater Update- as Jim Boeheim winds down his career with the Orange, one realizes how little success SU has enjoyed without the bespectacled one.  And with the Georgetown situation one realizes how rare sustained success actually is.  But that’s the future…the present has the team needing a home win over Georgia Tech to further its at-large bid hopes.  Once again they’ll have fans on the edge of their seats during games and more importantly Selection Sunday this year.

Saturday’s games-

12 p.m.

Georgetown (14-16, 5-12 Big East) vs #2 Villanova (27-3, 14-3).  Great one to start with.  The Wildcats won the February 8th meeting by 11 in a game where Hoyas big man Jessie Govan was held to 4 points over 18 minutes.  With the sophomore’s inconsistency and senior Bradley Hayes’ consistent disappearing act, the lack of a presence in the post has hurt Georgetown early and often this year.  The defending National Champions are the stingiest in the conference, leading the Big East in fewest points allowed, field goal defense and defending the three-pointer.  Georgetown-not so much.

#23 Virginia (20-9, 10-7 ACC) v Pitt (15-15, 4-13), ACC Network.  Back to back wins by the Cavaliers turn around what could have been a horrific slide down the standings.  Instead they can still secure a coveted double-bye with a win plus lossed by Duke and Louisville plus a Florida State victory.  UVa leads the conference in scoring defense; that’s what makes their 88-76 loss to the Panthers in January all the more perplexing.  Pitt shot 61% from three-point range in that game and boast two of the top five scorers in the ACC in Michael Young and Jamel Artis (he led the Panthers with 24 that night).

2 p.m.

Maryland (23-7, 11-6 Big Ten) vs Michigan State (18-12, 10-7), Big Ten Network.  The winner gets the #3 seed next week at Verizon Center while the loser has to play Thursday in “what used to be the first round but now that there’s that dreaded bottom feeder day this is being called the second round”.  The Spartans have had a rough road this winter, going 1-7 away from East Lansing in conference play.  They’re not great defensively (9th in the league in points allowed and last in steals), but can rebound (an achilles heel for the Terps).  Will we see the team that went to Rutgers and gritted out a win on the road or the one that was overwhelmed last weekend by Iowa?

George Mason (19-11, 9-8 Atlantic 10) at VCU (23-7, 13-4).  The Patriots are coming off a one-point victory over Duquesne while the Rams are trying to rebound from a loss to Dayton that eliminated them from the regular season title chase.  Coach Will Wade’s team has dropped two straight, but they’re 8-0 at home in the A-10.  One of their road wins came December 30th in Fairfax as they outrebounded the Patriots by 11.  Since then, Mason has asserted itself as the best team on the boards in the league.  If only they took as good care of the ball (13th in turnover margin).  That might not bode well against VCU’s havoc defense…especially on their home floor.


4 p.m.

Richmond (18-11, 12-5 Atlantic 10) vs St Louis (11-19, 6-11).  Just who makes the A-10 schedule?  I feel bad for the hoop junkies in the Commonwealth’s capital city that can’t catch the Spiders after watching the Rams play downtown at 2.  Both teams enter the final weekend heating up;  Richmond’s won three straight while the Billikens have won consecutive conference games for the first time this season.  SLU is also offensively challenged, ranking last in the conference in shooting and scoring.  It’s senior day for T.J. Cline, who’s making a case for Conference Player of the Year (5th in scoring, 4th in rebounding and 2nd in assists)…and likely wants to atone for his 9 point, 3 rebound performance in Wednesday’s win over UMass.

4:30 p.m.

Virginia Tech (21-8, 10-7) vs Wake Forest (17-12, 8-9), ACC Network.  The Hokies may be out of contention for a double-bye, but they’re a near-certainty for the school’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2007.  The Demon Deacons last made the field of 68 when it was the field of 65 in 2010…and Danny Manning’s team has a chance IF they finish .500 in the conference and IF they win a game in Brooklyn next week.  It’s the classic contrast of inside-outside as the Hokies lead the ACC in three-point shooting while the Deacs are third worst in the conference at defending the three.  But Wake also boasts one of the league’s better big men in 6-foot-10 sophomore John Collins (20 points and 9 rebounds per game).  That’s enough to make any coach sweat, let alone a proficient perspirer as Buzz Williams whose team ranks last in the ACC on the glass.

8 p.m.

George Washington  (17-13, 9-8 Atlantic 10) vs Dayton (24-5, 15-2), CBS Sports Network.  If you have a mid-major you want to keep your eye on for the NCAA’s look no further.  The Flyers took off after a couple of midseason hiccups and locked up the #1 seed in the upcoming A-10 tournament with Wednesday’s 79-72 win over VCU.  They lead the conference in shooting and are the best in the A-10 at defending the three.  Dayton also has an extremely efficient senior point guard in Scoochie Smith, who on name value alone is pretty awesome.  He won’t be easily rattled at the Smith Center.  Expect GW’s defensive Swiss Army Knife Yuta Watanabe to chase Smith as well as Flyers’ leading scorer Charles Cooke throughout the night.  How big is this game for GW?  A win plus a St. Bonaventure loss gives them the 5th seed while a loss plus wins by La Salle and Davidson could drop them to 9th.


Patriot League Semifinals, #4 Navy (16-15) at #1 Bucknell (24-8), CBS Sports Network.  The Midshipmen bounced back from losing their final four regular season games in a 49-42 win over Holy Cross at home.  But Annapolis is no Lewisburg, PA…as seen by the Mids’ four point loss at home to the Bison compared to last Saturday’s 82-60 defeat where Bucknell went on a 30-to-1 run in the first half (outside of that, it was a tight game throughout).  Kimbal Mackenzie scored 18 points off the bench for the Bison last weekend-he also had 22 in the December 30th matchup in Annapolis.  Can the Midshipmen get their shot back?  Navy was held to 3-for-21 by Holy Cross…and is 15-of-85 (18%) over its last four games .