Revived Hoyas pose big threat

A Big East title isn't the only link to Georgetown's hallowed past.

Published March 15, 2007

There's a feeling of deja vu in the nation's capital: John Thompson is pacing courtside, Patrick Ewing is pulling down rebounds and Georgetown is winning Big East championships.

It's a new generation of Hoya success, however, with John Thompson III winning the school's first conference tournament since his father coached, leading a team talented enough that Patrick Ewing Jr. comes off the bench.

"We're a different team from the legacy when his dad was coaching," said junior forward Jeff Green, the Big East player of the year.

"We just can't think about that. That's the past. We have to worry about what we have to take care of now."

Thompson, 41 and in his third season as Hoyas coach, is rekindling the success his father had, when Georgetown won six Big East crowns from 1982-89.

The Hoyas 23-6 haven't been to an NCAA region final since 1996 and a Final Four since getting upset by Villanova in the 1985 championship game.

This year's long-awaited milestones start with the school's first Big East championship in 18 years.

"That's another thing off my to-do list I can scratch off," Thompson said, joking Saturday after beating No. 12 Pittsburgh 65-42 to add a tournament championship to the No. 9 Hoyas' regular-season title.

Nowadays, the towering center dominating inside is 7-foot-2 junior Roy Hibbert. But the team's best player is Green, a versatile 6-9 forward who is the first Hoya honored as Big East player of the year since Alonzo Mourning in 1992.

Green leads the team in scoring (13.6 points) and assists (3.5) and ranks second in rebounds (5.9) and blocks (1.2).

"I think Georgetown is playing as well as any team in the country," Villanova coach Jay Wright said after losing to the Hoyas in the Big East quarterfinals. "I think we just ran into an outstanding team. They have just continued to get better."

Georgetown's success started in last year's NCAA Tournament. The No. 7 seed, playing in the NCAAs for the first time in five years, beat second-seeded Ohio State by 18 then gave Florida its only real scare.

The Hoyas missed a go-ahead 3-pointer in the final 10 seconds before losing 57-53.

No other team finished within 12 points of the Gators during their run to the title.

Georgetown stumbled early this season, opening 4-3 with home losses to Old Dominion and Oregon. Thompson's team has won 15 of its past 16, however, and he said he was never worried by the slow start.

"One thing I learned from Pops and from (ex-Princeton coach Pete Carril) is that with NCAA bids, it doesn't matter how you play in the beginning of the year," said Thompson, an assistant then coach at Princeton.

"So we come out of the gate, we lose a couple of games. I think people forgot about us, which is fine by me. We had a chance to improve, and our guys worked extremely hard."

Georgetown is a No. 2 seed, and according to ESPN.com, no team outside the top four seeds in ESPN's online tournament pools has been chosen more often to reach the Final Four.

"We're light years better than we were at the beginning of the season," Thompson said. "As the year progressed, I said to these guys ... we wanted to be the most improved team by the end of the year and everything else should take care of itself."

Greg Auman can be reached at (813) 226-3346 or auman@sptimes.com.