Photo via Sarah Stier/Getty Images
The number signified much more than cliché unluckiness for the Georgetown Hoyas heading into the 2020-21 NCAA Men’s College Basketball Season. This was precisely the number of points the team received in the 2020-21 Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
In other words, the team was expected to finish last in the entire conference and not even come close to sniffing a postseason berth
13 also signified the total number of wins Georgetown (13-12) tallied over the course of the entire regular season, conference tournament included (more on that in a minute).
To say fourth-year Hoya head coach Patrick Ewing had his work cut out for him coming into the season would be an understatement. The Georgetown legend had to replace a ton of offensive production, for one – among five Hoya players to average more than 10 points per game (PPG) during the 2019-20 season, the top three in terms of PPG left the program at the conclusion of the season. Omer Yurtseven (15.5 PPG) declared for the NBA Draft, while Mac McClung (15.7 PPG) and James Akinjo (13.4 PPG) transferred to Texas Tech and Arizona, respectively. On top of Georgetown’s 60% exodus from their “Big Five,” the next three players in terms of PPG in Terrell Allen (9.5 PPG), Jagan Mosely (8.2 PPG) and Josh LeBlanc (7.2 PPG) departed from the program at the end of the season as well (Allen and Mosely graduated, while LeBlanc transferred to LSU).
The loss of so much depth, especially on the scoring side of the basket, definitely put Ewing and his coaching staff in a bind heading into the new season. Nevertheless, the prospects looked promising enough for the supposed underdogs to play spoiler as the season got underway. Their two remaining double-digit scorers from the season prior in now-seniors Jahvon Blair (10.8 PPG) and Jamorko Pickett (10.2 PPG) looked promising and, on paper, solidified at least two positions in the starting lineup.
On paper is the key term, here. While Pickett started in every game during the 2020-21 season (25 GS), Blair only started in 17 games and even sat out in a game due to coach’s decision (the game was a 68-60 win against DePaul on Feb. 27). When combining Blair’s inconsistency with the relatively lackadaisical shooting from inside the arc (Georgetown’s 46.1 2P% and 42.4 overall FG% ranked 310th and 255th in the entire country, respectively) and overall roster shuffle, there was a strong possibility the Hoyas would gradually falter from the Big East race as the season grinded along.
Such was what happened in actuality as the 2020-21 Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament got underway. Heading into their opening round matchup against the Marquette Golden Eagles, Georgetown came off of an exhausting back-and-forth shootout with the Connecticut Huskies, with the latter prevailing, 98-62.
The defeat did not stop the eighth-seeded Hoyas from taking care of business against a rebuilding Marquette squad still licking its wounds from Markus Howard’s departure, as Georgetown comfortably defeated the Golden Eagles, 68-49 on Mar. 10.
Then came the big test for the Hoyas in the Villanova Wildcats, the team that received the most preseason points among all Big East programs. Although Villanova was certainly a tough nut to crack, Georgetown prevailed over the Wildcats in the quarterfinal after freshman guard Dante Harris splashed two clutch free throws with less than five seconds to go in regulation. The two points would prove to be the difference, as Georgetown’s 72-71 victory was their first win against the Wildcats this season after the former lost to the latter in 13 of their previous 14 games, dating back to the 204-15 season.
Suddenly, the Hoyas were beginning to taste the feeling of potentially running the gauntlet. After defeating the Seton Hall Pirates, 66-58 in their next tournament bout, the Hoyas found themselves up against the team that garnered the second-most points in the Big East preseason poll: the Creighton Blue Jays.
While the movies would make the game a back-and-forth affair, it was anything but during the Mar. 13 Big East Tournament Final. Georgetown, despite making only half of their free throw shots (9-18), shot extremely well from the field (46.6%), which included 17 second-chance points and 19 points off of turnovers. Four players collected more than 10 points, even though Pickett was not one of them (Pickett only scored two points). Graduate student Chudier Bile had 19 total points, which tied his season total in a game (he had 19 points on Jan. 30 and Feb. 27 against Providence and DePaul, respectively). Blair, despite not being in the Hoya starting five, came off the bench and nailed four downtown shots out of seven total attempts and combined to pick up 18 points.
The end result for the Hoyas was a 73-48 blowout dub, their second-largest margin of victory over the Blue Jays (their largest margin of victory was 27 on Jan. 31, 2015 when Georgetown won 67-40).
The victory additionally netted the Hoyas their first Big East Conference Title win since the 2006-07 season, and perhaps most importantly, their first NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament bid since the 2014-15 season and the first since Ewing took over the head coaching reigns.
With the 12th-seeded Hoyas slated to play the fifth-seeded Colorado Buffaloes on Mar. 20, there are probably network analysts, college basketball fans and office workers out there will eagerly pick Georgetown as a trendy upset pick based off their recent results. Sometimes, you just have to go with your gut, and many will in regard to picking the Hoyas.
No matter where Georgetown goes from here on out, there has to be one thought floating around in the minds of Georgetown fans, players and coaches alike.
Maybe, just maybe, the number 12 will suit them just like the number 13 did.