ALEXANDER BROWN/THE HOYA
ALEXANDER BROWN/THE HOYA

Although expectations were modest from the start, it was hard not to label Georgetown’s 2013-2014 season a disappointment as its curtain closed Monday night in Tallahassee.

The contours of the year were set from last spring, when Otto Porter decided to forgo his final two years on the Hilltop and enter the NBA draft.

While many believed that junior forward Greg Whittington — who sat out last spring for academic reasons — would help fill the gap Porter left behind, he tore his ACL in June, sidelining him indefinitely.

From there, fans pinned their hopes on a talented transfer — former UCLA big man Joshua Smith — who had the size and hands to be the post presence Georgetown desperately needed.

Smith sparkled in his debut, scoring 25 points in an 82-75 loss to then-No. 19 Oregon. Serious concerns began to mount two weeks later, however, when lowly Northeastern toppled Georgetown in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan.

Although Georgetown rebounded to notch decisive wins over Kansas State and VCU in the tournament, the loss to the Huskies demonstrated that the Blue and Gray would struggle mightily on nights where senior guard Markel Starks and sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera were not exceptional.

Whittington’s dismissal from the team Nov. 30 ended hopes that he would make an impactful late-season return and, although the Hoyas blew out a weak slate of non-conference opponents that visited Verizon Center, they were in for a rude awakening when they visited then-No. 18 Kansas.

Foul trouble — which proved to be a problem all season for the Hoyas — caught up with Smith early on, limiting the sorely needed big man to just five points en route to an 86-64 loss to the Jayhawks.

A softer Big East — stripped by realignment of powers like Connecticut, Cincinnati, Louisville and Syracuse — was supposed to be easier to navigate. In reality, the opening weeks of league play were the worst of Georgetown’s season.

After notching a pair of home wins over DePaul and St. John’s, Smith did not travel with the team to Providence on Jan. 8, where Georgetown was blown out 70-52. Adding injury to insult, junior guard Jabril Trawick broke his jaw and was sidelined for the next five games.

The Hoyas escaped with a narrow overtime win over Butler in their next outing, although Smith again missed the road trip. From there, though, the wheels came off the bus and, without Trawick’s dynamism, Georgetown dropped five games in a row. The stretch was punctuated by Head Coach John Thompson III’s announcement Jan. 24 — after more than two weeks of limbo — that Smith would not play for the rest of the season.

A surprising victory Feb. 1 over a depleted — but still highly-ranked Michigan State squad — along with Trawick’s return, breathed new life into the season and was followed by three more wins in conference. But a pair of losses, first at St. John’s and then at Seton Hall, confirmed that Trawick’s presence did not guarantee that Georgetown would be able to have its way in conference.

The final stretch of the season reflected that inconsistency. Starks, Smith-Rivera and — to a lesser extent — Trawick were steady. When the frontcourt clicked, there were decisive wins over Creighton and Xavier. When it didn’t, Georgetown lost at Marquette and, in the final game of the regular season, at Villanova.

With the team on the ropes, attendance at home games also dropped. At the end of the season, average home attendance had fallen 16.5 percent from last season, reaching its lowest level since the 2004-2005 campaign.

Firmly on the bubble for the NCAA tournament, Georgetown knew that it would have to be successful — if not win — in the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden to secure a bid.

Seeded in seventh place for the tournament, many observers expected Georgetown to make easy work of cellar-dweller DePaul in the opening round. Instead, the Hoyas gave up an early lead and watched as the Blue Demons’ shooters drained easy baskets around the perimeter. Despite Smith-Rivera’s late game heroics, the 60-56 defeat visibly deflated the team.

After the loss, Thompson gamely said he believed his team merited an at-large NCAA tournament bid but, on Selection Sunday, the best the committee could do was list the Hoyas as one of the “first four out” of the tournament field — a consolation prize at best.

Georgetown got its only break of the postseason when the Barnum and Bailey circus displaced it from Verizon Center, sending its first-round NIT matchup with West Virginia to McDonough Arena. Packed to the rafters, the atmosphere in the historic building was electric and the Hoyas rolled to a 77-65 win.

But Georgetown simply could not shake the inconsistency that was the hallmark of its season. Facing Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla., the Blue and Gray allowed the Seminoles to shoot 68.2 percent from the floor. With the Hoyas’ frontcourt virtually absent, the season ended with a whimper — a 101-90 loss.

For the seventh straight year, the Hoyas failed to advance past the second round of either the NCAA tournament or the NIT, the longest such streak since John Thompson Jr. took the helm of the basketball program in 1972.

Looking ahead, next year’s roster remains in flux. Incoming freshmen Isaac Copeland and Paul White should help to fill in the front court, and along with L.J. Peak and Tre Campbell they make up one of the top-ranked recruiting classes in the country. Thompson has said that he expects Smith to remain with the team. And no announcement has been made about center Moses Ayegba and forward Aaron Bowen, seniors who both have an additional year of eligibility.

Next season’s personnel may be able to turn around Georgetown’s fortunes, but that will be little consolation for perhaps the biggest disappointment of them all: that Starks — who Thompson described as the “hardest worker he’d ever coached” — never reached college basketball’s biggest stages.

3 Comments

  1. Thanks to the seniors. Rough year tough luck. And the best is yet to come GO HOYAS

  2. Gary Thompson says:

    Yes, Markel and Nate, you guys played your hearts out for four years, we loved watching every minute of it and were with you all the way, win or lose. Hoya-nation will forever celebrate you. Best wishes for whatever comes next for you, whether its hoops or whatever else. As for next year, we stand with Coach and as always, hope springs eternal!

  3. nate was a buss we need scoring he could
    not make it happen

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