After 31 games, the Hoyas — and 67 other teams — have a clean slate.
Senior point guard Chris Wright and his previously broken left hand have been cleared to play, and Georgetown (21-10, 10-8 Big East) will travel to Chicago as the Southwest Region’s No. 6 seed to take on either the University of Southern California (19-14, 10-8 Pac-10) or Virginia Commonwealth University (23-11, 12-6 CAA) in the second round of the 2011 NCAA tournament.
“Is a six seed fair? I don’t know,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “At this time of year, seeding is not as important as matchups. Seeding does come into play if you advance. But right now it’s about matchups.”
The Hoyas will be the No. 6 seed for the third time in program history. In 1995, the last time Georgetown was seeded sixth, they went to the Sweet 16.
Losers of four straight and five of their last six, the Hoyas are no doubt one of several teams stumbling into the Big Dance. But after missing three games, Wright is expected to start and play with no extra padding or wrap on his left hand, giving Georgetown back its point guard and emotional leader.
“It’s going to be good to have our point guard, our floor general, one of our leaders, back on the floor,” senior guard Austin Freeman said. “To have his ability to penetrate, get his own shot and also get his teammates shots. Right now, he’s getting back into shape and trying to get his shot back. He’ll be fine.”
During their eight-game winning streak in the middle of the season, Wright and the Hoyas were very much in Big East title contention and in the conversation for a No. 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. Without Wright, Georgetown fell to eighth in the conference and its NCAA seed also took a hit.
Now, Freeman says the ankle he sprained against Marquette is fine, and Wright believes he will be at or near 100 percent come Friday.
“I’m ready to play,” Wright said. “This is the NCAA tournament. Win or go home. … It could be my last game. God is blessing me, and He gave me a second chance to get out there and play with this team. So I’m just going to take it and run with it.”
If the Hoyas win their first game of the tournament, they will move on to face the winner of the matchup between No. 3 seed Purdue and No. 14 seed Saint Peter’s. Georgetown is joined in the Southwest region — whose Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games will be played in San Antonio — by No. 1 seed Kansas and Big East rivals No. 2 seed Notre Dame and No. 4 seed Louisville. The Final Four will be held at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
By virtue of its strong nonconference slate and its Big East membership, Georgetown has played 17 NCAA tournament teams this season, going 11-10 in those matchups.
USC out of the Pac-10 and VCU from the CAA, two of the last four teams to make it into the field, will play on Wednesday night at 9 p.m. in Dayton, Ohio. That means Thompson and his staff will have to prepare for both teams until the identity of the Hoyas’ opponent becomes a certainty.
“Come sunup I’ll have a comfort level with both of them,” Thompson said. “I wish we knew exactly who we were playing, and I just heard that the game is Wednesday at 9 p.m., so you only have one day to really know who you are going to play. So that’s a challenge that we’re not used to.”
The Trojans began the season just 12-11, but winning seven of their last 10 games pushed them onto the bubble and eventually into the tournament. Still, in December USC beat Texas easily, defeated Tennessee and lost to Kansas by two.
VCU, on the other hand, has lost five of eight but defeated UCLA and Wofford out of conference and beat Old Dominion and George Mason over the course of the CAA season.
Georgetown tips off in Chicago at 9:50 p.m. EDT Friday night.