As has become expected in March, Georgetown heard its name called on Selection Sunday. It just wasn’t for the tournament the Hoyas usually play in.
On Tuesday, Georgetown will take on West Virginia in the first round of the NIT tournament at McDonough Arena.
“We definitely wanted to be in the NCAA tournament,” junior guard Jabril Trawick said. “But after the DePaul game, we knew the situation we were in so it wasn’t a surprise. We still want to play more basketball games.”
Georgetown was looking to rebound from a disappointing season-ending loss at Villanova in the Big East tournament. Despite playing DePaul, the lowest seed in the tournament, Georgetown left New York City early after a 60-56 loss.
After the loss, Head Coach John Thompson III made a half-hearted case for his team: Georgetown played the ninth toughest schedule in the country and had marquee wins against Kansas State, Virginia Commonwealth, Michigan State and Creighton. But the selection committee decided that losses to Northeastern, Seton Hall and DePaul were enough to keep the Hoyas out of the national tournament.
“When you get the point where you realize you’re not in the NCAA tournament, you feel down and upset because that’s our goal,” Thompson said. “Obviously, that didn’t happen this year… but [feeling upset] is the bus ride home. Then you get reenergized when you realize, ‘OK, we’re still going to be able to play.’”
Meanwhile, West Virginia — a former Big East opponent before the Mountaineers bolted for the Big 12 — is playing some of its best basketball of the year. Despite losing in the first round of the conference tournament to Texas, West Virginia ended the regular season by knocking off a tough Kansas team that defeated Georgetown handily earlier in December.
“We already know them, and Coach Huggins knows our offense,” Trawick said. “It’s going to be a tough game.”
Thompson seemed to have even higher praise for Huggins.
“There’s no doubt that Huggins is one of the best coaches ever to do this. They’re going to be tough, they’re going to defend, and they’re going to rebound.”
The Mountaineers play a similar style to the Hoyas and are led by a stellar backcourt of junior Juwan Staten and sophomore Eron Harris, who combined average over 35 points per game.
“It’s going to be a very tough, very physical throwback Big East game,” senior forward Nate Lubick said.
In addition to Kansas, West Virginia also defeated Iowa State and Baylor — both tournament teams. But West Virginia also has some disappointing losses, including one to Virginia Tech and Purdue.
While the Hoyas realize that they are not in the position they hoped for at the beginning of the year, they are still focused on this next game instead of worrying too much about next season.
“This is still our season,” sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera said. “Tomorrow, we play West Virginia, and that’s what we’re focused on.”
For Lubick — who has turned in some of his most uninspired basketball in recent games — there is an added element of vindication.
“I’ve never beaten West Virginia,” Lubick said. “So that would be an awesome thing to go out on. I’m dreading the last game — thank God it’s not coming to an end quite yet.”
For Thompson, he will save his reflective period on the season until the last game is played — win or lose. While this season did not turn out as expected, it can, in many ways, still be saved with a strong showing against solid competition in the NIT tournament.
“Every coach goes through a period of introspection,” Thompson said. “So you try not to make the same mistakes and get better.”
Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. in McDonough Arena.