Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Glass Slipper No Longer Fits Goliath GU

Image Contributor
Head Coach John Thompson III, senior guard Jonathan Wallace, and senior center Roy Hibbert

One of the most ubiquitous commercials from the first weekend of the NCAA tournament was a Nike spot featuring Head Coach John Thompson III studying the tape of Georgetown’s loss to Villanova in the 1985 NCAA championship, spliced with footage of the logo of Appalachian State, which stunningly overcame the arrogant No. 5 Michigan football team this season, and the Boise State football team running the now-famous play that won the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.

The tagline: “There are no Cinderellas.”

On Sunday, Davidson showed that it belonged in the same company, as the 10th-seeded basketball team from the liberal arts college of 1,700 – a squad that just two days earlier won its first NCAA tournament game since 1969 – upset second-seeded Georgetown (28-6), ending the Hoyas’ hopes for a national title.

On campus, it feels like a funeral. Students have been strangely silent on the subject, as if pretending it did not happen will make it true, and since everyone was away for Easter Break, it has been easier to avoid.

“Every time I try to talk to people about it, they’re like, `I don’t wanna talk about it,'” Elise Addington (COL ’08) said.

A group of seven upperclassmen sitting in the back of The Tombs on Wednesday night agreed. When asked what they thought about the game, their faces immediately turned glum.

“I feel more bad for the guys on the team than myself,” Jeff Carlson (COL ’08) said.

arjory Collado (COL ’09), also seated at the table, agreed.

“I wanted to bake them something when they lost to Davidson,” she said.

Georgetown seniors especially seem to be taking the loss badly, as the nostalgia that comes with one’s final semester has brought back memories of freshman year, when Coach John Thompson III arrived. Like Thompson, who said that he felt bad for his seniors after the loss, the Class of 2008 seems to be similarly saddened for the players who started the renaissance of Georgetown basketball.

“It’s disappointing because it wasn’t supposed to end like this, especially because of all that the senior class has accomplished,” Dmitriy Zakharov (SFS ’08) said. “I wish that this group could have gone out further on top.”

Down in Davidson, N.C., however, Wildcats fans are on a high after advancing to the Sweet 16 with victories over seventh-seeded Gonzaga and second-seeded Georgetown. For Davidson (28-6), from the ignored Southern Conference, the win has put the school on the map and made sophomore guard Stephen Curry a household name overnight.

“Davidson basketball always has had a huge following on campus,” Suzie Eckel, a junior at Davidson and the editor in chief of The Davidsonian, said in a phone interview Wednesday. “People are pretty excited.”

The town of Davidson has gone all out to celebrate the basketball team’s success, declaring a town-wide Wildcat Day during the week between their conference tournament, which Davidson won, and the NCAA tournament. According to Eckel, residents were encouraged to paint bedsheets and hang them from their windows to show their support.

Davidson College’s Board of Trustees is even footing the bill for students to attend the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight this weekend in Detroit – where many Georgetown students wish they were right now had the Hoyas beaten the Wildcats.

Zakharov, the communications officer for Hoya Blue, said that the group was planning to organize a bus trip to Detroit for the games.

One alumnus, Jeff Hawkes (SFS ’04), even bought the rights to Final Four tickets in San Antonio. The tickets can only be claimed, however, if the buyer’s team makes it there, so Hawkes lost about $60 for each ticket.

ESPN college basketball analyst Pat Forde, who is in Detroit to cover the tournament, thought that Georgetown would have been there, too. Ironically, Forde predicted in a feature on that the worst-case scenario for Georgetown would be a second-round loss, but he thought it would be to Gonzaga rather than Davidson.

Forde said that he really thought that Georgetown would finish closer to the best-case scenario that he envisioned: a championship.

“I guess it lived down to my worst-case scenario,” Forde said yesterday. “I was sure they were going to win the first game, but I really didn’t think they would lose this game in the second round. I really expected Georgetown to be playing here in Detroit, and I thought they had a legitimate chance to go to the Final Four. I was shocked at what transpired, definitely.”

Georgetown did have its detractors, though. After Georgetown beat Louisville to win the Big East regular season championship, Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino recounted controversial plays that led to Georgetown victories over West Virginia, Villanova and Connecticut, saying, “Obviously, good teams get luck, but on a goaltending call, on a push out-of-bounds, on a Hibbert three, God bless them, they’re closer to heaven than we are.”

But Dan Steinberg, The Washington Post’s featured sports blogger, saw those close games as an advantage for the Hoyas. In fact, Steinberg said that he had Georgetown going to the Final Four in all of his brackets.

“All year when I heard people saying that Georgetown might be overrated . I never sort of bought into that,” Steinberg said in a phone interview yesterday. “People saw that as a sign of weakness. . I sort of thought it was like a positive thing. I thought it was going to come in handy.”

As for Davidson, Eckel said, “None of us doubted that we could beat Gonzaga and Georgetown. I don’t know if we expected to, but . we proved to ourselves that we could do it.”

Eckel pointed to Davidson’s games against North Carolina, Duke and UCLA earlier this season as evidence that the Wildcats could compete with the best teams in the country, even though Davidson did not win any of those games.

“We’ve seen this team play incredibly against incredible teams, and watching those games, especially the UNC game, I honestly believed we were going to win,” Eckel said.

Although the 10-2 upset looks significant on paper, Zakharov said that he thought Davidson’s win was not that shocking considering that the team is on the nation’s longest winning streak (24 wins) and got to play in Raleigh, only two and a half hours to the East.

any Georgetown fans and defenders have complained that Davidson and North Carolina got to play so close to home. Chapel Hill, in fact, is just a half hour away from Raleigh. Tar Heel fans, who filled the RBC Center, loudly cheered for Georgetown’s opponents and booed the Georgetown players when they came out to warm up before games.

“Some people kind of think it’s like whining, but I think you shouldn’t discount the fact that they lost to Davidson in North Carolina,” Steinberg said. “To play an underdog in their home state with the fans of the team that got beat [for Georgetown] to go to the Final Four last year, that’s a pretty tough matchup. I think it’s an understandable loss.”

The most striking theme about Georgetown’s loss, though, is the significance of how the expectations for the Hoyas have changed in John Thompson III’s fourth season. In 2005, Georgetown played in the NIT, and the team’s 19-13 season was considered an accomplishment. In 2006, Georgetown’s victory over two-seed Ohio State was seen as an upset, as the Hoyas were the seven-seed. This year, in the wake of 2007’s Final Four run and consecutive Big East regular season titles, Georgetown’s defeat spurred The Washington Post to write the headline “Davidson and Goliath.”

For recent alumni, the turnaround has been dramatic. When Hawkes was a Georgetown student, the team missed the NCAA tournament in his last three years. The Class of 2005, meanwhile, has the dubious distinction of being the only group of undergraduates who did not get to see the Hoyas make it to the Big Dance since the tournament expanded to 32 teams in 1975.

“It’s funny as someone who was around during that era . to see everybody disappointed at losing in the second game,” Hawkes said. “We would have been thrilled to get anywhere close to that when I was a student.”

But being Goliath means that Georgetown has gained some enemies on its way to the top, too, like the North Carolina fans still bitter over last year’s game. According to Addington, who traveled to Little Rock, Ark., to see her hometown Memphis Tigers play in the first two rounds, the crowd there cheered when it was announced that Georgetown lost.

“The more you win, the more enemies you make,” Forde said. “That’s the nature of being good. People get tired of losing to you and get tired of seeing you get all the glory. When you’re playing a Davidson team, everyone’s rooting for Cinderella.”

For the most part, though, Georgetown students seem to be taking the loss in stride, not allowing this loss to tarnish the memories of last year’s Final Four.

“I know that in a month I’m going to remember Atlanta more than Raleigh,” Carlson said.

And after all, the program is still on the way up, as the Hoyas bring in No. 1 high school recruit Greg Monroe next year.

“It’s a bump in the road. Losing to Pitt was a bump in the road,” Zakharov said. “Ultimately, as long as you’re going in the right direction, you can be disappointed, but you can’t just be upset.”

The only real fallout, Forde said, is that next year there will be “maybe a little more credibility on the line coming into tournament time to prove that the Final Four run can be duplicated.”

Basketball aside, one of the saddest casualties of the loss to Davidson might be that Georgetown students will never be able to enjoy Neil Diamond’s song “Sweet Caroline” again after the Wildcats revealed that it was their team’s theme song.

“I will never do `bum bum bum’ again,” Carlson joked.

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