The Sports Sermon: Keep the Faith

March 3, 2011

When I heard Chris Wright, the Hoyas’ most important player, had broken his hand after colliding with a Cincinnati player, I immediately thought, “This can’t be happening again.” But as a junior, I have become accustomed to an annual letdown at the end of the season.

I was certain this year would be different. This Georgetown team was more consistent, more experienced, and had more chemistry than any I had rooted for before. So when Wright went down, I wondered if the college basketball gods were conspiring against me in some cruel way. Immediately after sending in my deposit to Georgetown during my senior year of high school, I thought about all the excitement and winning I would experience with basketball on the Hilltop. My delusion was further fueled by the fact that the Hoyas had made the Final Four one year earlier. Would I see a Final Four appearance, or possibly—even better—a national championship in my time at school? I have learned to have more realistic hopes than before, but that doesn’t mean I can’t remain positive.

In the week since Wright’s injury, my views of the rest of the season have continued to change, with the Hoyas providing me with reasons to believe that this year will be different than the past. I am confident that the team can overcome the tough hand they have been dealt, surprising both their critics and supporters.

The first good sign was that Wright underwent successful surgery on his hand and is expected to be out for only about three weeks. Of course, his recovery time isn’t written in stone, and who knows how effective Wright will be whenever he does come back. But the simple fact that doctors are optimistic about his return is something the rest of the team can take comfort in as they continue on in his absence. If there is anyone who would go to any length to put that blue and gray jersey back on at least one more time, it would be Wright, the heart and soul of this team.

Although it was hard to realize last Saturday, there was another encouraging indication for the squad amidst their 58-51 loss to Syracuse. The Hoyas were close to the Orange for much of the game and led midway in the second half. Doing so less than three days after losing Wright, the key to breaking Syracuse’s 2-3 zone in their earlier victory, was impressive to say the least. Although I agree that there is no such a thing as a “good loss,” the Hoyas should have more confidence, knowing they can beat some great teams without Wright if they play a little better. It also puts the spotlight on some less-used players like Markel Starks and Vee Sanford. Playing a bigger role now will take a lot of pressure off of them come the postseason.

With the increase in confidence and time to take a step back and adjust, this team can salvage its regular season and get an important win at Cincinnati. A victory there would not only snap a two-game skid, it would also guarantee a seventh place finish in the Big East—good enough for a first round bye in the tournament. (Let’s not think about a loss—that would create a freefall in the standings.)

By getting back on track at Cincinnati, I am confident the team can have a good showing in the Big East Tournament. They don’t need to win the whole thing—after all, last year they played in four games, and that may have been part of the reason for their first round loss in the NCAA Tournament.

That tournament—the real tournament—is what the Hoyas need to have their eyes on.  They shouldn’t overlook the games right in front of them, but they have to keep in mind the most important thing. This is where the script changes from the last two seasons. I think the Hoyas are well equipped to make a run in the tourney. Wright should be back, and although not 100 percent healthy, he should provide a good enough presence at the point guard position.

But the biggest reason the Hoyas will be successful this March will be the intangibles of Freeman and Wright. Both guards have been through a lot of postseason heartbreak in their Georgetown careers, and knowing that this will be their last go-around, they will leave everything out on the floor. This burning desire, coupled with their hearty experience, is a lethal combination. They can carry this team down a tough road—and we know these Hoyas are capable of long winning streaks.

A week ago, I thought I’d graduate never having seen NCAA Tournament success, and a week ago I may have been right. But in the last seven days, the Hoyas have given me reason to go from “this can’t be happening again” to “this won’t happen again.”

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