People used to fear Georgetown.
Up until recently, any time Georgetown came up in a discussion among college hoops fans, it had a presence. It had the feel of other big-time programs like Duke, Kentucky, and North Carolina. The Hoyas, however, are no longer in this conversation.
For any Georgetown basketball fan, the success enjoyed by the program during the eighties and early nineties does not feel like it occurred decades ago. It feels like centuries ago. Even the memories of the Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert-led squad that went to the Final Four in 2007 fade further and further into the depths of the Georgetown fanbase’s collective memory each day.
Sure, since then the Hoyas have won two Big East regular season titles and have earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament six of the last eight years. They’ve had NBA lottery picks in Greg Monroe and Otto Porter Jr. and have won their share of big games in the regular season against top opponents. This would be good enough for most college basketball programs. But not Georgetown.
While these are all nice consolation prizes, the pinnacle of success in college basketball is the NCAA Tournament. And unless you have been living under a rock for the past eight years, all college basketball fans, not just those bleeding blue and gray, know that the Hoyas and March Madness have gelled together about as well as a hair-dryer and a bathtub.
Attribute the causes as you may. Some fans say they have the bad luck of playing each year’s Cinderella story, whether it’d be Stephen Curry-led Davidson or Dunk City residents Florida Gulf Coast. Others say that the Princeton offense cannot lead a team to postseason success. Whatever the cause may be, one fact is certain. Georgetown has not made it past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2007. And that’s troubling.
Every program, big or small, has undergone its share of tournament disappointments. March letdowns are ingrained in the fabric of college basketball. Duke lost to a 15 seed. North Carolina fell victim to George Mason’s Final Four run. Kentucky didn’t even make the tournament three years ago. Shit happens.
But for Georgetown, this run of tournament impotence has damaged the reputation of the program, relegating it from a national powerhouse to a punchline. Last year, many pundits believed Georgetown to be the underdog in their first-round matchup against Eastern Washington. It even enabled Eastern Washington Head Coach Jim Hayford to go on a national radio show and guarantee a victory. I don’t think that Hayford would make the same guarantee if he were facing Duke, North Carolina, or Kentucky. But that’s how far the Hoyas’ reputation has fallen. The home of Jack the Bulldog has become the home of the underdog. Everyone loves an underdog, but in no way, shape, or form should Georgetown ever be considered an underdog, especially against Eastern Washington, of all teams.
And that matters, especially for a program that has to fight even harder for national relevance in the wake of the new Big East and conference realignment. Although the level of play in the conference has not subsided, the aura surrounding the league is gone. Due to the loss of the league’s relationship with ESPN, there are fewer opportunities for Georgetown to receive true national attention. I’m sorry but Fox Sports 1 doesn’t count, and I have a few million
viewers reasons why.
It’s because of this loss of relevance that Georgetown, despite having finished in the Top 25 in four of the last five seasons, is not ranked in either of the national preseason polls for the fifth consecutive year. I’m well aware that it only matters where you finish, not where you start. But preseason polls are based on nothing but perception. And the national perception is that Georgetown will not be a factor this season, due in large part to their postseason ineptitude.
And perception matters. It drives the crucial elements of whether or not a program is successful, including recruiting, television ratings, and attendance. While the Hoyas have been able to recruit solid high school prospects, they haven’t directly recruited a McDonald’s All-American since Greg Monroe in 2008. Television ratings are down and attendance at Verizon Center has declined since the Hoyas last went to the Final Four.
Fortunately for the Hoyas, however, they have the power to reverse this tide of negativity that has belittled what was once one of the great college basketball programs. A returning and motivated D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, a slew of sophomores ready to take the next step, and a tough but exciting schedule that will challenge the Hoyas throughout should have Georgetown fans optimistic for this season.
This group has the opportunity to lead the resurgence of Georgetown nationally and craft a new national identity that will make fans on the Hilltop proud and fans nationwide awe. A deep run in March following a successful regular season will make all of these gripes forgotten and strike fear into the hearts of many who have written off the program as one whose best days are behind it.
Only then will the doubters fear.