WASHINGTON — When Georgetown meets longtime rivals Villanova on Wednesday night, the fifth- ranked Hoyas will be taking on a desperate team.
The Wildcats are down to their final chance at impressing the Selection Committee before the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden next week.
Just a season after setting a dubious school record with 19 losses and missing out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004, Villanova (18-12, 9-8) remains poised to return to the biggest stage in the sport -March Madness.
With consecutive wins over then-No. 5 Louisville and then-No.3 Syracuse over the span of a few days back in January, the Wildcats seemed ready to get back into the discussion with college basketball’s elite.
But inconsistent play has Jay Wright’s crew likely needing yet another Top 5 win in their season finale to avoid some serious sweating on Selection Sunday in ten days.
In other words, Villanova is starving for one last big win.
That’s where Georgetown (23-4, 13-3) bellies itself up to the table.
Winners of eleven straight games, Georgetown isn’t on the bubble.
In fact, the Hoyas are actually still in the mix for an elusive No. 1 seed, something last achieved by the program in 1989.
So at the moment the Hoyas have perhaps an even bigger appetite than their midweek hosts and the only thing seemingly able to provide nourishment is championships, not regular season winning streaks.
“We’re a hungry team,” junior point guard Markel Starks said after practice on Tuesday afternoon when it was suggested that Villanova might have more to play for than Georgetown.
“I don’t want to make it seem like they’re the only ones that aren’t eating. We don’t feel like we have enough on our plate.”
To further illustrate his feelings, Starks began to look up at the banners hanging from the ceiling of McDonough Gymnasium.
“Look at these banners up here. I mean I don’t see any Sweet 16’s, Elite 8’s you know, no Big East [Championships] in a while.
“So I feel like to me that’s what my mindset is.”
There’s no arguing with Starks on that point.
Since winning a second straight Big East regular season title during the 2007-08 season, Georgetown has struggled in March despite great regular season success.
From 2008 through the most recent Associated Press poll released on Monday, Georgetown ranks fourth in total appearances (96) – behind only Duke (114), Kansas (106), and Michigan State (101).
For those wondering, that is exactly the type of company you want to keep in the world of college basketball.
Despite being a model of consistency, it just hasn’t translated as well as those within the program would want during a month that is defined by madness.
Four times since the Final Four run in 2007, Georgetown has lost to lower seeded teams in the NCAA Tournament – all in the first weekend. Starks, a junior, has been on the last two teams that have fallen victim to VCU and NC State.
“I’m trying to get a Big East regular season championship, hopefully [Big East] tournament championship and ultimately get another white banner.”
For those not familiar with the color of the banners on the walls of Georgetown’s on campus home, the white banner Starks spoke of is from the 1984 National Championship.
With those types of goals, its no wonder Starks felt that his team was just as hungry, if not more so, than a team fighting for its NCAA tournament lives.
So while those long term goals can’t be accomplished all at once, there is some immediate good news.
Georgetown can collect another conference regular season crown by picking up one win in either of its final two games.
The Hoyas hold tie breaker advantages over Louisville and Marquette – both of whom currently sit a half game back of the Hoyas at 13-4 in the Big East.
Notes: Otto Porter Jr. was named Big East player of the week for the third straight week. The last player to accomplish that feat was Boston College’s Troy Bell during the 2002-03 team. Georgetown has won eight of nine against Villanova, including three of the last four on the road.