Hoyas, West Virginia battle in NIT opener at McDonough

Hoyas, West Virginia battle in NIT opener at McDonough
March 16, 2014, 11:15 pm
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The Georgetown Hoyas will open their first NIT appearance since 2009 against a familiar foe. Just not the one many locals hoped it would be. Just not the postseason event coach John Thompson III wanted to be in.

The Hoyas coach isn't particularly thrilled with the matchup against ex- Big East rival West Virginia for familiar reasons, though that's not the same as suggesting Tuesday night's matchup at won't mean something for the program. The fourth-seeded Hoyas and No. 5 Mountaineers tip at 7 p.m. on ESPN. With the usual home court at the Verizon Center occupied, Georgetown returns to the 2,500 seat McDonough Arena on campus.

Georgetown's run of four straight NCAA Tournament appearances essentially ended with Wednesday's loss to last place DePaul in the opening round of the Big East Tournament. The Hoyas (17-14) finished seventh in the Big East with an 8-10 record. They needed a deep run in the conference tournament for a shot at an NCAA bid.

[RELATED: Printable NCAA Bracket: Join CSN Bracket Challenge]

Even though the NCAA Tournament selection show broadcast listed Georgetown among the teams just missing the Field of 68, Thompson wasn't holding out for hope.

"I think after the loss the other day we realistically thought that was going to happen," Thompson said during a phone interview with CSN on Sunday night. "There is a lot of disappointment that we're not in a position to compete for a national championship. We are excited to still be able to compete. It's sweet and sour, it's good and bad."

That sentiment effectively describes Georgetown's season. There were injuries and players that lost eligibility. There were notable victories including triumphs over three teams seeded fifth or better in the NCAA Tournament. There were losses to foes who won't receive any postseason bids.

There was the disappointment over the historic version of the Big East conference ending, but excitement over the new day dawning with a sleeker 10-team version.

Now with this season entering the final stage, Georgetown goes down memory lane with the matchup against West Virginia (17-15, 9-9 Big 12). The memory aspect is the issue.

"Honestly in my perfect world we would not be playing someone that we're familiar with and they're familiar with," said Thompson shortly a quick 15-20 minute crash course on the Mountaineers. West Virginia, still coached by Bob Huggins, left the Big East in the summer of 2012. WVU left with a five-game winning streak over Georgetown.

"Their roster is very different," Thompson continued. "Their personnel is not who we have seen, but Huggy is Huggy. He's one of the best coaches who has ever done this. So, we're going to have to go against him. He knows what try to do and how we try to do it and we know what he tries to do.

"In my perfect world would I rather have a different opponent? Absolutely. But, it's not a perfect world."

Yet another phrase that sums up Georgetown's current season.

The Hoyas missed out on the NCAA's for the third time in Thompson's 10 seasons.

With a win, the Hoyas would face either No. 1 seed Florida State or Florida Gulf Coast, the upstart squad that ended Georgetown's NCAA Tournament last season.

Asked about what wrong in the Hoyas first loss to DePaul in 15 games, Thompson noted his team missed free throws late while the Blue Demons hit theirs. There were elusive rebounds Georgetown never could track down in the 60-56 setback. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 21 points, but the Hoyas offense didn't convert enough late. DePaul's did.

"It's not rocket science," Thompson said. "At key points, they made plays and we didn't."

Now the Hoyas have an opportunity to learn from those untimely and unwanted mistakes. It's not the postseason tournament they desired, but it's another game. Perhaps as many as five games should Georgetown advance to the NIT Finals at Madison Square Garden.

"It's the postseason. We're excited, energized and hopefully we'll go out and play well."

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