Georgetown's 72-57 loss to No. 5 Pittsburgh Wednesday night at the Verizon Center dropped the Hoyas to 1-4 in the Big East for the first time since 1998/99. And yet, when I think about this year's squad, the first club that comes to mind isn't one run by an overmatched Craig Esherick. It's a more recent Hoyas club, one that started the season with such promise, then faded completely out of the NCAA Tournament picture during Big East play.
Yes, as you probably guessed, I'm talking about the 2008/09 Hoyas. This is the team that started the season 10-1, with wins over Memphis, at Connecticut and over Maryland on a neutral court, only to finish 6-14 and fade completely from the national picture. On January 5, they were ranked ninth in the country. Two months later, they were barely sneaking into the Big East tournament.
Last week, the Hoyas were ranked 13th in the country. Now, they are 1-4 in the Big East. Sounds familiar, right?
Now, to be fair, the Hoyas of 2010/11 are not the exact same kind of team as the Hoyas of 2008/09. For one thing, the 08/09 edition was much younger than the 10/11 edition. The 08/09 team had just two seniors, and only one of them (Jessie Sapp) played significant minutes. Greg Monroe was just a freshman, and four of the team's top six scorers were freshmen and sophomores. This year's Georgetown team is experienced, with three seniors and a junior in the starting lineup. There is also plenty of time to turn things around and make this whole analysis seem silly.
But it still speaks to what may be the same issue that plagued the 08/09 team: they just can't measure up to better Big East teams. Both times, Georgetown has zipped through a difficult non-conference schedule, only to wilt when they had to compete in the top basketball conference in the nation. Even last year, the Hoyas struggled in league play before pulling it together late in the season. Worse, we're talking about many of the same players here. Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark were a part of that 08/09 team that fell apart so fast. Now, it's happening again, even though they are supposedly better individually.
So what's the problem? Maybe the team just isn't as talented as many of their peers. John Thompson is an excellent coach, and nobody here is suggesting that he be replaced. But at what point is it appropriate to start asking questions about his job performance, whether it's as a coach or as a recruiter? Don't we at least need to stop and think now that Thompson's Hoyas are off to another slow Big East start?