It was a rough weekend for Craig Esherick. Another one-point loss, this time to a UCLA team that had won just four games all season before Saturday; his team is on its way to their worst losing streak since the 1992-93 season; the Hoyas are just one loss at the RAC away from falling into last place in the Big East West Division; starting center Wesley Wilson just left the team and the university on a temporary leave of absence; on top of all of this, The Washington Times runs one blurb stating that the real reason that Wilson left was because he came out on the short end of a three-on-one brawl with his teammates after the Notre Dame game; and, not to mention another stating that Georgetown is trying to find a peaceable way to find a new head coach for next season. At least the “Golf Outing with Coach Craig Esherick” garnered a reasonable $500 at the Senior Auction.

Suddenly, this Hoya basketball squad has more story lines than “Days of Our Lives,” and right now, with Georgetown playing its worst basketball in a long, long time, the Hoyas certainly don’t need any more distractions.

For its part the team had no comment regarding the recent articles in the Times, so, hopefully, whether those items are true or not, the Hoyas are preparing for Tuesday’s game against Rutgers. And what a big game it is.

If you’ll pardon me for a second and allow me to check my handy-dandy dictionary of sports cliches . Ah yes, here it is:

“Must win: (Adj.) A game that a team cannot afford to lose due to its damaging effect against its postseason chances and/or the program’s long-term stability. Example: Georgetown’s Tuesday game against Rutgers is a must win; or else it will fall into last place in the Big East West, causing torch- and pitchfork-wielding students and alumni to congregate on Healy Lawn and shout not-nice words ending in “it” and “uck” about the athletic program.”

Admittedly there might be some small bit of hyperbole in this example and, as a side note, this columnist does not condone organized torch and pitchfork wielding or words that end in “it” or “uck,” but you can bet that the fan reaction will not be a positive one where Esherick and his team are concerned.

While the postseason chances alluded to in my nifty dictionary refer to the NCAA Tournament or at the minimum the NIT, the postseason chances referred to in the example are those of the Big East Tournament. Due to the expanded conference, the worst team from each division does not qualify for the showdown at Madison Square Garden and right now the only reason the Hoyas aren’t in this slot is because they hold the tie-breaker over Rutgers. A loss to the Scarlet Knights will drop the Hoyas into the basement of the Big East West for the first time since the division was created.

Staying out of the cellar will be a tough task for the Hoyas, as the RAC boasts a large number of diehard Rutgers fans who strongly condone those “it” and “uck” words as a regular part of their vocabulary and honed their irritating skills in the fall season by repeatedly yelling these words at their impossibly bad football team.

If Georgetown plays a smart game, which it has not done since the last time it faced Rutgers, then the Hoyas should prevail. However, as fans know of this year’s team, this could be a tall order.

For whatever reason, whether it is the coaching, or the players’ failure to either grasp or execute the concepts relayed to them during team huddles this year’s team has trouble eliminating mistakes such as offensive fouls, turnovers and hasty fade away jump shots with over 25 seconds remaining on the shot clock. In order to beat Rutgers, in order to beat anyone ever again, that has to change and it has to change now.

Last week, I alluded to Red Auerbach’s quote in The Washington Post that the players seemed to like Esherick. That’s wonderful. Everyone likes nice guys and Esherick certainly is one. And there’s nothing wrong with being a nice guy as a coach. But even nice guys need to get their teams to execute during games.

So here’s the challenge for the team.

If Esherick’s players really like him and know that his job may be in jeopardy then they need to show all of the recently irate fans and alums that he is doing a good job by playing smart.

John Thompson recently said on his radio show that fans should give Esherick a chance. I’m perfectly willing to do so, and I bet the majority of alums, students and local fans are too. But if these awful game-ending plays are the best he can do, or he simply can’t get through to his players and make them understand how to play a smart game of basketball, then these critics have a very valid basis for their opinions.

So the proverbial water is boiling beneath Esherick and his team and how they respond in the upcoming games may play a key role in how things shake down this off-season.

What can the Hoyas do to get rid of all these problems featured so prominently in the papers and on signs draped over the ICC?

The answer is simple. Just win, baby. Starting now.

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