Junior guard LJ Peak ranks second on the team in scoring, averaging 16.6 points per game in addition to  grabbing 4.0 rebounds per game. (FILE PHOTO: DERRICK ARTHUR/THE HOYA)
Junior guard LJ Peak ranks second on the team in scoring, averaging 16.6 points per game in addition to grabbing 4.0 rebounds per game. (FILE PHOTO: DANIEL KREYTAK/THE HOYA)

After a season of crushing losses and subsequent embitterment, Georgetown stares down the remaining five games of its schedule with a viable — if not probable — road to the NCAA Tournament.

Although the Blue and Gray’s (14-12, 5-8 Big East) early season losses — a blown lead to No. 21 Maryland (21-4, 9-3 Big 10) and a failed comeback against Arkansas State (18-7, 9-3 Sun Belt) — dampened the spirits of the Hoya faithful, the team has zero bad losses, at least in the eyes of the tournament selection committee.

I could write a manifesto full of thousands of reasons as to why the Hoyas do not deserve one of 36 at-large bids, but the selection committee has never been about the word “deserve.”

As it stands, the Hoyas are more than qualified as a bubble team. They rank 62 in the Rating Percentage Index, an NCAA standard of measurement, have a strength of schedule that ranks 10th in RPI, a nonconference schedule strength ranking of 19th and a whopping 11 games against RPI-top 50 teams.

Of those 11 games, nine were against the RPI-top 25, by far the most in the entirety of Division I.  Of  those nine, the Hoyas have won three — the seventh-most in the country.

The remainder of Georgetown’s schedule can only bolster this resume — No. 20 Creighton (21-4, 8-4 Big East) and No. 2 Villanova (24-2, 11-2 Big East) await. Three other conference games also round up the Hoyas’ regular season schedule, and, collectively, these five games will likely decide the tournament fate of the team.

While a Big East Tournament championship would lock in the Hoyas for the conference’s automatic bid — one of 32 — securing an at-large bid is absolutely feasible even before postseason festivities begin.

RUN THE TABLE

Akin to the Green Bay Packers’ winning streak to end their season, Georgetown could very well cement itself as not just a bubble team but as a legitimate tournament team with a 5-0 finish to the season.

Downing Creighton in Omaha and Villanova at the Verizon Center would be incredible feats on their own, and — when combined with a flawless final five outings — would give the Hoyas a 9-2 record over their final 11 games.

The likelihood of this scenario, however, is a pipe dream at best. The Hoyas rank 52 in KenPom.com’s efficiency rankings, a measure of how effectively a team plays on a per-game basis. Contests against Creighton and Villanova see Georgetown square off against significantly more efficient teams per the KenPom rankings, as the Blue Jays and Wildcats sit at No. 22 and No. 3, respectively.

Still, a 5-0 close to the regular season would likely give the Hoyas an RPI somewhere in the 30s and a seven-seed at worst. Any win at the Big East Tournament in March would be an added bonus.

FINISH STRONG

Georgetown’s relative success against Creighton — particularly its most recent win —  gives credence to the scenario that a 4-1 finish is more than possible. With senior guard Mo Watson Jr. out for the season, the Blue Jays have fallen from being Final Four hopefuls. Nevertheless, winning in a sold-out hostile arena is a test that the Hoyas will likely need to pass should they make the big dance. This Sunday’s matchup, then, is a must-win.

If the team is to resign itself to a loss against reigning national champion and rival Villanova on March 4, the next three games are also must-wins.

Regardless, any combination of 4-1 to end the season places Georgetown firmly on the right side of the bubble, arguably even off it, thanks to strength of the schedule. In this scenario, the conference tournament is also an afterthought, and the Hoyas end up with a 9-seed at worst.

EXPECTED WINS AND LOSSES

If the Blue and Gray take care of business in their other three games, dropping one to Creighton and Villanova each, then its 3-2 record almost necessitates at least one game won in New York for a stress-free selection process.

Assuming an immediate exit, the worst possible outcome in New York, however, has the Hoyas sweating on Selection Sunday. Given the weak nature of the bubble this year and Georgetown’s absurdly strong schedule, the team should grab at least an 11-seed with the possibility of a play-in game.

THE END OF THE ROAD

Anything worse than a 3-2 effort from the team to finish the season intensifies everything about the Big East tournament, essentially mandating an improbable run to the title. Of course, a National Invitation Tournament bid is almost guaranteed — as long as the team finishes above .500 — but the team’s NCAA Tournament aspirations hinge on these next five games.

A season once lost, then found, then lost again seems to have been found. At the very least, there is a path of promise, a path lined with reluctant hope. For better or worse, these two weeks will bring Hoya faithful to its end.

Paolo Santamaria is a junior in the College. He is the Executive Editor of The Hoya.

 

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