Could this be a turning point? Just when Hoya fans were forgetting how to spell the word “win,” Georgetown prevailed in two of its last three games and pulled itself out of the basement of the Big East West. And to top it all off, the Hoyas won a game decided by less than five points.

So maybe this is it, maybe the Hoyas are going to start the run that will give them some momentum heading into Madison Square Garden and will vie for the automatic bid.

Maybe I’ve been a Hoya fan for too long now, maybe I’ve grown cynical having only seen Georgetown make the NCAA Tournament once in my four years here, but whatever the reason, I just don’t think that the members of this team have it in them.

If, or when, the Hoyas miss the NCAA Tournament (and at this point, the automatic bid is their only shot), it won’t be for lack of effort. Mike Sweetney, Victor Samnick, Courtland Freeman, Tony Bethel and Drew Hall have all fought bravely and exhaustively this season. The problem is in the execution. While Sweetney remains unstoppable, and Gerald Riley has stepped it up offensively of late, players like Samnick and Freeman sometimes let their intensity get the better of them and commit absolutely ridiculous turnovers and fouls.

And herein lies Georgetown’s biggest problem – depth. The Hoyas have no consistent scoring coming off the bench. Freeman can eat up some time and give some fouls, Darrel Owens can handle to ball a little bit, Hall has been decent at the point at times, but that’s about it, not a legitimate scoring threat among them. Ashanti Cook should be providing some punch, but he’s been a total non-factor since his injury in the Duke game.

In the past two games against Pittsburgh and Miami, Georgetown has only had two field goals from the bench. Comparatively, Miami and Pittsburgh combined for 62 points off the bench.

When Georgetown made the Tournament in 2001, the bench featured Wesley Wilson, Lee Scruggs, Nathaniel Burton and Anthony Perry. When those four guys took a jump shot fans didn’t cringe, or shout “NO!” This season, those fan reactions, right or wrong, have emerged on several occasions.

The problem wouldn’t be so bad since Sweetney rarely needs a breather, and to be fair Samnick has stepped up his offensive game since assuming the starting role. But as it is, Sweetney is routinely double teamed, and playing Freeman at the same time as Sweetney is like handing an open invitation to the opposition to double down on the big man virtually worry free. And God help the Hoyas when Sweetney gets in foul trouble.

On top of the depth issue, add the fact that the age-old adage that a solid backcourt provides the foundation for a postseason push and the Hoyas are in trouble. Tony Bethel is not a point guard. It’s unfortunate that he’s been pushed into that role. As witnessed in the Hoyas harrowing escape from Miami, Bethel does not always have control and does not possess the ball handling skills that the position requires. Once again, Cook, should be able to fill that void, but the bum ankle is apparently still plaguing him.

Finally, the Hoyas have certainly slipped a notch defensively. In Big East play, opponents are averaging 77.1 points per game against Georgetown, compared to 73.94 a year ago. One recurring theme of late has been opponents’ ability to break the Georgetown press. While a few times against Miami the pressure disrupted the `Canes, Pittsburgh easily beat the pressure on several occasions for easy fast break layups.

It seems, at least on the surface, that Georgetown’s guards, Hall and Bethel, are not quick enough to keep up with the faster, more talented point guards such as Brandin Knight, Chris Thomas or Andre Barrett. Oftentimes Hall or Bethel will get too aggressive and then the opposing ball handler will get a step on him, putting the defender on his hip resulting in a five-on-four situation or a foul called on Hall or Bethel.

I hope that I’m wrong and that these indicators don’t portend further failures by the Hoyas. The fact that these latest two victories came against the two worst teams in the conference, while a matchup against a ranked Pitt squad resulted in a 15-point loss, has done little to raise my spirits.

In order for Georgetown to get in shape for a post-season run it will have to improve its defense, ball handling and bench scoring. Time will tell whether or not the Hoyas can rise to the challenge. And that time is now.

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