I guess you would have to go back to Nov. 17, 2009. Greg Monroe drives for the winning basket with seconds left to lift the Hoyas to a win in their home opener against Temple. And in the process, I became hooked on Georgetown basketball.

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CHRIS BIEN/THE HOYA
He’s not solely responsible, but Head Coach John Thompson III hasn’t had his teams ready to go recently in March.

And I haven’t stopped. Not after Ohio, not after VCU, not after NC State, and to be honest I can’t see Florida Gulf Coast being the last straw either. But while this or any loss (not that they get much bigger or more embarrassing than this) will not shake my Hoya pride, it can and has raised some serious questions about how and why this team has so consistently flopped when the calendar flips to March.

Let’s start with the genius whose brilliant idea it was to stick the Georgetown  student cheering section on Friday in the nosebleeds of the Wells Fargo Center, while the FGCU entourage enjoyed the close proximity to the court offered by front row seats in the lower bowl. When combined with the fervent cheering of the Oklahoma and San Diego State contingents once they realized an upset might be on the cards, we somehow managed to turn the closest geographical placement for a second-round game into, for all intents and purposes, a road game. In Philly. Against a team no one has heard of from Florida. Fantastic work.

But I digress. Far more frustrating is the fact that every year when this team has made its all-too-predictable premature exit in the tournament, there has been a seemingly legitimate excuse to keep my anger at losing to yet another double-digit seed at bay. Ohio put up 97 points on us while shooting a ridiculous percentage from three. VCU was a Final Four team that beat us when we were banged up. NC State was a close game against a team that was playing at a level well above their 11 seed. And maybe I too easily accepted these justifications instead of looking at the facts — namely that in my time on the Hilltop, I’ve seen the same number of Hoya tourney wins as I have Harvard ones.

Which brings me to my next topic: the players. Maybe it was the benefit of seeing this postseason choke job live that makes my convictions stronger, but I had never seen this team — the team I’d told myself over and over was “different” — come out so flat and so seemingly uninterested in dominating the game in the way a No. 2 seed should.

The Otto Porter Jr. who took the Carrier Dome by the throat and squeezed the last drops of orange juice out of that godforsaken Canadian foxhole? Nowhere to be found. I wish Otto nothing but the best in the NBA, and I only lament that the hunger to avenge a loss like that cannot compete with the guaranteed money that comes with being a lottery pick these days, something he has more than earned through his play this season.

The cold-blooded DSR who’s dug this team out of his fair share of tight spots during the regular season? A disappointing 3-of-11 from the floor, including 0-for-6 from deep when his team needed open shots to be buried.

Nate Lubick and Mikael Hopkins? So underwhelming that they were all but discarded at the end of the bench when the Hoyas finally woke up down the stretch. So much for the size mismatches that were supposedly Georgetown’s big advantage in the game.

And don’t even let me get to Greg Whittington, whose inability to make academics a priority and subsequent suspension finally caught up with the team he left out to dry.

The only Hoya worth his weight in anything Friday night was Markel Starks, a guy who showed flashes of potential during his first two years but has recently come into his own as a star. I personally cannot wait to see what he will do during his senior year, hopefully starting with getting his teammates to play with the same sense of urgency that he does in every game.

Finally, there is the coaching staff, and let me preface this by saying that John Thompson III is one hell of a coach. There is a reason his teams have outperformed expectations year in and year out in his time at the helm. Sadly, there is also a reason they have fallen flat on their faces in the tournament year in and year out since 2007. For me, the red flags first went up on Selection Sunday, when he admitted to knowing nothing about Florida Gulf Coast when the Eagles were announced as theHoyas’ first opponent. Given the fact that the teams that were 14/15/16 seeds were all but locked in prior to that Sunday (FGCU for over a week at that point), there was no excuse for being unprepared.

But of much greater concern was some seriously questionable coaching during the game that, in my opinion, cost the Hoyas the win. The decision to take out Porter and Starks (the latter of whom had two fouls) when they had built up a seven-point lead midway through the first half was the first blunder. On the simplest level, the team finished the last nine minutes of the half with a whopping four points, including nine missed FGs and five turnovers. Philosophically, it is a microcosm of the lack of killer instinct that has been the downfall of many a JT III-led team. Instead of going for the jugular and trying to build a double-digit halftime lead, he sits his two best players, brings them back only when the lead had gone, and lets a golden opportunity to put FGCU under serious pressure go by the wayside.

The second half was just a total and complete cluster-you-know-what. The defense, which had largely kept FGCU out of sync in the first half, was tweaked from man to zone to start the second half, and that’s when the Eagles did the damage that ultimately won them the game. After trading opening blows, they scored on nine straight possessions against the zone and turned 31-31 into a 50-33 blowout in the span of 4:23.

Unheard of against the vaunted Georgetown defense, an athletic, motion-heavy FGCU offense was able to exploit the zone time and time again for easy scores and highlight-reel dunks. It was no surprise that when the Hoyas finally woke up and made a run with mere minutes remaining, it was the result of a switch back to man coverage and ball pressure. Too little, too late.

I don’t pretend to be an expert, and one could just as easily point at an Otto missed layup here, a dropped rebound or two out-of-bounds there (and missed officiating calls everywhere) as the difference in the game. But the “luck” has been against us so consistently at this time of year that something more has to be at the root of the problem.

Whether it’s Thompson III dropping the ball or the players not being up for the game, it really comes down to one thing: Someone is going to have to step up at some point to stop this early-round choking from becoming an institutionalized part of Georgetown basketball. It might even be Whittington next year making up for lost time.

But more than anything, this team needs to play like it’s a favorite when it’s the favorite. Go for the kill instead of cautiously resting your stars, who have shown they can play with the burden of foul trouble. Don’t let some kids who will likely never be on a stage like this again in their lives come in and dunk all over you. Send the message that they’re playing the beasts of the Big East and that anything they get will not come easily. These are the mantras that coaches like Tom Izzo, Bill Self and Billy Donovan preach, and it rubs off on their respective teams across generations of players. And year after year, they win their games in March.

And so goes the story of the 2012-13 Hoyas (and really the 2009-13 Hoyas, for those seniors keeping track). A regular season filled with sound and fury that ultimately signifies nothing. It included memories that I’ll cherish forever: beating Louisville, closing the Carrier Dome and smashing ’Cuse in the final Big East game to clinch a share of the regular season title.

But for the fourth year running, they are memories that will be marked with the asterisk of postseason failure. As for me, I know I’ll be back cheering the same as every year, and I can only pray that the incredible moments I’ve been fortunate enough to witness during the regular season can make their long-awaited return to the Big Dance.

DYLAN HUNT is a senior in the College and the Community Member on The Hoya’s Board of Directors.

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