The NCAA tournament is within reach for the Hoyas. With a victory over St. John’s this Sunday at Madison Square Garden, Georgetown can tighten its grip on an invitation, but with a loss, Georgetown will be on the bubble.

The two teams have already faced off once this season in a 66-57 victory for the Hoyas at MCI Center in January. In the first contest, freshman forward Jeff Green had a game-high 21 points and nine rebounds.

On Wednesday at Notre Dame, the Hoyas once again struggled to score in the first half as they have done all season. Big East opponents have outscored Georgetown in the first half in seven of 12 conference games so far.

The Fighting Irish held Green scoreless in the first half. He will have to play much better against an athletic Red Storm team that is capable of pulling off an upset this weekend in New York City.

The leading scorer for St. John’s this season is 5-foot-10 guard Daryll Hill (20.0 points per game). Hill is only shooting 42 percent from the field, showing that he takes a great deal of the Red Storm’s offensive looks each game. Hill will not be able to drive into the lane much against the tall Hoya frontcourt, led by 7-foot-2 freshman center Roy Hibbert, who has come on strong recently, averaging 11.5 points and 2.5 blocks per game in the past two conference games.

The Red Storm (8-14, 2-10) withdrew from postseason play before the 2004-05 season was underway because of NCAA violations that occurred within the team last season. The Red Storm currently sit in 11th place in the Big East, ahead of only the Providence Friars.

To make the NCAA tournament with a good seed, Georgetown (16-7, 8-4) must win two of its next four conference games, an achievable task as the Hoyas have upcoming games against the two worst teams in the Big East, the Red Storm and Friars.

The other two games on Georgetown’s schedule are against No. 25 Villanova at home and against No. 18 Connecticut away. These two games against ranked teams will be tough, making the St. John’s game this weekend even more important for Georgetown.

Georgetown sits in fifth place in the Big East, ahead of both Notre Dame and Villanova. If Georgetown has an impressive run down the stretch, they could finish as high as third in the conference, which would earn them a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

The Hoyas will need continued production from both junior guard Ashanti Cook (11.5 points per game, 38.8 three-point percentage) and junior forward Brandon Bowman (15.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game), as they have all season.

The importance of these last four games of the season cannot be stressed enough. Georgetown must beat two of the remaining four games on its regular season schedule to achieve the ultimate goal of reaching the NCAA tournament. If the Hoyas fail to win two of these games, they will have a tough time advancing past the selection committee that takes the final 10-game record of a team into consideration when making the final decisions of who will be let in or left out. The Hoyas must win Sunday, plain and simple.

Tip-off is at 2 p.m.

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