Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh will prove to have been a turning point for this Hoya team and despite the narrow, one-point, referee-induced loss, I believe that it will be a turn for the better.

Despite some fans’ persistent pessimism, and though the reality of an NCAA berth diminishes with every loss, the Hoyas showed several glimpses of hope against Pitt that really make me believe that they have the necessary personnel and skills to make it to the NCAA Tournament.

Item one: Brandon Bowman. Ever since I wrote that Bowman needed to be removed from the starting lineup, the kid drops nine points against Seton Hall, 12 against St. John’s. After those two games I started gnawing on the toes of my sneakers, but now after scoring 16 against Pitt, including two game-tying free throws with 3.5 seconds left, my foot is starting to press past my tonsils.

The lanky freshman has definitely stepped his play up a notch. According to Bowman, Esherick has been trying to get him to play more to his strengths, driving to the basket and utilizing his supremely smooth stroke. The advice seems to be paying off and against Pitt he definitely dazzled with some scoop shots from behind the backboard.

Bowman has a tremendous upside with his lanky body and pure shot and now that it seems his confidence has fully solidified he deserves to be a fixture in the starting five.

Item two: The intensity the Hoyas showed against Pitt seemed to come from nowhere. Suddenly we were this scrappy, in your face team who wasn’t going to back down from anyone, as illustrated by six-foot sophomore Tony Bethel jawing at six-foot-six dough boy Ontario Lett.

Senior Courtland Freeman in particular dialed the intensity up a notch with a huge block, the ensuing throat-slashing taunt and some more hard contact bodywork in the paint. Even though his enthusiasm, as I’ll call it, led to a few fouls, Freeman definitely got the Hoyas up and in the right frame of mind.

Too often (think Rutgers and St. John’s here) has Georgetown seemed lackadaisical on the court. I can see how it might be easy to relax with junior Mike Sweetney’s seemingly automatic offensive production inside, but it definitely seems that once Georgetown had a lead in those games it would back it down and relax. And that’s when they would get zapped by the pressure defense and miss defensive assignments. Against Pitt it seemed like Georgetown played hard for a full 40 minutes and as a result probably would have come out of the second-ranked team’s home court with a victory if not for that phantom foul as time expired.

Item three: For the second straight game Tony Bethel turned in a great offensive game. If he stays this hot for the rest of the season, and by that I just mean scoring 15 or 16 a game, that will open things up not only for Sweetney, but for fellow guard Gerald Riley as well.

Item four: Georgetown seemed to play a much smarter game against Pitt than it has in previous games this season. The Hoyas didn’t start launching hopeful three-pointers when the game remained in reach and worked their usual offensive scheme to climb back into the contest. While some poor decisions were made, mostly on the offensive end by a well-meaning Freeman and Victor Samnick, by and large the Hoyas played a heady game. Continuation of such a practice will undoubtedly pay rapid dividends.

Item five: Despite his incredibly limited playing time, Wesley Wilson seems to be coming around a little bit. He’s certainly being more aggressive, but for some reason, possibly early foul trouble, Esherick continues to limit his minutes. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that Wes has not turned into the star that many thought he could be, but Esherick needs to give him some more playing time. While Freeman and Samnick add a little speed and mobility defensively for Georgetown, their offensive games can be a little shaky at times, and by shaky I’m talking like a bobble-head doll during an 8.0 in San Francisco shaky. I think both are invaluable players off the bench, but when Sweetney goes out of the game with foul trouble Georgetown simply has no one to go to inside. Wes could be that guy if Esherick shows a little faith.

All in all I feel that Hoya fans have more to look forward to than they realize. This team, if it maintains the intensity it showed against the Panthers, is more than capable of beating any team in the Big East. In order to get into the Tourney, the Hoyas will have their work cut out for them. In all likelihood they will have to win three or four of the five remaining games against Syracuse (2), Notre Dame (2) and Pitt. Winning three of those games would give Georgetown a record of 13-7 and three wins against Top 25 teams assuming the rankings hold. If the Hoyas win all of their remaining games against lesser teams (Seton Hall, Rutgers, West Virginia, Providence, Virginia Tech, Miami and UCLA) which isn’t completely unreasonable, though probably unlikely, that gives the Hoyas 20 wins heading into the Big East Tourney and a great shot at a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Georgetown will need some big wins, but if they keep scrapping like they did against the Panthers, there could be happier days ahead.

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