Entering this season, eager fans had tournament expectations for the Georgetown men’s basketball team. However, what started with such promise has quickly become bleak — the question is no longer what team we will face in the tournament, but whether we will make the tournament at all.

Despite five Final Fours, an NCAA title and a history of greatness, the team finds itself overshadowed by its recent failures. However, this year offers a chance to erase all the disappointing chapters of the team’s recent history, a chance to pen a new page in a new chapter in the basketball program’s story.

The success at Head Coach John Thompson III’s highest point was electrifying. In 2007, Georgetown earned an overtime win against the first-seeded North Carolina, one of the biggest favorites in tournament history, which was led by current NBA players Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson. The victory over North Carolina sent Jeff Green (COL ’07), Roy Hibbert (COL ’08), Jessie Sapp (COL ’09), DaJuan Summers and Patrick Ewing Jr. (COL ’08) into the Final Four, where the team lost a closely contested game to eventual runner-up Ohio State, which was led by Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr., two future top-five NBA draft picks.

As a Georgetown basketball fan for as long as I can remember, that postseason was a foreshadowing of great things to come. However, the following seasons did not turn out as well as I had originally anticipated.

In 2008, the Hoyas returned with their entire team, minus Green, and added a matured Austin Freeman (COL ’11) and Chris Wright (COL ’11). Steamrolling their way into the second round of the NCAA tournament, the Hoyas only had 10th-seeded Davidson to worry about. The Hoyas and their fans thought beating the Wildcats would be a breeze, but Davidson and its budding star, then-sophomore guard Stephen Curry, had other ideas. Just as the seventh-seeded Gonzaga and third-seeded Wisconsin teams learned, any team would have had problems containing Curry. The Hoyas were one of those teams, and our second-seeded team fell to Curry’s hot shooting.

If the loss to Davidson wasn’t devastating enough for my 13-year-old self, two years later, what I have come to believe to be the most soul-crushing loss in Hoya history took place and marked the true beginning of Georgetown’s end as a tournament powerhouse.

It was 2010. The Hoyas boasted an impressive roster, which included the likes of Greg Monroe, Jason Clark (COL ’12), Hollis Thompson (COL ’12), Henry Sims (COL ’12), Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Julian Vaughn (COL ’11). All seven of these players went on to have professional careers, three of them in the NBA. Although those Hoyas finished 23-11, they maintained a top-15 ranking almost all year and earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament.

In an incredible rout at the hands of 14th-seeded Ohio University, Georgetown fell 97-83 in a game that wasn’t really close at all. Arguably the most talented Georgetown team let me and every other Georgetown basketball fan down in every possible way.
It was in this moment, with a team full of incredible promise exemplified by impressive victories over eventual national champion Duke and a No. 2 Villanova that year, that Georgetown was no longer the Georgetown of old.

Yes, tournament success is not everything, but for Georgetown, it is a matter of respecting, continuing and extending tradition and legacy. Embarrassing performances corrode the legacy that Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutumbo, Allen Iverson and Jeff Green built during their time on the Hilltop.

A swing of ups and downs characterized the old Big East and the Georgetown team that was part of it, but the new Big East offers, perhaps, a more promising alternative for Georgetown. Instead of playing in the toughest and most prominent conference in the nation against more historically great basketball programs than anyone can name, the Hoyas find themselves in a smaller but still very competitive conference of 10 teams.

As a result, JTIII’s squad must play a much tougher nonconference schedule, and this year, it delivered. The 2014-2015 Hoyas have played the fourth-toughest schedule in the nation and sit at No. 17 on ESPN’s Ratings Percentage Index, a statistic that is valuable in tournament seeding and selection. As of now, Georgetown projects as a sixth seed.

Still, the Big East is so under the radar, as are the Hoyas, that no one expects Georgetown to win. The tradition has been undone, not just by bad losses and early tournament exits, but by a change in the landscape of college basketball.

For the first time in my lifetime of Hoya fandom, we are underrated, but perhaps this is what our team needs — to build tenacity and toughness when no one is really watching. If all goes according to plan, come tournament time, we will thrive as underdogs, and the nation will hear just how loud these bulldogs bark.

Paolo Santamaria is a freshman in the College. SAXA SYNERGY appears every Friday.

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