The Hoyas have provided me and other fans with plenty of heartbreak this season, but I still believed that they could make it to the NCAA Tournament. Now they just have me believing in Deja vous.

It was the common theme last year, and this year Georgetown seems just as inept as ever at closing out close games. With 15 seconds left on the clock the Hoyas had the ball and a chance to win the game on the final shot. The problem was there was no shot. And it wasn’t because they turned the ball over, or even lost control of the ball. They just didn’t shoot. So while Mike Sweetney battled for position inside Notre Dame’s 2-3 zone, he might as well have just been playing patty-cake with Torin Francis and Tom Timmermans, because Darryl Owens and Brandon Bowman had their own game of hot potato going at the top of the three-point arc.

I never thought Georgetown’s final-shot offense could get any worse than last year, when the team would pass around the perimeter and wait for a highly-contested heave by Kevin Braswell. Now we don’t even shoot.

I don’t care how you do it. Drive to the basket, set a pick and roll, try for the open jumper, throw it between your legs, drop kick it, do something to get a shot off. Not to take a shot is simply inexcusable.

There’s plenty of blame to go around, so I’ll avoid singling out players that cost Georgetown its first road-win this season. But through all the miscues on the final possession and in the two overtimes that led to the Hoyas’ eventual defeat, there is one commonality: incompetence.

Now I’m not saying that our basketball players are dumb. I am saying that our basketball players have a penchant for doing incredibly dumb things in critical situations. We’ve already addressed the non-shot at the end of regulation, but there was also an instance where the Hoyas committed a foul on the perimeter with three seconds left on the shot clock. Tom Penders on ESPN Radio called it the worst foul you’ll ever see in college basketball. And, of course, there was the Hoyas’ final chance to win with 5.5 seconds left and Drew Hall (who played an otherwise outstanding game after Tony Bethel fouled out) panicked and fired it up near mid-court with almost three seconds left instead of taking it to the hoop himself or trying to reenact his miraculous drive and dish against Providence in last year’s Big East Tournament.

I think Mike Sweetney put it best when he said after the game: “We made a lot of mental errors at the end of the game which we need to correct. We can’t keep talking about it, we need to start doing it.”

Sweetney is 100 percent right. The thing that is the most frustrating for fans, and probably for players like Sweetney who go out and put their best foot forward regardless of the opponent, is that Esherick and his players have been talking about eliminating those mistakes forever. In the past two seasons, the Hoyas lost to Notre Dame despite having the final possession at the end of regulation and the first three overtimes. They lost to UConn when Esherick decided not to intentionally foul despite a waning game clock and a one-point Husky lead. Harvey Thomas’s late-game turnover contributed to Miami’s overtime victory in last season’s Big East Tournament. This season, the Hoyas have gagged on a 16-point second half lead against St. John’s and now lost a very winnable game against Notre Dame. And all the fans have gotten is more of the same.

I’ve stayed out of the Esherick contract extension talks until now, but I just can’t let this go on any longer. I don’t think Esherick is an awful coach. The players do respect him and like him, as coaching legend Red Auerbach indicated in a recent feature story in the Washington Post. The strategies of the game, however, continually prove elusive to him.

When Esherick called timeout to set up a play on the final possession of regulation, Tom Penders blasted the coach in his radio coverage because it allowed Notre Dame to set up a 2-3 zone. After the timeout, Georgetown came down court and looked utterly helpless against the defensive set. And this is not the first time Georgetown has looked clueless coming out of a time-out; one just has to look at the inbounds-alley-oop last Wednesday by Seton Hall.

Since taking over as head coach, it is true that Esherick has a solid record of 81-51, but against Big East teams he’s 37-40. And considering those games are the ones that really have an impact on the Hoyas’ postseason chances, a sub-500 record just isn’t going to cut it.

I’m not calling for Esherick to be fired. He hasn’t done a terrible job since he’s taken the reins, but he hasn’t done a great job either. Fan support is down, ticket prices are up and the Hoyas wallow in mediocrity every year, despite having Mike Sweetney, one of the best players in the nation. Conversely, after taking over Louisville, Rick Pitino has hoisted the Cardinals to No. 8 in the country. Looking inside the Big East, Mike Brey has resurrected a long dead Notre Dame squad to be the No. 11 team in the land.

Esherick is a good guy. He’s funny, he’s smart and he’s a very likeable person. But as a basketball coach he is continually frustrating. To give him a long-term contract extension now would be absurd and a slap in the faces of fans and the students who pay the coach’s salary.

He has not earned it yet. As illustrated by the Hoyas repeated late game misfortunes, Georgetown has not improved. By the time his current contract expires, he very well may have proved worthy of a long-term extension. Esherick is a smart guy and could very well find a way to turn his team around and if that is the case, by all means shower him with gifts. But at this stage in the proverbial game, Athletic Director Joe Lang would simply be rewarding mediocrity and likely dooming Hoya fans to more of the same.

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