When Mike Sweetney declared for the draft, the noise from the Georgetown community hopping off the basketball teams’ bandwagon was deafening. Even the players wanted off. Tony Bethel and Drew Hall transferred as soon as their paperwork cleared, and Brandon Bowman seriously considered doing so as well.

So now, the best player from last year’s team is gone. And people think the team has the same chance of making the tournament as Esherick does of getting fired.

Personally, I think this is too pessimistic. I may be a rube, but I honestly think this team has as good a shot at making the NCAA tourney as last year’s. They’re faster, more athletic and have no pressure.

I’m not saying they’re a lock, or even that they should make it, just that it’s not the improbability that most people think it is.

The key to this year will be consistency. All of the players that are crucial to the team’s success had flashes of brilliance last year. Ashanti Cook played well in the NIT, as did Bowman, and Riley had a couple of good games during the regular season, especially against UCLA and Notre Dame. All three of them have the ability to step up and lead a team; they all just need to play their best consistently and at the same time. They should be a force in the Big East. As Dennis Green, the former Minnesota Vikings head coach said: “Nobody can beat us when we play like we play when we play.”

If, however, the Hoyas don’t play that way, I still think they’ll be fun to watch. Esherick has promised to start running and to play a full court press. There’ll be a lot more dunks, alley-oops and threes.

Of course, those plays won’t always be made by Hoyas, but it’ll still be exciting.

They’ll be bad, yet exciting, like the L.A. Clippers when they had Lamar Odom, Elton Brand and the Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles combo. Think about it. They have all the makings of a horrible NBA team with a tremendous upside. They’ve got the duo of Ashanti and Bowman who are roughly equivalent to Q and Baby KG. All they need is to create their own celebration. Sead Dizdarevic is the token European which all NBA teams are now required to have. Matt Causey is the first round pick that’s supposed to save the team. And they’ve even got the coach with a porn star mustache.

And, speaking of Esherick, now that he’s going Mike Krzyzewski-style in the lifetime contract club, there won’t be any distractions caused by questions of his job security, no matter how Georgetown performs. While I understand Esherick’s first extension, since the Hoyas were coming off a Sweet 16 run, the second one was inexcusable. Esherick hasn’t done anything since reaching the Sweet 16. While he hasn’t performed poorly enough to merit being fired – no matter what www.fireEsherick.com might say – he certainly did not do a good enough job to earn that big of a contract extension. Would it really have hurt the team to have him be coaching for an extension this year instead of already having it? I think he would have responded well to the pressure and had his best season as a coach. Whether or not he does now is a much bigger question.

And if he hadn’t gotten his extension and wasn’t able to get the team to the NCAAs (which he has failed to do with more talented teams in the last two years), the athletic department should have left itself the ability to find someone new. If Georgetown basketball is going to remain a big-name program, it can’t accept mediocrity. If Esherick fails, it should look outside the Georgetown community for a new coach. It should get a coach from a mid-major who has proven he can win with less talent and less resources than he would have at Georgetown. It should go get Dana Altman from Creighton or Todd Lickliter from Butler. They wouldn’t be too expensive and have shown they can win.

Of course, this is all just a pipe dream. We’ll be watching Esherick pace the sidelines for the next five years. Georgetown just can’t take the budget hit that would come from firing him now that they’ve extended his contract. So we’ll just have to hope that I’m not deluding myself when I see some talent and NCAA tournament potential in this year’s squad.

Or at least I’m right about their being fun to watch.

Thomas Ryan can be reached at ryanthehoya.com. BE THE BALL appears every Friday.

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