WASHINGTON (AP) - Georgetown coach John Thompson III manages to keep his eyes off the Big East standings most of the time, letting others take care of speculation and calculations about conference tournament seedings and byes.
Not this week.
"I've got to fess up," Thompson acknowledged. "I did look."
Hard to blame him. After all, second place in the league will be at stake Saturday when his No. 11 Hoyas (22-6, 12-5) play at No. 8 Marquette (24-6, 13-4) to close the teams' pre-tournament schedules.
"The long and short of it is, if we win, we're 2," Thompson said. "If we lose, I don't know what happens after that."
That's OK, Coach. It's complicated, and depends on the outcomes of other games.
Suffice to say Georgetown is on the verge of completing quite a surprising season for a team predicted to finish 10th in the Big East in the preseason coaches' poll. The Hoyas haven't finished better than seventh in the conference in any of the past three seasons, when they followed consecutive regular-season titles in 2006-07 and 2007-08 by finishing 11th, then seventh, then eighth.
Asked how nice it would be to finish second, senior Jason Clark replied: "Um, it would be better to finish in first place."
Well, Syracuse has that distinction wrapped up. But any top-four finish gives teams a double-bye into the quarterfinals of next week's conference tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Marquette is already assured of getting that extra day off, even after its 72-61 loss at Cincinnati on Wednesday, which wasn't even as close as that final score. That ended a five-game winning streak for Marquette, which tied a season high with 17 turnovers.
The Golden Eagles were still without their third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, 6-foot-8 forward Davante Gardner, who injured his left knee in late January.
When Georgetown hosted Marquette on Jan. 4, the Golden Eagles led by 17 points with a little more than 13 minutes left. But the Hoyas came all the way back to win 73-70 behind Clark's 26 points and a more-intense defensive effort.
"It was hard for them to score," Clark recalled, "so mentally it wore them down."
Thompson has been cautioning his players lately that Marquette's transition offense is something to worry about Saturday.
"They go up and down the court," said Georgetown freshman forward Otto Porter, who has started the past two games in place of guard Markel Starks, providing boosts on defense and rebounding.
Marquette's running offense, Thompson explained, is "one of their strengths; and they're good at it not just because of their overall team speed, but because there are multiple people that can make a play for themself or make a play for someone else."
At the top of the list are Darius Johnson-Odom, who averages a team-high 18.3 points, and Jae Crowder, who accounts for 17.4 points and a team-best 7.7 rebounds.
They'll both be feted Saturday on Senior Day, much as Clark and Henry Sims were at home Monday, when Georgetown beat No. 20 Notre Dame 59-41, the Hoyas' second straight tremendously good defensive performance.
Georgetown held Notre Dame to 33 percent shooting on all field-goal attempts, and 18 percent on 3-point tries, and didn't allow anyone to reach double figures in points. That came after Georgetown limited Villanova to 46 points and 28 percent shooting.
"We're going to have to play at the level we've been playing, if not at a greater level, to have success on Saturday," Thompson said. "They put five guys on the court that can hurt you, and so our defensive effort is going to have to be very good on Saturday. You don't win this time of year if you don't defend. You don't win in the postseason if you don't defend."
Howard Fendrich can be reached at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich
- Jason Clark