Georgetown has found a foolproof way to avoid crashing out of the NCAA tournament during the opening weekend for a fifth straight season.
The Hoyas are doing their best not to qualify at all.
Monday's 65-60 loss to co-Big East leader Villanova was Georgetown's fifth setback in a row and it dropped the Hoyas to a disappointing 11-9 overall record. Unless Georgetown puts together a spectacular February, the Hoyas will miss the NCAA tournament for just the second time in John Thompson III's 10 seasons.
Considering the injuries and early defections Georgetown has endured the past year, perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise the Hoyas have five more losses through 20 games than they did during their Big East championship season a year ago.
Otto Porter first gave up his final two seasons of eligibility last spring to become a lottery pick. Greg Whittington, Porter's likely heir apparent, tore his ACL during the offseason and then transferred to Rutgers. Defensive stopper Jabril Trawick missed five games with a broken jaw. And center Joshua Smith was ruled academically ineligible for the rest of the season earlier this month.
It's Smith's absence that has been the catalyst for Georgetown's current slide as much as anything else.
Without the mammoth 6-foot-10 low-post scorer, the Hoyas have virtually no interior offense and are too reliant on guards Markel Starks and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera. Those two are averaging 17.1 and 17.0 points respectively since Smith hasn't been part of the team, but Georgetown is still averaging seven points fewer in league play than it did in non-league play and scoring a Big East-worst .96 points per possession.
Georgetown actually had other scorers emerge Monday against Villanova with Smith-Rivera uncharacteristically struggling, but the Hoyas were done in by 18 turnovers against the Wildcats' relentless ball pressure. It also didn't help that Starks went cold trailing by three during the final two minutes, first missing a 3-pointer and later bowling over a defender for a charging foul in the lane.
The only other two times Georgetown has lost five straight under John Thompson III came during his debut season and during the 2008-09 season, both of which ended with the Hoyas missing the NCAA tournament. Georgetown is likely to plummet to new lows before things get better this season since its next game is against Big Ten favorite Michigan State.
Maybe an upset against the shorthanded Spartans will be the spark the Hoyas need to recover from this slump. More likely, however, this team doesn't have enough firepower beyond Starks and Smith-Rivera to make the kind of late surge it would take to get back into NCAA tournament contention.