Hoyas end series with Syracuse in style; earn share of Big East title

By Jeff Goodman | College Basketball Insider

Big John kept looking, trying to find John Thompson III on the court in the midst of the court-storming that occurred at Verizon Center following Georgetown's rout over Syracuse in a game that gave the Hoyas a share of the Big East title.

Big John was beaming with pride. Rightfully so.

This was the final Big East regular-season matchup between Georgetown and Syracuse. The rivalry has been incredible over the last few decades. Great players from Patrick Ewing to Alonzo Mourning to Pearl Washington, Derrick Coleman and so many more. Terrific games that have dated back to when the Big East first began in 1979. Saturday's contest was anything but exciting, a Hoyas 61-39 rout against that capped a season sweep for Georgetown and also capped a tremendous season that could give JT3 & Co. a No. 1 seed.

This was supposed to be an NIT team. The Hoyas lost Jason Clark, Henry Sims and Hollis Thompson from last year's group. Most understood Otto Porter would enjoy a breakout season, but there wasn't much else. Georgetown was rolling, though, gave Indiana everything it could handle in Brooklyn and started the season winning 10 of its first 11.

But then came a crushing blow. Greg Whittington, the team's second-leading scorer and top defender, was deemed academically ineligible. It wasn't announced, but the Hoyas knew he was done for the remainder of the season. Georgetown had no choice but to reinvent itself. We've seen how the loss of a key starter alters a team. Look at Duke with Ryan Kelly or Missouri without Laurence Bowers.

But Georgetown has been better without Whittington. The Hoyas improved to 14-2 since he left the lineup. There was the stinker in Tampa against South Florida, the third game the team played without Whittington, and a 10-point setback earlier this week to a Villanova team that has beaten every Big East contender on its home court.

Judge Georgetown without Whittington, and not with him. Yes, you heard me right. This team, at this point in time, is deserving of a No. 1 seed based on what is has done since the 6-foot-8 forward was lost. Again, 14 wins and just two losses. Road victories at the Carrier Dome, in South Bend, at Cincinnati and UConn. Home wins against Louisville and Marquette.

Porter has been forced to step up despite his laid-back personality and smooth game. The 6-foot-8 sophomore entered Saturday's game averaging 19.6 points and 7.7 rebounds over the past 15 games and has made himself a legit factor in the National Player of the Year award. Point guard Markel Starks should be on just about everyone's all-underrated team. Junior big man Nate Lubick plays his role, providing defense, rebounding and an intellectual interior passer who gets his teammates easy opportunities with his distributing and also screening abilities.

More than anything else, though, Whittington's absence has allowed JT3 to insert freshman D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera into the lineup. This team needed another scorer, and that's exactly what DSV has given the Hoyas. He was averaging 15.4 points in the past five games, shooting more than 50 percent from the field and beyond the arc.

Georgetown fans rushed the court after the win against Jim Boeheim's Orange, then cut down some nets to celebrate a Big East regular-season title.

Big John wasn't the only one smiling.

 
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