Should Georgetown fans be panicking? Because Georgetown fans seem to be panicking. At the very least, that was the reaction at Casual Hoya last night:
That was not a good loss. That was not an acceptable loss. That was a pathetic loss. Losing to West Virginia on the road is one thing, but losing to a mediocre Cincinnati team at home? That just sucks. Georgetown lost 68-64 to the Bearcats in easily the worst performance by both the players and coaching staff this season. [...]
I thought I had this team figured out. Our problems, before tonight, were ball security and guarding aggressive fours. But after tonight's performance, one that was eerily reminiscent of the last three years, I don't know what to think. Can we guard the perimeter? Can JT3 adjust? Will he stop playing favorites? Will we have poise at the end of games? Can we inbound the freaking basketball?
A 68-64 home loss to Cincinnati — which was going on right around the time you were marveling at the NFL defense that somehow stole Alabama's uniforms and wore them throughout the 2011-12 football season; man, are those dudes scary — won't necessarily send every fan base into a frenzy, but it seems to be doing the trick for Hoyas diehards.
Really, can you blame them? The Georgetown teams of recent seasons, whether last year's guard-oriented lineup or the 2010 team that featured NBA first-round pick Greg Monroe and notched a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament, have seemed to share a common trait: late-season letdowns. The 2010 team lost four of its last six regular-season games and was upset by No. 12-seed Ohio in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The 2011 bunch lost four out of its last five regular-season games and was upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament by eventual Final Four member VCU.
In 2012, Hoyas fans have been pleasantly surprised — maybe "pleasantly blown away" fits better — by this mix of improved veterans like Hollis Thompson, Henry Sims and Jason Clark and immediately college-ready freshmen like the out-of-nowhere Otto Porter. It's been all good vibes thus far, an unexpected bonus, the sports fan equivalent of finding last night's leftover $20 in your jeans pocket on Saturday morning. But all it takes is the hint of a sudden downturn — the hint of the potential for collapse — to plant the seeds of panic. It's only human.
The Hoyas' loss Monday night was disconcerting in plenty of ways. Georgetown lost despite shooting the ball very well — its eFG% on the night was a robust 65.9 percent; the Hoyas went 6-of-10 from three and 26-of-44 from the field. Typically, when you shoot like that, you win. But when it counted, Georgetown couldn't even got a shot off. The Hoyas committed five turnovers in the final six minutes of the game. In that span, they hoisted a mere four field goals. You can shoot as accurately as you like, but if you can't get a shot in the first place, you're always shooting zero percent from the field. (Basketball wisdom! I can't believe you guys get this stuff for free.) A 16-6 Cincinnati run later, and Georgetown found itself with a surprising loss of its own.
There are a few mitigating factors to consider. For one, Cincinnati's defense was excellent in the second half, particularly down the stretch, and sometimes you just have to tip your cap. Mick Cronin's Bearcats appear to be coming along well despite their various setbacks and self-imposed challenges this season (hint: I'm talking about the Xavier brawl and resulting suspensions), and Cronin got a 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting night from Sean Kilpatrick. That's tough.
The good news for Georgetown? It's early, and it's Big East play. The conference isn't as tough in 2012 as in most seasons, but it is a grind nonetheless. Sometimes you're going to have bad nights. Sometimes you're going to fade down the stretch. It doesn't mean the season is over, or that this Hoyas team — one of the most impressive in the country to date — is suddenly set to reprise the second-half declines that have come to define this program in the past three seasons. It's just, well, a loss. Let's pump the brakes a bit. Georgetown's next four games — at St. John's, at DePaul, vs. Rutgers, at Pitt — should be telling. Those are all winnable affairs, but three are on the road. In January, the next big conference challenge comes fast and furious. How the Hoyas respond will be telling — both for analysts impressed by their early success and by Georgetown fans hoping against hope that this team can finish its 2012 campaign with all the promise of its start. In other words: We'll see.