Before we all get our collective panties in a bunch about this year's season, I'd like to do an old fashioned countdown of my 5 favorite games of the JT III era. I graduated in 2008, so I was lucky enough to see all 5 of these games in person, which also probably skews my views in terms of order. Feel free to argue with my rankings, add your own, and even throw in some games from before the JT III era when I was still in diapers.
Honorable mention with memories, year by year:
2007 - 2008: West Virginia (72-55 BET, The one time all season I thought we could win the NCAAs), @ West Virginia (58-57, Patrick Ewing Jr.'s block), @ Marquette (70-68, Jonathan Wallace's free throws), Louisville (55-52, DaJuan Summers has one moment of clutchness in 3 years and it came at a good time)
2006 - 2007: Boston College (62-55 NCAA, Patrick Ewing Jr. punking Jared Dudley) Notre Dame (84-82 BET, Never again did I think Jeff Green would be a senior at Georgetown), Pittsburgh (65-42 BET, First BET Championship since 1989), Notre Dame (66-48, Jessie Sapp's alley-oop to Jeff Green), West Virginia (71-53, Patrick Ewing Jr. fighting with John Beilein), @ Villanova (58-55, Jeff Green morphing into a closer)
2005 - 2006: Pittsburgh (61-58, Holy ^&%* the Duke game wasn't a fluke), Ohio State (70-52 NCAA, Roy's coming out party)
2004 - 2005: Notre Dame (55-54, Roy's game winning dunk and the beginning of "Roy, Roy, Roy" chant)
Now for the top 5 games of the JT III era, in my opinion:
5. January 12, 2008, 72-69 win over UConn at the Verizon Center
Coming into this game, the 2007-2008 Georgetown Hoyas were 12-1 overall, 2-0 in the conference, but had lost its only real test at Memphis, 85-71. It also happened to be one of the first Super Saturdays of the season, so the students were particularly joyful, to say the least. Most of the game was a blur due to this joyfulness, but some highlights included Pat Ewing Jr. contributing 14 points off the bench and starting his campaign for the inaugural Big East 6th Man of the Year. Previously, I was concerned that Pat would have a hard time taking a backseat to freshman Austin Freeman, especially when taking into account Pat was roughly 30-years-old already. He and Freeman combined for 27 points on 9-13 shooting and Pat continued to be the ultimate teammate whether he was starting or coming off the bench.
Fast forward to 32 seconds left, tied at 69-69, Georgetown took a full timeout. Coming out of the timeout, in typical JT III fashion, we passed the ball around the 3 point line for about 25 seconds. What was particularly disconcerting during these 25 seconds was that our 7'2" preseason All America center was manning the point guard position. I remember screaming "Post up! Post up you big &^%$! For the love of God, post up!" Then, with 6 seconds left, Roy Hibbert decided to shoot his second career three. It was the first time I've ever heard 20,000 people go from "What the $%#%?!" to "AHHHHHHH!!!!" so quickly and so violently.
Some silver linings from the game:
- Roy Hibbert began a tradition that would be continued a year later by Greg Monroe of thoroughly emasculating Hasheem Thabeet on national television. Roy scored 20 points and had 8 rebounds, Hasheem "contributed" with 7 points and 2 boards.
- Students barreling down the stairs in the Verizon Center screaming "stampede", including one brave soul who decided he would attempt to crowd surf down these stairs.
- Thinking to myself, "We may not win pretty this year, but this team will do whatever we can to defend our Big East Championship". This definitely proved true with close victories over Syracuse, Villanova, Marquette, West Virginia and Louisville later in conference play.
- Thinking to myself, "Wow JT III really isn't into the whole ‘play designing' thing in close games". This also proved true, though not very effectively, when Austin Freeman and Nikita Mescheriakov were clanking game winning attempts off the side of the backboard in 2008-2009.
- Seeing a 2007 graduate and friend completely blacked out after the game screaming "I used to run this place" at the top of a stairwell in Verizon and subsequently falling down the entire set of stairs. My friends and I vowed that when we graduated we'd never be "that guy". This held true until the first Super Saturday the next year when we beat Memphis in OT and one of my friends screamed at a group of current seniors "We pregamed harder than you party". Cool.
4. March 23, 2007, 66-65 win over Vanderbilt in Sweet 16 at the Meadowlands
We had previously beaten Vanderbilt in their home gym 86-70 that year, so coming into this Sweet 16 game, confidence was riding high. We just defeated Jared Dudley and his safety school and seemed to be on a collision course with UNC to right the wrongs of 25 years before. Then the Hoyas decided to sleep walk through the first 38 minutes of the game and Roy Hibbert decided that the immortal Ross Neltner and Ted Skuchas were going to be worthy adversaries. We were actually up 64-61 with 1:00 left in the game, then chose to give the Commodores four straight free throws. Down 65-64 with 14 seconds, JT III called a timeout as Georgetown fans across the country collectively hyperventilated. You all know what happened next - Jeff Green juked left, juked right, maybe traveled, and banked in the game winner.
Some silver linings from the game:
- Looking back, it is very underrated how in love DaJuan Summers was with Jeff Green, especially considering how different they turned out. After Jeff hit the game winner, he tried to do that cool "hold out your jersey to show your team name" thing, but DaJuan grabbed him in a bear hug before he could fully celebrate. For a split second I really thought DaJuan was going to kiss Jeff on the mouth, which would have made for an even more uncomfortable moment than any Adam Lambert performance.
- Speaking of DaJuan, it has been lost just how good he was in the East Regionals as a freshman. He and Jeff led the team with 15 points each against Vandy, and then he followed up with 20 points again UNC in the Elite 8. I still think he would have been a top 15 pick on potential alone had he left Georgetown after his freshman year.
- Vanderbilt may have prettier girls than Georgetown, but we still win at basketball and at life.
- I was at the Meadowlands for this game, but for the people on campus, apparently the Village B courtyard had about 1,000 people chanting and screaming right after Jeff hit the shot. Still not sure which place I would have rather been.
3. February 24, 2007, 61-53 win over Pittsburgh at the Verizon Center
This game effectively clinched the Big East regular season championship for Georgetown for the first time since 1989. To this day, I will argue that this was the loudest I ever heard the Verizon Center in my time at Georgetown. What I loved about this game, and this team, was the ability to pull away. The 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 teams tended to play to their competition, the 2006-2007 Final Four team had a killer instinct. Pitt was ranked in the top 10 coming in and the game was tied 49-49 with 3 minutes left when Jeff Green took over. He hit Jessie Sapp for a backdoor layup to go up two, followed by a Jonathan Wallace layup, then Green got a steal and found Sapp for a layup while he was falling out of bounds. Still one of my top 5 Jeff Green plays of all time. It was after Sapp's layup to put the Hoyas up 6 that I actually felt the Verizon Center floor shake. Contrast that to the half full stadium we saw on ESPN against Temple. This game may seem a bit high on the list, but it was the point where I felt that we could really win the National Championship, and it happened to coincide with my 21st birthday weekend.
Some silver linings from the game:
- I was drunk enough and my man crush was strong enough that night to spend $182 of my birthday money in a charity auction to get a dinner with Jeff Green. The dinner was going to be my friends and me hanging out with him / posturing to be in his entourage when he went to the NBA. And to think that I just made fun of DaJuan Summers for loving Jeff Green. The highlight was having my friend's cute blond girlfriend bid at the auction and the pure dismay on Jeff's face when he realized that he'd be going to dinner with 10 dudes rather than a one-on-one with a Tara Reid (circa American Pie) clone.
- I think this game set the record for students getting kicked out of the Verizon Center. It was another Super Saturday, and I counted 8 different people getting thrown out for throwing things not limited to trash, beer and small children. Not our finest moment as Georgetown students.
- Roy Hibbert had a knack for thoroughly outclassing any big man seen as competition while he was at Georgetown. He outplayed Aaron Gray, Luke Harangody, Greg Oden and Hasheem Thabeet during his time on the Hilltop. He never could quite figure out how to play Scottie Reynolds and Villanova's other midgets though.
2. January 21, 2006, 87-84 win over Duke at the Verizon Center
You know a game is iconic when you don't have to look at ESPN's schedule to know the date. In many people's eyes, this is still JT III's signature win. Duke was #1, undefeated, sporting two first team All Americans and Mike Krzyzewski's toupee was particularly shiny that season. The Hoyas put on a clinic of backdoor cuts, running the Princeton offense like Pete Carril dreamed it to be executed. A sophomore Jeff Green had his most complete game in a Georgetown uniform to date, putting up 18 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. We also got tremendous performances from the team's three seniors - Brandon Bowman, Ashanti Cook and DJ Owens - who combined for 53 points on 19-30 from the field. When Greg Paulus' last ditch 3 point attempt fell short, Georgetown students rushed the court and the JT III era had officially begun.
Some silver linings from the game:
- Rushing the court was completely horrifying. I'm about 5'10" and claustrophobic, so it was basically my own version of hell. I'm very glad I experienced it once, and I'd like to never do it again.
- I think people forget how ridiculously good JJ Redick was at Duke. To this day, he put on the best shooting performance I've ever seen. He scored 41 points in the game, almost half of Duke's total output. One of my friends kept trying to chant "Overrated" at him, to the point that we went to get a beer midway through the second half and he said "I really hope that JJ overrated chant catches on" to which I replied, "Dude, he has like 33 points already".
- A group of students had a party after the game where they set a couch on fire. Three hours later cops showed up while they were all passed out. The cops grabbed three of them and brought them downtown, without allowing the kids to consult with one another. All three, in different rooms, when asked who caused the fire, replied "JJ Redick".
- I still credit my brother with rattling Shelden Williams before the game. A precocious senior in high school, he decided that it would be prudent to hurl his full water bottle at the Duke players when they came out of the tunnel for pregame warm-ups. His toss cracked ol' Shelden right on his head, and Verizon Center security miraculously never found out who threw the bottle. Shelden finished the game with 4 points on 2-8 shooting.
And we have it! The best game of the JT III era. Believe it or not, it happens to be the game that got us to the Final Four for the first time since 1985. This game was a back and forth affair that saw the Hoyas go down by 10 with 6:02 left and clawed back to force overtime with a game-tying three by Jonathan Wallace. Overtime looked like Georgetown was playing a decent high school team as most of the Tar Heels attempted to shoot with two hands suffocating their necks. The game was capped off by Jim Nantz exclaiming "Like Father, Like Son, Georgetown is going to the Final Four!" All in all, a great moment for the program.
Some silver linings from the game:
- A combination of Georgetown's suffocating defense and UNC's horrid offense forced the Tar Heels to make only one field goal in 23 attempts for the last 15 minutes of the game including overtime. That's not very good.
- In the two best games of the JT III era, the Hoyas scored 96 and 87 points. Who says the Princeton offense can't be high scoring?
- Roy Williams may have two national titles and a nice Southern accent, but JT III so completely outcoached him that it prompted ESPN's Bill Simmons to note, "The coaching mismatch in yesterday's Gtown-UNC game may have been the most glaring in a big game since Guy Lewis/Valvano."
- Almost 3 years later, when I think about DaJuan Summers' two overtime dunks, I still get the chills.
- This UNC team had 5 NBA players, including 4 first round picks. Let that sink in. Georgetown's back court consisted of a walk-on and a dude playing professionally in Scotland.
- Anyone that questions whether the Princeton offense can be successful, watch this game. When Georgetown shoots the ball well, the backdoors start working, and it's a thing of beauty.
- Georgetown students running down to the White House after this victory is one of my proudest moments to be a Hoya. The 3 other Final Four teams (Ohio State, Florida and UCLA) barely got a reaction out of their fans, but our little Jesuit university's students decided to run 1.5 miles to where the President lives and sing the fight song outside the front gates.
- It's been 3 years and I still am convinced we were one DJ Owens 3 pointer and one blown Greg Oden offensive foul call from winning consecutive national championships and never having to hear about Joakim Noah.