Two se­niors wary of up­set

Clark and Sims are fa­mil­iar with March sad­ness

The Washington Times Daily - - Life - BY NATHAN FENNO

Min­utes slipped away with­out men­tion of Ge­orge­town on the sprawl­ing tele­vi­sion blar­ing the NCAA tour­na­ment se­lec­tion show in­side the Leo O’dono­van Din­ing Hall. So, Ja­son Clark leaned over to Henry Sims.

“What if we didn’t get in?” Clark whis­pered.

The Ge­orge­town se­nior was jok­ing, of course.

Then came the news Clark, Sims and the rest of Ge­orge­town’s bas­ket­ball team waited for Sun­day night: The Hoyas will face Bel­mont as a No. 3 seed Fri­day in Colum­bus, Ohio. If Ge­orge­town ad­vances, it gets the win­ner of the San Diego State-north Carolina State con­test Sun­day.

Be­fore the an­nounce­ment, Clark warned Sims not to ask coach John Thompson III where the team was headed. Thanks to a mys­te­ri­ous source last year, Thompson tipped off se­niors Austin Free­man and Chris Wright they would play in Chicago long be­fore the in­for­ma­tion was public.

But the big­gest drama Sun­day was not if Ge­orge­town would get in, as Clark quipped, but how los­ing two of its last three games would af­fect the seed. Thompson thought his seed could range from No. 3 to No. 6.

When the stu­dent-led cheers qui­eted, the live tele­vi­sion shot from CBS clicked off, top re­cruit Ner­lens Noel and his flat­top hair­cut de­parted and the free hot dogs and ham­burg­ers dis­ap­peared, se­ri­ous looks oc­cu­pied the faces of Sims and Clark.

On a team with 10 fresh­men and sopho­mores, they un­der­stand the heartache the NCAA tour­na­ment can bring. The two se­niors haven’t won a game there, suf­fer­ing up­sets to Ohio in 2010 and Virginia Com­mon­wealth Univer­sity in 2011. This is their last chance. “That doesn’t leave your mind at all,” Clark said. “This team is a lot hun­grier than the team in the past.”

In a pre­sea­son poll, Big East coaches picked Ge­orge­town (22-8 over­all, 13-7 con­fer­ence) to fin­ish 10th in the league.

But be­hind a tal­ented group of fresh­men and the much-im­proved Sims, the Hoyas are ranked No. 13 in the coun­try.

Bel­mont (26-7, 19-2) won the At­lantic Sun Con­fer­ence tour­na­ment and will move to the Ohio Val­ley Con­fer­ence next sea­son. Thompson has at least two game tapes of Bel­mont (the coach sus­pects there may be more) and noted the team’s com­plex of­fense with plenty of move­ment that leaves de­fend­ers in awk­ward po­si­tions.

Bel­mont opened the sea­son with a one-point loss to Duke.

Sims, still smart­ing from Thurs­day’s dou­ble-over­time loss to Cincin­nati in the Big East tour­na­ment, sim­ply was re­lieved to hear Ge­orge­town’s name called.

“It was a lit­tle nerve-wrack­ing even though you know you’re in,” Sims said. “You just want to hear your name called and get it over with. . . . It was like a bur­den off our shoul­ders.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ge­orge­town sopho­more Markel Starks, go­ing to the bas­ket against Mar­quette, is one of 10 un­der­class­men on the Hoyas’ ros­ter.

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