Like Hoyas' Season, Future of Georgetown, Monroe Uncertain
"No," the sophomore center replied. "It wasn't."
But lest anybody jump to read too much into the emotional words of a disappointed 19-year-old, Georgetown coach John Thompson III soft-pedaled Monroe's answer.
"You asked him that question a half-hour after the season ended," Thompson said. "But I think he's going to sit and make that decision as time goes on."
In other words, the coach isn't sure if his star player will return next year or bolt for the NBA, where he could be a lottery pick in this year's draft. Monroe's status was fittingly a muddle in the wake of a confusing Hoya season that ended with a shocking upset by 14th-seeded Ohio in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
"Obviously, ups and downs," Monroe said when asked to evaluate the Hoyas' season. "As a team, we were inconsistent. We didn't have the same focus and we weren't the same team every night."
Clearly. This year's Hoyas were good enough on certain days to pick up wins over Duke, Villanova, Syracuse, Butler and Temple. And they were bad enough on certain days to lose to South Florida, Rutgers and finally Ohio, a team that was seeded ninth in the MAC tournament and had to win it to even get into the NCAAs. It was a season full of promise and frustration, and when asked to explain it the coach used an explanation he says he'd avoided all year.
"This team is young," Thompson said. "And that might be the first time I said that all year, because we didn't want to lean on that or even talk about that. We didn't have any seniors. And we didn't want to use that as an excuse, but you have to go through some growing pains, and this team went through some growing pains this year."
The most painful came Thursday night, when they found Ohio's 3-point shooting harder to stop than a Prius. The Bobcats rang up 97 points on a Hoya team that had allowed a little more than 65 points per game coming into the tournament. Ohio guards Armon Bassett and D.J. Cooper and forward Tommy Freeman combined to hit 13 of their 22 three-pointers, and Ohio built their lead as high as 19 points in the second half. They confused the Hoyas all night with what Georgetown point guard Chris Wright described as "millions and millions of ball screens," and their extra passes created space in which they could shoot their threes with limited interference.
"It's just hard to come back when a team has all that confidence that we gave them in that first half," said Georgetown guard Austin Freeman, who had an uncharacteristically poor scoring day of his own, picking up two early fouls and finishing with just nine points.
But it was a feeling the Hoyas had experienced several times this year -- a surprising inability to stop a team that wasn't as good as some of the top-10 teams they had manhandled when at their best. Assuming he is able to bring back this same group next year, Thompson hopes that counts as a lesson learned.
"You've got to step on the court and play," Thompson said. "You can get caught up in 'heavily favored,' but we lost to some teams that were probably better than people thought they were."
Perhaps, but teams that can beat Duke and Syracuse ought to be able to puff up their records against teams like Rutgers and South Florida -- and ought to cruise into the second round of the tournament against a team like Ohio. That the Hoyas couldn't do that left them devastated, and uninterested in explaining why they're not playing Saturday in the second round. They didn't really want to think about anything other than how upsetting this all was.
"I'm not looking to the future," Monroe said. "I'm just thinking about getting back and how I can help my team next year."
In the wake of an unsatisfying season, Monroe said he was talking about next year's Georgetown team. Whether it ends up being an NBA team remains to be seen.