Georgetown looked to a familiar face when it sought out a new men’s basketball coach in the spring of 2004.
Coming off its first losing season since 1973, the school named John Thompson III its coach in hopes of recapturing the success of his Hall of Fame father’s Hoya Paranoia teams of the 1980s.
“We need to take small steps, to move ahead by gradual increments in order to achieve our goal,” Thompson said when hired. “We can always improve, no matter how much we accomplish, so that is the method we pursue — to always find and take the next small step.”
Small steps have not been the course for Thompson, though.
The Hoyas took a major leap Saturday when they posted a stunning 87-84 upset of then-No. 1 Duke to return to the Top 25 for the first time since 2001 this week.
Georgetown’s first win over a topranked team since 1985 highlighted a day of upsets that saw the final three undefeated teams fall. Pittsburgh lost 55-50 to St. John’s and Florida was beaten 80-76 by Tennessee.
Thompson coached at Princeton for nine years, including four as head coach, prior to becoming Georgetown’s coach. He brought with him Pete Carrill’s famed Princeton-style offense featuring back cuts and screens, not to mention his dad’s hard-nosed attitude.
“Coach Thompson has been preaching since he got the job that with hard work, anything can happen,” Darrel Owens said Saturday. “And I think today you saw that hard work pay off.”
WELCOME TO D-I
Lost in the shuffle of what ESPN cleverly referred to as “And One” Saturday (get it? Duke, Florida and Pittsburgh each added a one in the loss column) was perhaps the biggest upset of the day.
The North Dakota State Bison embarked on a 500-mile bus ride to Madison, Wis., then shocked the 15th-ranked Badgers in a 62-55 win. North Dakota State, in the third year of an NCAA reclassification from Division II to Division I, was 10-9 and coming off a loss to Sun Devil-slaying Utah Valley State at the time of its win.
The Bison won’t even be eligible for the NCAA tournament until 2009.
None of that mattered Saturday though as they limited Wisconsin to 22.2 percent shooting and got a game-high 24 points out of freshman guard Ben Woodside to set up one heck of a bus ride home.
“I’ve never experienced that much excitement through eight hours of travel,” Woodside said. “We were all hyped the whole way home. We could not stop smiling.”
RESPECT THE CARDINALS
Rick Pitino’s name certainly goes a long way with the AP poll voters.
Louisville is ranked 22nd despite a 13-5 record and a three-game losing streak in which the Cardinals have fallen by almost 10 points per game to Pittsburgh, St. John’s and Connecticut. They haven’t beaten a team in the top 50 of the RPI and are 2-2 away from their home floor.
Before their loss to Connecticut, the Cardinals were 79th in the RPI rankings — below such mid-major notables as Iona, Davidson and Virginia Commonwealth.