Ed Cooley’s Georgetown team looks painfully familiar


Nobody was expecting overnight results. The NCAA Tournament wasn’t a projection, nor was a top-six finish in the Big East.

But it’s fair to say, much more was hoped for out of Ed Cooley in his first season at Georgetown. Really, it’s hard to differentiate these defenseless Hoyas from their recent predecessors under Patrick Ewing.

The only thing saving Georgetown from the Big East basement is a historically bad DePaul team, which already fired Tony Stubblefield 18 games into his third season. DePaul is Georgetown’s lone league win, a three-point victory at home.

On Saturday, Georgetown was embarrassed by No. 9 Marquette in a 34-point debacle. That was similar to a recent 24-point home loss to Butler. There have been flashes of competitiveness, a four-point home loss to Seton Hall and one-point setback to Xavier. But those performances have been followed up by abysmal efforts.

Georgetown has struggled in Ed Cooley’s first season. AP

Georgetown is actually worse defensively than last year. It is 301st in the country in efficiency, after finishing 240th a season ago. The offense is significantly better, in the top 100 in terms of efficiency. It was 189th under Ewing last winter. It is a woeful defensive rebounding team, ranked 309th in the country in defensive rebounding percentage at 69.4 percent. It is 181st in KenPom. The only power-conference schools worse are Vanderbilt and, of course, DePaul.

Cooley was supposed to first bring respectability. Make Georgetown a team that would consistently provide a representative effort. Play tough and physical. That has not happened.

Upon taking the job, he opted for a traditional rebuild rather than an immediate fix, bringing in mostly younger players, whether they were transfers or high school recruits. Next year’s class is ranked 17th in the country and his current team’s best players are sophomore Jayden Epps, the Big East’s third-leading scorer, and junior Dontrez Styles. So there is legitimate hope for the future, but it was a surprising tactic in the Name, Image & Likeness and transfer portal era, when first-year coaches have enjoyed immediate success. Rick Pitino (St. John’s), Kim English (Providence) and Chris Beard (Ole Miss) all have teams firmly in the NCAA Tournament mix.

At Georgetown, the bar was incredibly low. Two Big East wins the previous two years. Without a winning record since the 2018-19 campaign. The last time Georgetown had a winning record in conference play was 2014-15. Cooley has yet to change anything in that regard.

Marquette was latest team to blowout Georgetown. AP

Now, I expect him to turn this once-powerful program around, to make Georgetown matter again sooner than later. When Cooley took over at Providence in 2011, the Friars were coming off five losing seasons in seven years. He’s proven to be able to navigate the transfer portal well and maximize talent.

Georgetown fans would like to see that for themselves — because at this point, there’s not much of a difference between the Cooley Hoyas and the Ewing Hoyas.

Rewriting mystery

Time for a history lesson. As St. John’s has hit a significant rough patch, losing five of its past six games to fall back onto the NCAA Tournament bubble, there have been a ton of takes about last year’s team, many suggesting Pitino should’ve kept that group together.

That team coached by Mike Anderson went 18-15 and finished eighth in the Big East at 7-13. It was 2-14 in Quad 1 and 2 games. It’s easy to just fault Anderson, say he did a poor job, and that is true to some extent. But it was also not a good mix of players, as evidenced by the on-court performance. That team had an offense ranked 111th in efficiency and it was ranked 98th in the NET.

Several of the players transferred down. Some are having success at the high-major level, particularly AJ Storr at sixth-ranked Wisconsin. But let’s not forget what this team looked like last year, simply because the current Johnnies haven’t performed well of late.

At this time last year, St. John’s wasn’t anywhere close to the NCAA Tournament, and had a difficult schedule the rest of the way. The opposite is true of this year’s version.

Game of the Week

No. 24 Alabama at No. 16 Auburn, Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Nate Oats challenged Alabama with one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country. Despite suffering five losses outside of league play, the move worked. The Crimson Tide entered SEC action battle-tested, and are all alone atop the league, having won 10 of its last 11 contests. One of those wins came over Auburn, which is coming off a big win at Ole Miss, but still lacks a high-profile win on its résumé.


1: Purdue, Connecticut, Houston, Tennessee

2: Arizona, North Carolina, Marquette, Kansas

3: Wisconsin, Alabama, Baylor, Iowa State

4: Creighton, Illinois, Auburn, Dayton

Stock Watch


Tom Pecora

As the saying goes, you never forget how to ride a bike, or in the case of Pecora, be a head coach. It was nearly a decade since he had his own program, back to his time as the Fordham coach. When Baker Dunleavy left Quinnipiac to be the general manager at Villanova, Pecora was installed as his replacement. Nobody would have predicted what happened next. The Bobcats sit atop the MAAC at 10-1, owners of an 18-4 record, with a shot to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. They are within five wins of the school’s most since joining the Division I ranks in 1998-99.

Thad Matta

Shaheen Holloway has competition for Big East Coach of the Year honors. An argument can be made that nobody in the league has done a better job than the 56-year-old Butler coach. Holloway at least returned three of his top players at Seton Hall. Matta built his team through the transfer portal after a disappointing first season with the Bulldogs. Picked to finish 10th in the league, Butler is tied with Xavier for fifth and looks like an NCAA Tournament team, with elite road wins at No. 9 Marquette and No. 13 Creighton. Transfers Posh Alexander (St. John’s), Pierre Brooks (Michigan State), DJ Davis (UC Irvine) and Jahmyl Telfort (Northeastern) have all made an impact.

North Carolina handled Duke at home on Feb. 3, 2024. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con



The Blue Devils are a top-10 team in name only. It showed in Saturday’s loss at No. 3 North Carolina. Duke has three Quad 3 losses and owns just one high-level win, over No. 18 Baylor at the Garden in December. The 7-3 ACC record isn’t all that impressive in the decidedly down conference, particularly since it has yet to defeat a team in the top seven of the league. This is still an extremely talented team, but based on the body of work so far, Duke is more likely to not get out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament than to reach the Final Four.


Back in November, I saw a tournament team. A big and physical group led by a dynamic point guard in Dug McDaniel. Boy, was I wrong. Michigan is suffering through its worst season in decades, in danger of its first single-digit-win campaign since 1981-82. It couldn’t even beat disappointing Rutgers at home after building a 15-point, second-half lead, falling to an incomprehensible 7-15. It was the latest instance of the Wolverines blowing a significant lead after halftime, a troubling pattern in league play. Embattled coach Juwan Howard said after this latest loss he may just play the walk-ons, “because they care.” At least spring football is around the corner. 


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