NCAA BK

Better-than-expected Hoyas face No. 20 Marquette

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WASHINGTON (AP)

If you believe Georgetown forward Hollis Thompson, he wasn't even aware that the Hoyas climbed to No. 9 in The Associated Press' latest men's basketball poll.

He says he doesn't pay attention to the Top 25 these days.

''Really? What are we?'' Thompson asked Tuesday, a day before Georgetown (12-1, 2-0 Big East) hosts No. 20 Marquette (12-2, 1-0). ''I don't follow the rankings. Because, you know, two months ago, we weren't ranked at all.''

That's true: Georgetown didn't receive a single vote in the AP's preseason rankings and was picked to finish 10th in the Big East coaches' preseason poll.

''We did feel disrespected as a team, with people saying we wouldn't win a lot of games,'' said senior guard Jason Clark, who leads Georgetown in scoring at 15.1 points per game.

And now?

''It's definitely nice to get the recognition,'' Clark said, ''because coming into the season, nobody thought we were going to be anything.''

Several factors probably contributed to the lowered expectations, including the losses of two top players, Austin Freeman and Chris Wright; a roster loaded with 10 freshmen or sophomores; and zero NCAA tournament wins since 2008.

As coach John Thompson III put it: ''We were an unknown commodity.''

''Walking into this year, the world probably knew very little about our team, so I'm not surprised that's where we were picked-slash-projected,'' he said. ''That being said, this group has to come together, this group has to work, and we'll see where we end up.''

So far, so good.

With Clark and Thompson (who averages 13.7 points and 5.8 rebounds) leading the way, senior center Henry Sims (12 points, 5.5 rebounds, team-high 3.7 assists) playing a much larger part of the offense than last season, and key contributions from freshmen such as Otto Porter and Jabril Trawick, the Hoyas are more appreciated now than they were before the season.

They've won 10 consecutive games entering Wednesday, including victories over ranked opponents Memphis, Alabama and Louisville.

''This is a different group for us. They're young. ... It's exciting for them: `OK. Oooh. Now I've thought about this. Now we're ranked.' OK, but then you get over that, and now you have to play the games,'' John Thompson said. ''Is it new? Exciting? Yes. But it also is irrelevant.''

He used Marquette as an example, noting how that team dropped in the rankings after ''a difficult week, but they're the same guys.''

The coach also could have pointed to his Hoyas of last season. That group managed to move into the top 10, too, but then didn't live up to that sort of status in the NCAA tournament.

''I try to tell our guys that rankings don't matter. Rankings don't matter at all,'' Clark said. ''If it was up to me, I'd keep us out of the Top 25 all season.''

That's because, Clark explained, it's possible for players to suddenly think they're entitled to victories based on where they - and their opponents - are in the polls.

He also made sure to point out he doesn't think that will be a problem for his particular team.

Sophomore guard Markel Starks, averaging 10.2 points, was asked Tuesday whether outsiders' preseason views of the Hoyas were wrong.

''Everybody was right, because we were young, and, sure, the expectations (were) for these guys to be inexperienced, to be getting blown out every night,'' Starks said. ''Everybody was exactly right. And we just come out and we just play the game. ... A lot of people want to (say) we're just this Cinderella story. We're just playing the game.''

Tagged: Georgetown, Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson

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