The 1982 Georgetown Hoyas were a program steadily on the rise in a Big East Conference that was much the same. With big John Thompson, the 6’10” head coach, patrolling the sidelines, the Hoyas made a regional final in the 1980 NCAA Tournament before losing by one point to Iowa. Then Thompson made a huge splash when he signed stud freshman center, 7’0” Patrick Ewing, the nation’s most coveted recruit. The stage was set for great things.
In the spring of 1982, Georgetown rolled to a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, being shipped out west. The Hoyas were a little bit under the radar, as ACC powers and fellow top seeds North Carolina and Virginia got most of the ink, but basketball observers knew that Thompson’s smothering defense and deep bench worked brilliantly around Ewing, while guard Eric “Sleepy” Floyd could hit from the outside and prevent defenses from collapsing on the freshman center. The NCAA field was 48 teams in 1982, so after a first-round bye, the Hoyas dispatched Wyoming and headed to Provo for the regionals.
Georgetown was renowned not only for great defense, but an inability to shoot the ball. They gave lie to that reputation in Provo, hitting 64 percent from the floor in a win a 58-40 win over Fresno State and then nailing 74 percent of their shots in a 69-45 rout of second-seeded Oregon State.
Floyd was voted the regional’s outstanding player, scoring 38 points in the two games, while the Hoyas’ combined rebounding advantage was 48-27. Thompson was the first African-American coach to reach the Final Four.
The Final Four was in New Orleans, but Thompson opted to house his team in Biloxi, MS and bus them in. It was the nation’s first exposure to what would be called “Hoya Paranoia”, regarding Thompson’s closed door relationship with the press. Someone else might call it just wanting the media off your back.
Saturday’s national semifinal was a tough battle with a Louisville team that had won the national championship two years earlier. Floyd was held to 3-for-11 shooting and Ewing only scored eight points, but defense and rebounding carried the day in a 50-46 win.
The 1982 NCAA final was one of the best ever played, as Thompson went toe-to-toe with his friend Dean Smith, the Carolina coach after his first national championship. Ewing scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Floyd popped in 18. But a Tar Heel team that had future NBA forwards James Worthy and Sam Perkins, and a freshman guard named Michael Jordan wasn’t as easy to stop offensively.
Thompson tried a gambit of having Ewing block every shot coming his way in the early part of the game, but the five goaltending calls did nothing to psyche UNC out. Worthy scored 28 points and Carolina led 63-62 late.
Georgetown guard Fred Brown brought the ball over halfcourt looking to hold for the last shot. He inexplicably threw the ball directly to Worthy, was able to run out the clock. The lasting image for Georgetown is Thompson hugging the inconsolable Brown. Georgetown had come up short, but the Ewing era was just beginning.