The 1985 Georgetown Hoyas were coming off a national championship and with future #1 NBA draft pick Patrick Ewing back for his senior season, a repeat title looked like destiny. Ewing’s shotblocking skills were without peer in college basketball, his offensive game was solid, and head coach John Thompson had the big man surrounded with a deep team that attacked defensively and could score enough to win.
The Big East was the center of the basketball world, as Georgetown and St. John’s were the top two teams in the country throughout the year and with a split of regular season games, plus a victory in the conference tournament final, the Hoyas got the #1 seed in the East Regional.
1985 was the first year the NCAA Tournament went to 64 teams and Georgetown opened up by making life miserable for eastern Pennsylvania, beating Lehigh and Temple and earning a spot in the regionals held up in Providence.
Defense ruled the day in Providence, as they faced top backcourt scorers in Loyola-Chicago’s Alfredrick Hughes and Georgia Tech’s Mark Price, a future NBA mainstay for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Hughes was held to eight points, Price shot 3-for-16, and while the Hoyas got strong challenges in both games, they were able to get their third Final Four trip in Ewing’s four-year tenure.
The Final Four was in Lexington’s Rupp Arena and a familiar foe in St. John’s was waiting. In fact, the 1985 Final Four was a Big East feast, as Villanova also made it, the only time in history three teams from the same conference have made college basketball’s showcase event.
St. John’s was a worthy opponent, led by future NBA guard Chris Mullin and center Bill Wennington, who would go on to a good pro career in Chicago. It was the best team ever fielded by head coach Lou Carnesecca, but they couldn’t match up with Georgetown. Mullin only got eight shot attempts, Williams scored 20 for Georgetown and it was a 77-59 rout. Villanova would be the last obstacle in the way of a repeat national title.
Villanova’s 66-64 upset win is now one of college basketball’s great Cinderella stories and everyone correctly remembers how they shot the lights out, at 79 percent from the field. Overlooked in this analysis is that ‘Nova had a huge edge at the free throw line, outscoring Georgetown 22-6 from the stripe and while there weren’t a lot of rebounds to go around, ‘Nova fought their rival pretty evenly, losing only 17-14.
It was a disappointing end to the Ewing era, although this four-year stretch of basketball was one of great dominance for Georgetown, as they won one national title and came within a basket of two others.