A six-year absence from the NCAA semifinals would usually sound the alarm at Johns Hopkins, where national championships are not a dream but almost an expectation.
It’s the longest drought in program history and one that has not escaped the notice of coach Dave Pietramala. But rather than hide from the disappointment, Pietramala is meeting it head-on.
“That’s the goal, and you want to meet your goals,” he said of reaching the Final Four. “We re-established the standard and raised the bar a little bit [by reaching the quarterfinals last month after sitting out the NCAA tournament in 2013]. Things are cyclical, and we feel like this year, we’ve really rebuilt our foundation. Sometimes you have to be willing to change a bit, and we reinvented ourselves a bit offensively. We’ll look at the things we’re doing defensively a little bit to see if there are ways we can improve our play off the ground and our ability to create some more turnovers. This was a step, getting back and showing that the one year away from the playoffs wasn’t the norm, which it isn’t here. Now what we’ve got to do is, we need to take the next step. We need to get back to the quarterfinals, win that game, and go to the Final Four again. It’s not a concern. It’s a goal. When you don’t achieve your goals, you’re disappointed, and you have to step back and evaluate. We did that last year, and we’ll do that again.”
Hopkins lost to eventual national champion Duke, 19-11, in the quarterfinals, but Pietramala found a positive in his team's return to the NCAA tournament after its 41-year streak of tournament appearances ended in 2013.
“Us not making the playoffs isn’t the norm,” Pietramala said. “It’s not the way things are around here. And the fact that it was a one-year thing and we get back not just to the tournament, but to the quarterfinals, with a team that maybe wasn’t our most talented team, and maybe that’s the biggest positive to take away with this group. This group really bought into what we were doing and showed what could happen when you perform as a team.”