When I first got to Georgetown I was always curious about our neighbors up the road at American University. I was intrigued by the exotic name--was it the University of America? Was everyone who went there actually American? Then, as I grew older and wiser (and at the same time dumber), it became apparent to me that American was actually a pretty casual little school, and certainly more casual than GW. Most of the casual chicks I came across at classy venues such as The Cellar went to American. (Note: for those not old enough to remember The Cellar, all you need to know is that the place was a large cave that you walked down stairs to enter, had $5 all you can drink deals on Friday nights, a massive dance floor that lit up like the sidewalk in the Michael Jackson 'Billie Jean' video, two large bars, a lounge area with couches, and a place in the back where you could buy hot dogs, pizza, and puke. The Cellar was far and away the best place in the history of DC. Naturally given that DC is probably the worst major city in the country, it is now BURIED. Literally, it has been paved over.
Anyway, big ups to Tom Schad, the men's basketball beat writer for The Eagle, for agreeing to be our latest victim in our Sleeping With The Enemy series that brings you all you need and want to know about our next opponent. Tom, this bud's for you. Away we go...
CH: What can Georgetown expect on Saturday out of this year's American squad?
Well first things first, Georgetown can expect a win. I’m not trying to be a pessimist, but AU’s record speaks for itself. After losing to the likes of Randolph-Macon, St. Francis, and Maryland-Eastern Shore, I’m pretty sure that they don’t have a shot in hell against a ranked opponent like Georgetown. The Eagles are simply too inexperienced and timid to handle the pressure of facing an elite program like they did in the NCAA Tourney last year; they had 7 seniors then and have only 1 now (backup guard Matthew Wilson). On a brighter note, you can also expect this squad to play their asses off in the loss. American is steadily improving with each passing game and has shown great hustle on the floor this year. Sure, they can’t execute to save their lives, but you won’t see this team give up easily on Saturday.
CH: This offseason former Georgetown assistant Robert Burke was 'fired' by Georgetown and then hired by American. Consequently Georgetown hired former American assistant Mike Brennan? What really happened behind the scenes? Note: If you don't have any knowledge of the situation, feel free to make it up.
Sources with knowledge of the situation have explained it to me as an under-the-table deal involving Jeff Jones and John Thompson III. Thompson was "sick of Burke’s sass" and thus offered a trade to Jones, who realized that Brennan had become too successful of a coach to remain at AU. Burke and Brennan were apparently swapped for one another, though my sources have also determined that Jones received a Georgetown t-shirt in the deal. (yes, this is completely made up)
CH: What are American's strengths and weaknesses? Who are the top performers this season?
Let’s start with the strengths. We have a quietly rising star in sophomore forward Stephen Lumpkins, who leads AU with 13.9 points per game and leads the Patriot League with 8.4 boards per game. He’s got great footwork down in the low post and works hard crashin’ the boards; quite frankly, he’s our best player. Then we’ve got a veteran playmaker in junior Nick Hendra, one of the few returning pieces from last year’s squad, and a solid 3-point shooter in freshman Mike Bersch. Defensively, we’re actually 2nd best in the Patriot League and are a decent rebounding team.
The big problem is that we can’t score. Period. We toss it down to Lumpkins in the post every once and a while, but other than that we mostly just run around in circles. Some people are afraid of heights, some hate spiders, but our team is afraid to shoot the damn ball. Nobody wants the shot, only a handful of guys will ever attack the rim, and this is why we’re struggling. I’m think this will improve over time, but for right now we’re a pretty pitiful team to watch offensively.
More Sleeping With The Enemy after 'The Jump':
CH: American showed a ton of patience with Jeff Jones as a retread coach, ultimately paying off with a strong 2 year run. Of course, AU has now returned to the dregs – how many extra years did Jones buy with his recent teams and is American a destination job or just a stepping stone as it has been for many years?
Jones is able to use the "rebuilding" excuse to defend the pitiful state of AU this year, and honestly I can’t blame him. He’s basically fielding a high school team night in and night out, and this should buy him at least 3-4 more years in this program. Plus, Jones has built up quite the resume here and is very well liked by the administration. He’s won four regular season Patriot League Championships in nine seasons at AU and has led the program to its first and second NCAA Tournament berths. Jones is easily one of the most decorated coaches in AU history, and this should also play a role in buying him more time.
As for the second part of the question, I think American has finally become a destination job. Sure it’s not the SEC or Big East, but the Patriot League is by no means a joke of a conference with prominent names like Army, Navy, and now AU. The near upset of a Final Four team last year proved that players can be successful here, and this should attract better prospects in the future and give our coaches more talent to work with.
CH: Jeff Jones was well known for "enjoying" UVA’s student body but seems to have kept calm during his time at AU. Is this because there are no hot chicks or has he mellowed with age?
Well first of all, there are plenty of hot chicks at AU so I can’t imagine that being the problem. But after watching him get in his players’ faces and go Josh McDaniels on ‘em, there’s no way I could say that he’s "mellowed" in any way. I think I’ll just take the high road and say that he’s been so focused on improving the basketball program here at AU that he hasn’t had time to "enjoy" much of anything else.
CH: Tulane has The Boot, Georgetown has The Rhino Bar and Pumphouse – if it’s last call on a Saturday and I’m part of an AU frat, where do I want to be?
I’ve heard quite a few people hang out at Clyde’s in Friendship Heights. But if you’re really a brother at AU, you’re at a frat house on Saturday night sippin’ Natty Light. The sad but true life of an AU frat brother.
CH: American is 1-7 this season, matching their loss total from last year. What gives?
It’s amazing how huge of a factor youth has been for American this year. AU fields the 5th youngest team in the NCAA, with 3 freshmen and 3 sophomores playing crucial roles in the rotation. Dan Munoz and Blake Jolivette, both freshmen, are trading off at point guard and trying to decipher Jones’ offense through his expletive-laden rants. The only two returning players who had any role on last year’s team, Lumpkins and Hendra, averaged 3.4 and 6.3 points respectively, and as a whole we lost 81% of our minutes from last year and 84% of our scoring. In short, this squad is young and still learning to play together. It’s been a tough transition for guys like Lumpkins to take on the workhorse role, and all the new guys are still trying to figure things out. That’s really the only explanation for the 1-7 start.
CH: Take us back to halftime of last year’s opening round of the NCAA Tournament. American is shooting the lights out and leads Villanova by 10. Scottie Reynolds is scoreless, and Jay Wright is already thinking of catalogues from which to choose his offseason golf outfits from. For the current group of Georgetown freshman and sophomores who don’t know what it’s like to see their team play in the Dance, how great was that moment?
At the time of that game, AU actually wasn’t my team. I was still choosing between schools and, as crazy as this may sound, watching that near upset seriously influenced my decision to come to American. Here was a school with great academics that was also competing in the NCAA tourney against ‘Nova, and it got me really excited to join the AU community. So what I’d say to your freshman and sophomores is that I’m in the same boat as you guys.
CH: Final score prediction.
Georgetown 85, American 52. The only reason that it might be closer is if Thompson decides to bench all the starters midway through the second half.