Games that Matter -- December 9, 2010
ESPN / USA Today: 10
I know. I'm sorry it's been a month since the last GTM. I'll try not to let it happen again....
Things I'm Thinking Right Now:
I'm not going to provide a blow-by-blow of each and every one of our wins. You've seen the games, read the articles and probably gotten yourselves far too excited and optimistic. Bottom line: we're 8-0 and we have the #1 RPI in the country, and that's even before we've played teams like Temple and Memphis on the road. I like it, you like it, we all like it. That said, here's what I'm thinking right now, both the good and the bad.
- I love how JTIII has adapted his game plans to fit this year's players. We're not as big and skilled in the paint as we usually are, but we do have a lot of depth and lots of experienced guards who know how to shoot and know how to score. So even if we can't shoot the lights out every game, we can still create turnovers by pressing other teams, pushing the tempo and getting to the free throw line. Against Utah State, the press was the biggest factor in helping us win that game.
- I love Chris Wright. He has really developed into a complete point guard. He leads the team in assists, makes clutch shots when we need them, and puts the ball on the floor just enough to keep defenses honest. He's also a pretty good rebounder and defender. He's my favorite player on the team, and his reaction after hitting that game-tying three at the end of regulation against Missouri was the signature moment of the season thus far.
- We still haven't faced a team that has a solid post presence. Say what you want about ODU and Missouri. Those were nice wins, but Ricardo Ratliffe is hardly the best big man we will face all season -- and he killed us in the paint. What happens when we face teams like Pittsburgh and Syracuse and West Virginia -- teams that have big guys who like to bang and rebound? We'll get a sense tonight, when we go up against Lavoy Allen and Micheal Eric. I honestly don't know how we'll fare. As much as I've been impressed by Henry, I'm been just as disappointed in Julian.
- The only person who can stop Hank Sims is Henry Sims. The once-clumsy big man has emerged into a solid option for the Hoyas. His rebounding has improved and his passing has been outstanding. He's finally making good decisions. We'll need more of that tonight. Interesting side note: Did you know that his step-father's last name is Awkward? For the first two seasons, Henry was playing more like an Awkward and less like a Sims. And now, he's playing like Hank. And Hank is an unstoppable beast.
- What happens when Austin or Chris gets into foul trouble? I know we're deeper this year, but we need both of those guys on the floor if we are going to be effective. If one of those guys, particularly Chris (who has a tendency to get into foul trouble), is out of the game for extended minutes, who will step up?
- Markel hasn't made too many mistakes yet, but I'm still waiting for him to be more assertive and start looking for his shot. We're going to need him at some point this season. I want him to be ready when that time comes. I've been pleasantly surprised by Nate's progress. He is exactly what last year's team needed -- a blue collar guy who rebounds and plays hard. If he can develop a mid-range game, he'll help us tremendously.
- We have a handful of decent wins this year, but have we beaten any really good teams yet? I know no one wants to think about it, but I'll just go ahead and say it. ODU is good, but not as good without Gerald Lee. We struggled big time in that game, but all in all, it was a good win on the road. NC State lost to Wisconsin by 39. Missouri is supposed to contend for the Big 12 crown this year. They're a nice team, but they almost lost to Oregon, and then they probably should have lost to Vanderbilt at home last night. That was a solid win for us on the road, but still...I'm wondering if this year's team has the chops to compete with Pitt, Nova, UConn and Syracuse. I know we're a very good team, but I'm still not sure if we're a great team...we'll all find out soon enough. (I'm in no way criticizing our scheduling, by the way. I love how JTIII schedules.)
- Anybody catch the Mizzou-Vandy game last night? The announcers kept making a big deal of Mizzou's impressive home winning streak against non-conference foes. They must have mentioned it at least five times. I just kept thinking, "Really? Our win at the Sprint Center doesn't count?" What a joke.
- There are only 17 undefeated teams left in the country. Six of those teams are in the Big East.
Preview of Thursday's Game:
"They do a good job of making the game ugly." -JTIII after last year's game against Temple
Tonight, the Hoyas will look to extend their string of victories against a very gritty, defensive-minded team on the road. The preseason favorite to win the Atlantic 10, Temple is looking to nail down a few more wins against top-notch non-conference opponents. Despite wins against Seton Hall, Georgia and Maryland, the Owls still haven't defeated a sure-fire NCAA Tournament team. And they also have disappointing losses to Cal and Texas A&M. A win against the Hoyas would give Temple its first solid victory of the season. Last year, Georgetown defeated Temple, 46-45, in one of the ugliest games anyone has ever seen. If you remember, this was Georgetown's home opener in the 4pm slot of ESPN's 24-hour college hoops marathon. The Hoyas raced out to a 19-13 halftime lead, then squandered a 12-point second half lead, before eventually eking out a W on a Monroe layup with 6.5 seconds remaining. In that game, Georgetown had more fouls (18) and turnovers (16) than field goals (15); Julian Vaughn and Henry Sims combined for a grand total of zero points; Temple went 6 of 13 from the free throw line; Georgetown received 2 points from its bench; Lavoy Allen led Temple with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
This year, Georgetown won't have Greg Monroe to save the team at the last minute. And Temple won't have Ryan Brooks to provide some punch from the perimeter. But don't be surprised if this game is just as ugly and terrible to watch as last year's game. Fran Dunphy is a solid coach and he knows JTIII's system well, from his days watching Princeton fall short against his tough Penn teams of the late nineties. Temple will be the biggest and strongest team Georgetown has faced this season. They play defense very well, they don't make very many mistakes, and they are one of the better rebounding teams in the country. Think of them as a bigger and more athletic version of Utah State. On the road. This game won't be easy.
Temple has an effective inside-outside punch, with the highly touted 6'9'' forward Lavoy Allen anchoring the middle, and 6'4'' junior Juan Fernandez knocking down shots from the perimeter. Allen, who many project to be a late first round draft pick, is a prototypical bruiser. He averages over 10 points per contest, rebounds very well, and provides a solid defensive presence in the middle. Fernandez, who averages over 11 points per game and leads the Owls in assists, is off to a rocky start this season, but he is, without question, Temple's biggest threat from the perimeter. He can shoot the ball (despite his current 35% shooting from the field), and has no problem putting the ball on the floor. Perhaps Temple's most improved player this season is Ramone Moore, who leads the team in scoring and free throw percentage. The 6'4'' junior is a bigger guard who has a very good mid-range game and is adept at drawing fouls. He has emerged as Temple's biggest scoring threat. Another guy to watch out for is Micheal Eric, a 6'11'' junior, who is a solid rebounder and defender, and is the guy most likely to get putback layups off of Temple missed field goals. He is a strong and athletic big man who will give the Hoyas fits tonight, especially if our bigs aren't on the floor.
Keys to the Game:
1. Keeping Vaughn and Sims Out of Foul Trouble: We need Julian and Henry to body with Lavoy Allen and Micheal Eric. It goes without saying. We need Julian to finally step it up.
2. Rebounding: Temple is a big team -- and I'm not just talking about Lavoy Allen and Micheal Eric. Temple's guards are big too, and they rebound the ball very well. Chris and Jason have been doing an exceptional job of helping out on the glass this season, but they will really need to step it up against Temple. Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez know how to get after the ball. Georgetown will need to bring its A game tonight.
3. Pushing the Pace: I love how JTIII has adapted his sytem to fit the make-up of this year's team. We pressured Utah State in the backcourt and it worked. Against Temple, I think we should expect more of the same. Temple is big and strong, but they don't have many ball handlers. In the Owls' game against Maryland on Sunday, they didn't have an answer for the Terps' full-court press. We'll need to bring more of that pressure tonight and force their guys to make decisions.
4. Free Throw Shooting: Temple does not shoot well from the free throw line. With the exception of Ramone Moore, the Owls struggle mightily from the line (63% as a team). We shouldn't get sloppy against Moore, or Fernandez for that matter, but it's okay to pound Allen and Eric and everyone else. Let's not give them anything easy tonight.
5. Depth: I can't believe I'm saying this, but this is the first time in a long time where Georgetown is much deeper than its opponent. Temple only plays 6 or 7 guys on a regular basis. If there are lots of fouls in this game, we should have the advantage.
Despite our undefeated start, there are still lots of question marks facing the Hoyas. We still really haven't faced a frontcourt as big and tough as Temple's. Can we rebound and muscle with the big boys? We'll find out tonight. Here's hoping for a big-time road win against a team that's definitely heading to the Tournament. We all know it's going to be an ugly game, but as long as the outcome is pretty, I'm fine with that.
Let's go Hoyas. Beat Temple.