A Laundry List of Quick Thoughts
· Hi. I'm sorry it's been two weeks since I wrote one of these things.
· Now that 36 hours have passed since that soul-crushing, painful-to-watch, disgusting and miserable and terrible loss to lowly South Florida is behind us, let's put things in perspective. Yes, that was a bad loss. But the 2012-13 Hoyas are basically the same team we thought they were. When Markel, Otto and Whitt are playing well, we can beat any team in the country (especially this season, because no one is that good). Without Whitt, we need Markel and Otto to play well (see our games versus St. John's and Providence); if they struggle, we need our defense to force turnovers to create easy baskets. Against South Florida, Otto played well, Markel played poorly (3 points on 1 of 8 shooting in 37 minutes), and our defense only forced four turnovers (we absolutely could not score in transition in the second half). So, am I shocked that we lost on Saturday? No. South Florida was desperate for a win and did a solid job of protecting the ball and milking the shot clock. And the Hoyas played like garbage. Now we just need to pick up the pieces and determine whether this squad has any heart.
· Prior to Saturday's game, I was actually thinking to myself, "You know what? I trust Nate with the ball. He's been making better decisions. And he only shoots in the paint. He no longer takes terrible threes." I'm not thinking the same thing anymore.
· Since 2000, Georgetown has had a number of painful losses. Saturday's loss was one of them, but it's not even close to approaching one of our top ten most painful losses in the last decade. I know this because last season I spent a few hours creating such a list with the help of others. (I wrote it on a napkin, and now that napkin is gone.) Without getting into the details (because, really, most of you will remember the bad losses), our loss against South Florida ranks somewhere between #15 and #25. So, if it makes you feel better, trust me, you've probably experienced a lot more frustrating days as a Georgetown fan than you did on Saturday night. (It doesn't make me feel better.)
· For those of you wondering, "when I have a baby, will it make it easier for me to cope with bad Georgetown losses?" The answer is no. The smile on my daughter's face cannot erase images of Mikael Hopkins committing another turnover.
· What makes the last two weeks so much more painful is the backdrop of the Big East falling apart. This is the last shebang. And if we're only going to be playing these cats one last time, we don't want to lose at home by 30 to Pittsburgh. We're clearly not winning the title this year, but dammit, let's at least be respectable and put up a frigging fight.
· Some of you have asked: how do you determine whether a game "matters"? I don't. Every game matters. These little newsletters didn't start as game previews or recaps. I went to college during the Esherick era. We were a perennial bubble team (or worse), so the "games that matter" basically used to be a list of all of the games in late January and February that featured other bubble teams. "We want X team to win and Y team to lose, and pray that the Hoyas can scratch out a win against Boston College." Which leads me to my next point...
· We are a bubble team. Deal with it. We thought we had impressive victories against Texas and Tennessee and UCLA, but as it turns out, those teams aren't very good either. The only team that we have defeated that is likely to go to the Tournament is UCLA (and that's not even guaranteed). For those of you who went to Georgetown after the Esherick era, this is kind of a change for you. You've been spoiled. We've all been spoiled since JTIII came to the Hilltop. This year's team just has the feel of an Esherick team. Our defense is solid (except when it comes to defending the three), and we rely on our press to score easy buckets. Our offense is stagnant, we lack quality shooters, and we don't shoot free throws well. I feel like I'm back in college, except for the fact that we have a white guy in the starting lineup.
· Saturday's color commentator was the worst. His analysis consisted of "Georgetown needs to get the ball to Otto Porter" and "Anthony Collins is a low dribbler". Before the second half started, he said Georgetown shouldn't start the half in a zone defense, even though it had worked so well in the first half. I thought he was wrong. Turns out he wasn't. For all the talk this season about LENGTH!, our new three-guard offense doesn't leave us very long on the perimeter; so when guys are out of position, we can't rely on Whitt's wingspan to make up the difference. Now we have guards on the perimeter and Nate Lubick as our center. Or Hopkins is in the game, and that's even worse.
· Greg Whittington's academic suspension is obviously the most uncool thing he's ever done, especially if the reason for his suspension is that he just didn't show up to a final. Considering the Hoyas only played one game in three weeks, it's not like he can blame his absence on the rigors of the basketball schedule. But here's what I don't understand: why is it taking so long to resolve this mess? Either he's out for the semester or he's not. Am I missing something? At first, I think the staff was waiting to determine whether Greg would receive an incomplete or a failing grade. But now what's the issue? If the professor allows him to turn in a paper or sit down to retake the final, then get it done already. If not, then it's clear that Greg is ineligible for the rest of the semester. Just let us know, people. There's no reason to go all Bill Belichick on us.
· Speaking of Greg, I honestly can't remember the last time Georgetown had a player who was academically ineligible.
· You've all probably heard by now that when we play at Syracuse in February, the Orange will retire Carmelo Anthony's jersey. For those of you attending, please bring boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios. I beg you.
· Prior to Saturday's loss, Greg Whittington's absence from the team was a blessing in disguise. ("Yay. Guys like Bowen and DSR and Moses will get more run, so when Greg returns, we'll be so much better for it!"). After Saturday's loss, I think we all realized, sadly, that we really need Greg to come back if we're going to be any good this year.
· I've thought a lot about what makes this year's squad different than many of JTIII's other teams. Four big things: this is the youngest team of the JTIII era; this is the first team without a legitimate big man (both in terms of height and the ability to pass the ball effectively); this is the first team without one or two really good shooters; and this is the first team without at least one player who can break down a defense and create his own shot (Markel is close, but he's not as good as others have been). We're losing games because of all four of these factors. The lack of a solid big man is probably the most important reason.
· Is there any question that Manti Te'o will wind up on the Jets (and I say this as a Jets fan and a Notre Dame hater)? The Jets are about to lose Calvin Pace and Bart Scott and they have the ninth pick in the draft. Think about the storylines for a second. "Mark Sanchez has sex with Teo's imaginary dead ex-girlfriend." "Rex Ryan was caught sucking the toes of Teo's imaginary dead ex-girlfriend." "Tim Tebow loses his virginity to Teo's imaginary dead ex-girlfriend." (I'm tired of this story, by the way. It was never that interesting. Side note: I really do hope the Jets draft Te'o. He's good.)
· Happy Martin Luther King Jr. day. I have a dream that we stop playing like crap. The end.
Preview of Monday's Game: Georgetown at Notre Dame (7:30pm)
I don't like Notre Dame. If you think Saturday's loss to South Florida was bad, try sitting through a 4OT nail biter in late February of 2002. That was about as soul-crushing and terrible as it gets. The Irish, who are apparently too big-time for the ACC and too Catholic for the C-7, have made me angry for the last decade. So it absolutely pains me that the Hoyas are taking a trip to South Bend, in what will possibly be the final game against ND in Big East play, at a time when Georgetown is playing really poorly. I hate ND almost as much as I hate Syracuse, and probably slightly more than I hate cilantro or olives.
The Irish are good this year. They once again have a solid core of players, with arguably the most experienced team in the conference. ND's best two wins thus far have been against Kentucky and Cincy, while its only three losses have come against St. Joe's, UConn and St. John's. Despite a couple of recent losses, I'd be stunned if the Irish finish outside the top four of the conference. As much as it pains me to say it, they're pretty good this year (which is what you could say in any year). ND will overachieve in January and February, flame out in March, and then Brey will go on to win his fourth Coach of the Year Award (because people are always shocked that he can lead a bunch of white guys to play so well).
As always, Notre Dame is led by Fat Luke's little brother, who is a double-double machine (15.1 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 60.9 FG%). Fat Luke's little brother, a 6'9'' senior, probably isn't as good as Fat Luke was, but he's still pretty solid. He's fat and he rebounds well and knows how to score in the paint. Also, he's fat. Notre Dame's real strength comes from its veteran backcourt: 6'2'' junior Eric Atkins (12.3 ppg, 6.7 apg) and 6'5'' junior Jerian Grant (12.4 ppg, 5.4 apg). Both guys can put the ball on the floor and both guys can shoot (Atkins is a slightly better shooter, while Grant is better off the dribble). With Atkins and Grant, the Irish typically have two point guards on the floor at the same time, which makes it easy for Mike Brey to run his terrible "slow burn" offense.
Scott Martin (8.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg), a 6'8'' senior, is a guy you probably know, because he's been in college for six years. He is basically the glue guy. He's an excellent three-point shooter (47%) and he rebounds fairly well, without committing too many turnovers. Pat Connaughton (9.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.6 apg), a 6'5'' sophomore, is a guy you probably know (and probably the next Irish player you will learn to hate). Connaughton leads the team in three-point attempts (he is usually the recipient of passes from Atkins or Grant after coming off of screens), and he isn't afraid to put the ball on the floor. Someone will have to keep an eye on him at all times.
Two guys you may not know are Cameron Biedscheid (7.3 ppg) and Garrick Sherman (7.8 ppg. 3.6 rpg). Sherman is a 6'10'' junior, who rebounds well and is one of the rare ND players who never shoots from the perimeter. Biedscheid is a 6'7'' freshman who has started to receive more minutes in the last few weeks. He has a decent mid-range game and is all too happy to launch threes (he has connected on 23 of 60 attempts).
Keys to the Game
1. Perimeter defense: Obviously. Notre Dame likes to shoot threes (they have five guys who have attempted at least 50 threes). We're not very good at defending threes. This is a recipe for disaster. Unless Greg Whittington suits up. (Please, please, please let Greg play. He's sorry. He'll make up the exam. Georgetown prides itself on academics, blah blah blah, and if Greg missed an exam, he deserves this. I get it, but I still want him to play, dammit.)
2. The Press: Georgetown needs to use the press effectively in this game. On Saturday, the Irish won a nail biter against Rutgers. The reason why the game was so close? Rutgers pressed in the second half and ND committed 15 turnovers. Atkins and Grant and Cooley kept giving it up, and Rutgers hung around and actually had a chance to pull off the shocker in the game's final seconds. We need the press to work tonight.
3. Free Throws: I'm tired of losing free throw wars. South Florida didn't score a damn field goal in the final six minutes of the game, but they still beat us because they didn't commit turnovers and we kept sending them to the charity stripe. Same thing happened against Marquette. We need to get to the basket and draw fouls. Good things will happen. Markel and Jabril and DSR need to penetrate. If ND shoots ten more free throws than we do, we'll lose. Plain and simple.
4. Heart: It's time for this team to man up. We're young and we lost a key player, but no one's going to cry for us. Notre Dame's good, but it's not like they're the 1990 Runnin' Rebels. They're a 4 or 5 seed that will lose in the first round of the Tourney. Yes, we never beat them at their place, and yes, we happen to be struggling right now, but whatever. Put on your big boy pants and go to work.
I can't end this preview without saying a few words about Mike Brey. I just can't. Here are a handful of haikus, dedicated to the greatest coach in the history of the world.
HAIKUS FOR BREY
Your mock turtlenecks
Drive me crazy every year
I want to hurt you.
Win in the Big East
Lose every other big game
Still coach of the year.
Fat Luke, Fat Luke's bro;
Colin Falls, Chris Quinn, Ben Hansbrough;
I hate Notre Dame.
Lance Armstrong is bad,
And Tom Brady is a jerk
Mike Brey still the worst.
Last year in the Big East, and we're not doing so well. The season is not going as planned. Will we continue to muddle through and try to cobble together a few wins here and there, in the hopes that we can fight for an NIT berth, or will we get angry and start playing like men? I'm tired of watching this debacle unfold slowly. Notre Dame is one of the key reasons why the Big East conference is imploding. If this is the last time we ever play the Irish, let's make it count. I don't care if we play lousy, and I don't care if we only score 40 points, I just want a freaking victory.
Step up the energy and play angry, young Hoyas. Seriously. I'm over this nonsense.
Let's go Hoyas. Beat Notre Dame.