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Diagnosing Georgetown's Problems

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are at rock bottom. It doesn't get any worse than this. With 17 seconds left on the clock and the Hoyas down 11, the light crowd at Verizon was beginning to empty out when Isaac Copeland fouled Isaiah Whitehead. Many of the fans that were walking up and out of Verizon came to a halt. You know, just in case Whitehead missed both free throws and everyone won a free Jetties sandwich. Naturally Whitehead missed both meaningless free throws and the crowd ERUPTED - or at least as much as a crowd of just over five thousand can. I would take a thousand Gulf Coasts over that. Last night's loss puts the Hoyas at risk of finishing with a losing record for the first time since Craig Esherick's last season, the 2003-2004 season. So how exactly did we get here? What went so wrong? Let's go through the most likely explanations for the Hoyas' struggles this season.

The Coach / The Offense
At this point, JTIII and the Princeton offense are pretty much synonymous. Remember the good ‘ol days when we actually got back cuts? Remember the 2006 Duke game that put us back on the map, when Jeff Green was threading the needle with nifty backdoor bounce passes to a highflying Brandon Bowman? You can probably count the number of backdoor cuts we have this year on one hand. The offense is stale and in no way maximizes our personnel. The offense, in an era when refs are practically begging to blow the whistle, works way too east/west. What is all of the passing from side to side accomplishing, and why aren't we attacking the hoop? Our center is often stuck on an island 25 feet from the hoop. Unless you have a big man whose skill set allows him to be effective from that far out, like Govan because of his shooting ability, there is no reason to stick your big man 25 feet from the basket. How many times have we seen Bradley Hayes on the 3-point line, desperately looking for a guard to hand the ball off to? The dribble handoffs with our big men on the perimeter are practically invitations for double teams, clogging things up and leaving us with poor spacing. Good coaches usually tailor their system according to the personnel in order to maximize each player's skill set. JTIII is the doing the opposite.

No Point Guard
This is related to the offense because JTIII has repeatedly said he disagrees with the idea of each player having a position. He wants ‘basketball players' who can dribble, pass, and shoot. In theory, that kind of team versatility sounds appealing. It would be great if, depending on the matchup, different guys were able to bring the ball up court and facilitate the offense. In reality, we are left with a team of players who are mediocre at several things and proficient at none. The problem is especially glaring at point guard. We are so thin at point guard that DSR, who in a perfect world would be a 6'5" shooting guard, has to bring the ball up. Early in the season, fans figured the cure was to start Tre Campbell so we could slide DSR to his natural position, but Campbell has been a massive disappointment.

Oh, what a luxury it would be to have a point guard like Creighton's Maurice Watson or Monmouth's Justin Robinson. They may be undersized but they have blazing speed and can get wherever they want on the court. By the way, coming out of high school, in addition to being a top 100 recruit, Watson was a strong student heavily recruited by the Ivies. Seems like a natural fit for a place like Georgetown. Why aren't we recruiting guys like that?

Isaac Copeland
Coming into the year, he was supposed to be the team's second option in what was expected be a breakout season that could even put him on the brink of declaring for the draft. Instead, Copeland is a player who looks like he's having a crisis of confidence. In Big East play, he is shooting under 36% from the field and under 19% from the perimeter. Unfortunately, Copeland's effect on the game is closely related to how he's shooting, as he is underwhelming on the boards and uncomfortable handling the ball. He was the 16th rated player in the country in 2014 according to ESPN's top 100. For context, Justise Winslow and Devin Booker, who were NBA lottery picks last summer, were ranked 15th and 18th respectively. His ranking suggests he has talent that the offense is not tapping into, but after two years worth of games, he looks like the worst kind of tweener: not skilled enough to play on the perimeter and not strong enough to play in the post.

Can't Stop Fouling
Only 10 teams in the country commit more fouls than Georgetown. It has been an ongoing problem for three years now. Two years ago we were 331st out of 351 D1 teams in foul rate (meaning only 20 teams committed more fouls), and last year we were 305th in foul rate. It's awfully hard to win games when the opposing team is in the double bonus halfway through a half. Last night, Seton Hall's last made field goal came at the 14:09 mark in the second half. Earlier in the season, UConn only made four field goals in the second half, but it doesn't matter because they were in the 1-and-1 at the 14:21 mark of the second half. That kind of fouling is unacceptable, and if JTIII isn't making guys play defense with their hands behind their back in practice then he ought to be.

Only One Player Can Consistently Get To The Hoop
L.J. Peak is the only player on the team who can get into the paint anytime he wants. One of the only bright spots throughout the team's implosion has been Peak's emergence, as he continues to learn how to operate in the lane and not simply charge like a bull in a china shop. But beyond Peak, there is not a player on the roster who is a strong slasher. Tre Campbell can sometimes get into the lane but his only hope of not being swallowed up is throwing up a floater (read: prayer) that rarely goes in. Isaac Copeland looks like he should be able to drive and finish above the rim but looks can be deceiving. Reggie Cameron and Marcus Derrickson are mostly standstill shooters, whose efficiency plummets the moment they put the ball on the floor. DSR is among the all-time scoring leaders in Georgetown history thanks to his shooting, but he lacks quickness and often relies on his spin move to get to the hoop. Committing lots of fouls on defense and not being able to get to the basket might be symptoms of the same problem: lack of athleticism.

The least likely explanation and one used by the most deluded fans. Paul White and Akoy Agau could help this team, but both are role players unlikely to significantly swing our fortunes one way or another. White might be the best passer on the team and have the highest basketball IQ. However on a team plagued by a lack of athleticism, White is another subpar athlete. Agau could undoubtedly improve our porous interior defense, but he wouldn't move the needle for us offensively