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Film Room: The Debut of Patrick Ewing

NCAA Basketball: Jacksonville at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

After an off-season that covered everything but basketball, Sunday must have provided relief for Patrick Ewing. Questions had come from everywhere but so few about what would occur between the lines for 40 minutes - this was his chance to do what he’s been preparing to do for over a decade now. This is all he’s wanted to do. He did it well, and left a feeling of optimism and a providing a breath of fresh air.

The questions that were asked generally surrounded what type of offense will be run and the NBA style he envisions on that end. Perhaps what was misplaced in the off-season discussion was the most obvious - the coaching tree in which he and Pat Riley are the roots of - from Jeff Van Gundy, Mike Malone, Steve Clifford, Stan Van Gundy, and Tom Thibodeau - is steeped in hard nosed man-to-man defense. The debut of the 2017-2018 Georgetown season made it apparent that this season hinges on that end of the floor and there was evidence provided to believe this group can find a way to competitiveness by bringing it each game on that end.

Jacksonville came in to the game off a blowout loss to UAB - but a game in which they were able to attempt 30 three point shots. That number was cut in half against Georgetown - given solid man pressure and the ability to correctly funnel ball-handlers into well positioned help defense. Via Hoop-Math The Hoyas were able to concede the majority of shot attempts in the mid-range - nearly half of Jacksonville’s attempts were 2pt jump-shots while only 25% came at the rim and another 25% from 3pt range. It also did not come as a surprise that Georgetown played every single possession - all 78- in man defense.

Something that we covered here before was how imperative Steve Clifford and the Hornets have made transition defense - often conceding offensive rebounds to make sure their defense is back. Georgetown only allowed 5 possessions of transition to Jacksonville - and none off of a made basket.

Here you have Marcus directing traffic - and Mulmore picking up the ball handler. Good communication and hustle and a 5 on 3 is snuffed out:

Another point of emphasis appeared to be getting on the top/strong hand of the ballhandler and downing the ball screens. Jon Mulmore looked especially adept at positioning his body and moving his feet to help his big successfully corral ball-handlers:

Two things here: most college guards just aren’t nearly as comfortable with their off-hand and the screening big in most cases will not be overly skilled. It forces the big into being a decision maker/scorer which clearly was not his comfort zone here.

You also get an early submission from the J’Ville guard with nowhere to go:

All totaled, J’Ville had 21 possessions that can be filed under Pick & Roll Ball-Handler via Synergy. Their points per possession resulted in a paltry .381 - a far cry from what we saw the past two seasons.

Even here you can see how well-positioned Govan is and moving his feet really well when given the task of picking up the ball-handler 1 on 1.:

J’Ville certainly lacked a dynamic ball-handler and Junior Robinson of Mt. Saint Mary’s (all 5-5 of him) will offer a greater test Wednesday night. But the connectivity, focus and effort of ball-screen defense was a great sight to see.

Even here, when Antwan Walker gets caught a bit in-between - there’s no quit and he’s able to get back and make a play:

If there was a weak link or two defensively, it was perhaps the freshman just making a few freshman mistakes. Simply losing their man and not being as in sync as their upperclassmen - but Blair/Walker/Pickett offer college ready bodies and good length and months to learn and grow. Odds are, Pickett is not getting lost like this in February:

On the offensive end, Georgetown only got to operate vs man defense 12 times. J’Ville did its best to try to junk up the game with zone defense - which in itself is perhaps a new challenge for Ewing to tackle. There’s no straight up zone to see in the NBA and how attacks a more traditional 2-3 zone (like you know who) will be interesting. It appeared yesterday that screening the top of the zone while also trying to drive and open things up on the baseline were seen as a way to crack it.

The 2nd clip there of Jessie finishing - that’s a confident catch and strong finish that we’ve been wanting to see. There is a difference and challenge in being in great shape in the first week of the season and the slog of the Big East schedule - this has to be maintained- but credit to him and the roster for now. They are in shape and look more cut/strong/fast than the prior versions of themselves - and it’s noticeable particularly with Jessie and Marcus. It’s no coincidence that Jessie set a career high in rebounds yesterday.

It will be vital that Marcus stays in shape and maintains his health for this team to surprise. He had a great debut yesterday on both ends and where he will find a lot of open opportunities is in transition as a trailer:

When you have a team that is committed to running the floor it puts pressure on the defense and can lead to breakdowns in communication - run the floor hard and things will open up.

This transition look started off 5vs5 but a quick push and decision and it turns into an open 3:

And while the Hoyas did turn it over a bit too much yesterday, I think we’ll all live with turnovers coming from pushing the ball and being aggressive than tossing the ball casually around the 3pt line.

You don’t have to re-invent the wheel, simplicity is your friend. This just a simple high-ball screen on the 2nd possession of the game but Marcus as a shooting threat occupies the mind of two defenders and Pickett is left open for a corner 3:

Here, Mulmore got the call from Ewing with under 10 seconds to go in the 1st half. Just a simple pick & pop with Derrickson and into the half we go:

I found it hard to come away with many negatives yesterday. Kaleb Johnson being a starter perhaps is a head-scratcher given his performance - only two lineups played more than 10 possessions together - Mulmore/Johnson/Pickett/Derrickson/Govan - which had a PPP differential of 0 (a draw) - compared to the Mulmore/Mosely/Pickett/Derrickson/Govan that played the most possessions out of any lineup (20) and produced a 1.20PPP on offense and .75PPP defensively (really good). The team also will have to do their best to tread water when Govan rests - the small-ball lineups with Derrickson at the 5 allowed an offensive rebound 5 times in 11 chances. Govan foul trouble is a scary situation and amplifies the loss of Trey Mourning and it will be interesting to see how Ewing approaches it when it arises.

Wednesday night presents a new and slightly more difficult challenge. A team that will press from start to finish while dropping back into man defense and a jitter-bug point guard who can break you down off the dribble. And I can’t wait to get another look.