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Identifying How The Hoyas Can Win Big

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NCAA Basketball: Creighton at Georgetown Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not sure what kind of batting average John Thompson III would post in professional baseball. Based on how he typically answers media questions, I suspect he’d be the kind of hitter how would foul off pitch after pitch. No big, violent swings. Not looking to go the other way. Get some singles. Maybe a two-bagger if you leg it out. But mostly aim to make contact, work the pitch count and perhaps annoy the person on the mound.

In this analogy, the reporter is the pitcher, which means there’s potential annoyance coming from this end in the form of high heat. Mostly, the plan involves snapping off pitches from different angles while aiming for the strike zone. That’s essentially what happened at last week’s pre-Marquette media availability. Noting that each season takes a different path with different players, I asked Georgetown’s head coach what he saw as the identity of this particular team.

“What’s our identity,” he said with shrugged shoulders and foul ball intentions. “I’m not sure what our identity is. I’ll let you guys tell us what our identity is.”

Cool. I’ll do that.

If the ninth place Hoyas (14-12, 5-8 Big East) are to win big — not just Sunday at Creighton, but finish the regular season and Big East Tournament with a flourish — they need to play fast, score lots and tighten the rotation.

This edition of the Hoyas under Thompson is about the offense. That’s where upside exists. This isn’t about analytics. This is based on observation and basic numbers.

This particular team won’t win playing ugly. Georgetown is 1-7 this season when scoring 70 or fewer points and the one W, 65-61 over Oregon, was before Thanksgiving.

There probably isn’t a single five-man unit Thompson can send on the court with the pure intention of stopping the other team from scoring for two minutes, let alone 40. But put up points and make shots, that can happen. It’s what must happen for Georgetown to participate in the true March Madness.

The Hoyas may have the best set of wings in the conference with L.J. Peak and Rodney Pryor. When that duo and center Jessie Govan score in double figures, Georgetown is 10-1.

Marcus Derrickson provides a 3-ball element from the 4-man spot while Akoy Agau is the energy big man option off the bench. Faster than fast guard Jonathan Mulmore pushes tempo, something the coach arguably doesn’t do enough. Freshman Jagan Mosely might not be a true point guard, but he has 17 assists to just one turnover over his last six games.

That’s the rotation that throttled Marquette last week. Foul trouble aside, that’s the rotation that can give Georgetown hope.

Senior center Bradley Hayes isn’t included. Fine, there are 5-8 minutes here and there for the 7-footer, especially when Govan is winded and the other team lacks size. But Thompson shouldn’t fall in love if Hayes hits a post-up or grabs some rebounds. Govan is the key to unlocking that hope.

The sophomore center’s perimeter game is real. That spread-the-court element helps open driving lanes for Peak, Pryor and Mulmore. If Govan’s shot is falling, Georgetown’s hopes are rising.

In their last three wins, the Hoyas shot at least 53 percent from the field with Govan averaging 19 points on 61 percent shooting. In between they lost twice while shooting 38 and 43 percent overall with Govan scoring a combined 12 points on 12 attempts

They’ve played 26 games. Only five are left in the regular season. While the bracketologists keep suggesting the Hoyas are on the bubble, those that watch can’t say they see a true threat. At least not the kind o threat capable of a cutting-down-the-nets run at Madison Square Garden or taste the sweetness of the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend.

Maybe others around the nation bumble and stumble enough so that a Georgetown team with a strong strength of schedule and no “bad” RPI losses backdoors into the Field of 68.

Screw that. Kick the front door open or at least go down swinging with this team’s strength. That’s the offense.

The coach pitched the idea that we the media can state this team’s identity. Done. No foul tips here.