How John Thompson III Failed His Team

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Where do you start? We know what transpired over the last 9 months. A promise of a fresh start - a new coaching staff, a faster style of play. A promise to defend again. None of it has materialized - if you’d like to say the team is playing faster sure - it’s just expedited horrible, outdated offense.

I keep seeing fans say ‘hey, the offense isn’t that’s the defense.’ I wholeheartedly disagree because the offense is an approach rooted in one man’s philosophy that has become archaic. As of the DePaul debacle, Georgetown ranks 84th in the country in offense - the worst mark of the III era. Yes, it’s true that it would only rank as the 6th worst offense under III if you go by KenPom’s efficiency rating - problem is the rest of the country is scoring more and you’re not keeping up.

Rule changes and the emphasis on officiating have favored the ball-handler - and you simply do not utilize it. There is little dribble penetration and to put the defense on their heels.

The game has changed. So few teams play aggressive man to man defense anymore. (Brad Underwood and Ok State killed us with it this year - but come mid-season he had to totally alter his defense because it couldn’t work in the Big XII against good ball handling teams. He was one of the few that employed aggressive ball denial D - btw, an example of what a good coach can do in Year 1 -- Far more teams these days play a sagging man to man/packline defense. Not ideal of a team looking at back-cuts as a primary option. Taking away these cuts has become the easiest thing for a modern college defense to do. There are few teams left that play a traditional 4 and 5 man - there are not the lumbering bigs to pull away from the paint (except for your own team, go figure).

You need kids who can dribble and pass the ball to make this work, and also have a sense of when and where on the basketball court. Perhaps this is a systemic issue in basketball - how many true motion or pattern offenses are run in HS or AAU at this point? Again, the game has changed. Kids are best with the ball in their hands and putting it on the floor. It also is a recruiting flaw as JTIII has not recruited anyone who is an above average passer in quite some time (Paul White the exception)

What makes this season so aggravating were the staff hires - Anthony Solomon gave real hope for change. The lead assistant from one of the best offensive teams in the country that has moved seamlessly into a new era at Notre Dame with how well they spread the floor.

The hope was also that you had two All-Big East caliber wings in Pryor and Peak. And what do you do? Run an offense that should be the last thing to run for a team centered around your wings. Yes, they have take by far the most shots on the team but it is the manner in which they get those shots that’s the issue. We don't run anything off the baseline for Rodney (watch Baylor sometime and watch what they run down there for Lecomte). No floppy sets (which anyone with the semblance of talented perimeter players runs in 2017 - watch a Duke game sometime and see what they run for Kennard/Allen). Hell, used to be willing to run DSR off of Iverson cuts now these two don't get that bone thrown their way? It's either 4 out and post a big or send the big to the elbow and start the outdated back cutting. I had to laugh Sunday when this offense sent us into a two man game with Jessie/Akoy (turnover) and only a few possession later got us into a Jessie/Kaleb exchange (again, turnover).

Going back to the very start of the season it did appear Solomon had a say - and while portions of the Princeton offense were clearly still visible - you did see a much more spread floor at times with a hint of more ball screens. Go watch the Maryland game and you can see glimpses what we may be heading towards:


In comparison, doesn't something like this just seem insane? Your plodding 7ft as a trigger who the defender can play off of to take anything inside away.


What has happened since III has had his back against the wall? He has doubled down on what he knows. Which begs the question - how much practice time in the fall and even dating to summer workouts was done to install new things only to revert mid-season? He did not have the confidence nor ability to teach something new and went back selfishly to his own way. Everyone once in a while we'll run a little wheel/circle action to get LJ downhill and that's it. Pryor does not have plays run for him and we just sort through the same pattern over and over. Anthony Solomon has to wonder what he was brought in for. It wasn’t going to be an easy or quick process but as a fan-base, I think it’s safe to say we would have been okay to see a process through. Not see what we’ve seen for years with worse results than ever before. Doesn't it say a lot about his own offense when what he draws up at the end of the game last night is a simple pick and pop with LJ and Govan? Why not make it a simple game for the other 39 minutes? And as far as Tremont Waters? Does anyone have a good reason as to why he should not try to back out of his LOI? If he was strictly making a basketball decision, it’s already showing to be a poor one. Of course, you hope he made the decision because of DC, the campus and the degree- but let’s be real. He’s a kid who wants to make the NBA and be utilized in such a manner to fast track him there. And why should he trust JTIII now?

For the defense - there again are a lot of questions. Why spend all the time on the press to ditch it by the time conference play rolled around. Again, what a waste of time and resources. Isn’t there a chance to see something grow and evolve throughout the course of the season? Could it have improved? Maybe, maybe not but we never we’re given the chance to find out.

This team still does not understand that their help is in the middle of the floor while continuing to let teams roam free along the baseline. Closeouts on shooters are lazy. Communication is non-existent. A proper zone (traditional or match-up) has not been successfully coached since 2013. Akoy Agau is the only big man on the roster with a hint of defensive awareness. The perimeter defenders still can not keep their hands off opponents and the defensive foul rate will again finish well into the 200’s nationally. Lately, we've decided to switch everything - which would be cool know, you actually had a PF who could move - let alone a center. Why not just go under screens against mediocre 3pt shooting that DePaul had instead of putting slow footed bigs on an island? Is this team that discombobulated that they can't ID who is who and switch accordingly? Which perhaps hit on a bigger point with III - he can never game plan and point to specifics. The offense has to be done one way, it has to be a pattern. The defense can't be nuanced, it has to be one way.

None of this touches on a cultural issue. That of playing hard, working hard and communicating. It doesn't touch on what does/or doesn't happen in the weight room. IF this program excelled in those aspects, perhaps it could overcome poor game-planning and a system better left in the last decade. But there's reason to believe that the culture could almost be worse. Or the recruiting that has generally come up empty.

In the end - on the floor - I do find myself having more trouble with the offense. Defense can always flip with the right collection of athletes. The offense is entrenched in an outdated philosophy which the head coach has been tied to since a player in the late 1980’s. Unfortunately, that is not nearly as frightening as having a program tied to a family.

Stay Casual, my friends.