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Film Room: Lineups, Defense (?) and an Alarming Loss.

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Utah v Georgetown Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

We can cut right to it: given what we’ve seen on the floor through 10 games, there’s nothing left to support the decision to start Trey Mourning and continue to bring Josh LeBlanc off the bench. I would not doubt what Mourning provides as a leader and teammate and we do not see what occurs in practice. We also don’t know how much more you can extend LeBlanc as a freshman who plays all out and is just a year removed from injury - but it’s about time to find out.

With LeBlanc on the floor this team has functioned as if it’s a fringe NCAA Tournament team. What’s more, is when you cut the fat and only take the games against the better competition to date - the 5 teams within KenPom’s Top 110. (Illinois, LMU, Liberty, Syracuse & SMU), it’s a pretty staggering result:

Meanwhile, Mourning is posting the worst point per possession differential on the roster:

The combination of Govan and LeBlanc is the best two-man combination on the Hoyas roster that have played together for more than 200 possessions. The Govan/Mourning pair is the worst combination you can find on the roster.

The Govan/LeBlanc pair is *only* totaling 33% of available minutes. It’s just not enough and can’t remain to be the case.

If there’s more reason to make the switch and not worry about how you re-adjust the rotation - it’s that a lineup with Mourning/LeBlanc paired in an effort to give Govan rest has held its head above water. It hasn’t generated any offense but it isn’t giving anything up either.

A demotion does not land Trey without a role. He can be a backup 5 man and spell Govan, either for 5-10 minutes of rest or in the case of foul trouble. However, if Ewing continues to pair him with Govan, it will become increasingly difficult to justify that decision. What to do with the leftover minutes at the 4 spot? I say give them to Kaleb Johnson who looked competent vs SMU or if needed even downsize more and see if one of the wings can steal time at that spot.

What occurred vs SMU was not only lineup based, it was systemic and a failure of scheme and discipline. The offense in the half court can get bit a stagnant and results in selfish attempts from a few guys - most notably the freshman guards - but for now you live with that and iron things out as they go along. Akinjo currently has tunnel vision on ball-screen progressions, McClung bites off more than he can chew but the upside and ability is evident. They can make plays and hopefully in time, make them more consistently for others. The freedom that Ewing is providing is encouraging as well. Playing with pace is something we’ve longed for and it will help attract talent.

What can not be found acceptable to date is the defense. It’s hard to find any connectivity, any communication and the game-plan can be head-scratching, at least it was on Saturay. It’s my belief that LeBlanc (and even Pickett being given a longer leash) can shore up some problems that exist. But for what feels like an annual tradition since the 2015 season ended, there is no presence on the backline and little attentiveness given on the perimeter. Georgetown currently ranks 334th in transition defense (2nd to last among high-majors) and 263rd in guarding ball screens via Synergy Sports. As the game has evolved - two focal points - pace and ball screens are at the forefront and Georgetown is failing miserably at defending it.

Ewing has elected this season to often hedge with Govan on ball-screens. It is becoming worth asking if that is the way to go about minimizing Govan’s deficiencies. Govan’s lack of foot-speed and ability to play angles correctly was on full display vs SMU.

Here he hedges and just doesn’t have the speed to recover to cut off a drive:

In my opinion, early on it was a failure by the staff - Jimmy Whitt has made 14-49 career three pointers in three seasons and yet here they are hedging out on him - and it’s not as if SMU has a traditional plodding 5 man - Chargois goes and makes a play versus a defense that has wilted with one false-move:

Again, here - Govan is put in a position where he just can’t turn and recover. That’s on him, but if you simply are dropping him on this coverage, you may be better off:

Here Govan does drop vs Whitt, but an over-help by Mourning followed by a lack of effort by Govan with no urgency to closeout results in a 3:

Even when Govan was in position to just be solid - he totally whiffs:

It wasn’t just him. Far from it. They drop again with Mourning vs Whitt and Akinjo freelances - on ball he shows very good promise - but he gambles and is coming up empty handed far too often for it to continue. This is discipline and what has to be washed away:

They drop again to start the 2nd half (good) but the positioning and angle Govan finds himself in is simply bizarre. At this point SMU knows exactly what they can pick on.

Here’s a play and set from SMU which would be ideal to switch - Georgetown has a roster that simply doesn’t lend itself to being able to do that. But given what you have to work with, the execution, effort and discipline to help and recover can not waver. Another bizarre positioning Govan falls into:

Later in the 2nd half, they inexplicably go back to hedging out on Whitt and LeBlanc gets caught in no-man’s land with no idea on whether to switch with Govan or not:

They hedge on Whitt minutes later and SMU slips it and it turns into a wide open three. At this point it’s maddening to see that choice of coverage:

Govan jumps on a hedge early and puts himself out of position - LeBlanc cleans up the misstep on the back-end:

Another hedge here on Whitt which leaves the defense scrambling and predictably Govan can’t close out correctly:

The nail in the coffin and perhaps most representative of not having an answer Saturday is Govan dropping, and just simply not being quick enough to recover. He had no chance and a coaching staff sniffed it out and worked him over and over again:

The Georgetown staff seemed to not be able to decide on what coverage they wanted to employ and in the end it amounted to a woeful defensive performance. At some point it should have been asked if going fully small - no Govan, no Mourning - could have provided an answer. Zone, by the way, is not to this point an option. The possessions they attempted to play were...well, it didn’t go well:

I do believe an adequate defense exists within this roster. Jamorko Pickett is an important piece, his length and ability to occupy space shouldn’t be overlooked. Paired with LeBlanc at forward, that’s a centerpiece of a defense that can compete:

The quartet I’d eventually like to see Ewing get to and become the core centers around those two and Akinjo and Govan.

Despite his flaws defensively, the offense can’t tread water without Govan. And while it may have been worth a look to go super-small vs SMU, you do for the most part have to lean on him. You have to do your best to limit what he’ll give up - and surrounding him with the best pair of athletes who provide plus length would be a route worth looking at. It is worth asking if you’re simply stuck with a very good offensive player who can’t function defensively in 2018. Perhaps it just is what it is - try to outscore people this year and hope a kid like Malcom Wilson or Timothy Ighoefe fulfills their promise in the future. But Ewing will be faced with the same questions next season as Omer Yurteseven will provide the same challenge. The rest of the defense isn’t as drilled and locked in as it needs to be to cover for a weak link. There are currently many weak links, some just more damaging than others.

Last Saturday vs Syracuse was a valiant effort on the road against a team that was beatable but still owned a talent and experience advantage. Saturday vs SMU was a loss that that dug deep into the issues that this team faces heading into Big East play, some of which have lingered for years despite the head coach. The connectivity, the care for doing the little things, giving maximum effort defensively and the correct mix of players being guided in the right direction all appear to be up in the air after this one. (Lineup info is all available via HoopLens)