If you’re having trouble understanding the ebbs and flows of this season that’s barely halfway over, you’re hardly alone. Big non-conference wins, cohesive play, sharp shooting and pretty assists have been offset by turnovers, injuries, lousy perimeter defense, transfers, hard hedging, and uneven first half performances. As Georgetown progresses through its January conference schedule, with a number of dog fights on the horizon, it’s difficult for any prognosticator to predict just how well, or poorly, your Hoyas will fare on any given day.
To put a finer point on the high highs and low lows that have been experienced by our self-loathing/celebrating fan base, we took to the streets to find polar opposite takes on the current state of your Georgetown Barking Bulldogs. Without further ado, please welcome Hoya Optimist (HO) and Hoya Pessimist (HP). Away we go….
Q: What are your feelings on the current state of Georgetown basketball?
HO: I’m cautiously optimistic (obviously). Look- no one could have predicted that we would have four transfers before Christmas. As upsetting as that period was, our team has rebounded nicely and Coach Ewing has done a tremendous job of rallying the troops. We play a more cohesive style of basketball, we share the ball a lot more, and the smiles on the players’ faces kind of say it all.
HP: Pretty much ho-hum. Do you want me to thank the Almighty for a relatively easy win over St. John’s? Is that where we’re at as a program? We’re not very good. The transfers were brutal, and even though the remaining players have come together, our lack of depth will kill us during a challenging conference schedule. And what happens when our mediocre season ends and we lose three seniors? Please remind me why I should be excited?
Q: What were your thoughts heading into the St. John’s game?
HO: I was nervous, but feeling pretty ok. Although we’d lost our first two Big East games, one of those losses was without McClung and the other one was on the road against, arguably, the best team in the conference. And we were the only Big East team that had yet to play a home game. So even though this had a “must win” feel, I felt good about our chances. Especially with an extra day of rest to prepare. And, when you think about it, our full roster (with McClung) has only lost one game so far (in Newark). When we’re healthy, we’re competitive against anyone.
HP: I was thinking that we might drop to 0-3 in the conference and that our season might spiral from there. We didn’t just lose to Providence and Seton Hall. We were shellacked in the first half of each game. So I was feeling more terrified than excited.
Q: What did you like about our win against St. John’s?
HO: Did you see the first half? We resembled a Final Four team. We scored 53 points! We had 14 assists on 16 baskets! We just looked, well, really freaking good. Our defense was solid, we looked for the best shots on offense, and we were hungry, motivated, and poised. And that first half wasn’t an anomaly. We played just as well in the first half against SMU and for much of the Oklahoma State game. Our slimmed-down group of guys really does know how to play, and when they gel, it’s really fun to watch.
HP: I like that we didn’t blow a 29 point lead and piss away this game. I don’t have many bad things to say about the first half (and I’ll even admit that we looked as good as we have all season), but we certainly didn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence in the second frame. Yurtseven looked soft, Pickett kept turning the ball over, and Mac missed five free throws. And in case you’ve forgotten, this was a game against St. John’s. And not even a great St. John’s team. A rebuilding one. And probably the worst perimeter shooting team in the conference. “I’m SO happy that we beat this juggernaut team” is not something anyone is saying.
Q: How are you feeling about the Big East this year?
HO: It’s the best conference in America. Look at how well we did during non-conference play. Nine teams in the Top 60 of the NET rankings. Every game will be a dogfight, but we could end up with eight out of ten teams in the Tourney. Suck it, Syracuse, Pitt and BC!
HP: I mean, the conference will be competitive, but is that necessarily a good thing for us? How many elite teams are there? I guess ‘Nova and Seton Hall are good. Is everyone else good too, or is everyone else mediocre?
And I’d like to personally give the middle finger to Providence. By losing so many non-con games (to Charleston, Long Beach State, Florida and even effing Northwestern(!)), the Friars’ NET ranking is lousy. It would be one thing if Providence were a doormat in the conference. But they’re not. They’re 3-0, and with every win, they make it less likely that the Big East will get eight teams in the Dance. Thanks, fellas.
Q: Do you think the transfers have been a blessing or a curse?
HO: After Akinjo and LeBlanc left, we won six games in a row, including two big ones on the road. And we won those games in convincing fashion. Even after Alexander and Gardner left, we beat up on Syracuse and won comfortably against a few teams in late December. When was the last time we won comfortably against anyone? It was refreshing to not have to eke out victories, even if they were against inferior competition.
Our players just seem to play much more like a team. “We” before “me”. They pass the ball much better than before and they genuinely seem happy for one another. I can’t say the same thing about the way our team looked in November. Call me crazy, but I really enjoy rooting for our slimmed-down roster. There weren’t enough minutes to go around for our 11-man rotation. Our 7-man rotation is a little lean, but the extra minutes have given our guys an opportunity to gel and improve.
HP: Seriously? The transfers were not a good thing. Period. We lost the Big East freshman of the year, another former all-conference freshman who was a beast on the glass, a tough-as-nails JuCo, and a JYD-type freshman who played with a chip on his shoulder. You can complain all you want about our 11-man rotation, but we just lost a whole lot of depth and talent. George Muresan is playing meaningful minutes. I repeat: George Muresan is playing meaningful minutes. (And I say this as someone who really LIKES George Muresan and roots like hell for him to succeed.) We have zero depth, zero margin for error, and our guys are bound to get exhausted as the season progresses.
I’m mad that our staff couldn’t level with Akinjo and figure things out. And I’m mad that our staff and the administration didn’t handle the situation with the other three players in a better manner. We’re the only program in the country that inflicts more damage on its own program than even the NCAA does. What kind of future do we have without these guys? We lost a junior, two sophomores, a freshman, and a top high school senior. I just punched myself in the face.
Q: It’s Year Three of the Ewing era. What are your thoughts?
HO: I feel pretty good. Big Pat has been able to get players, and when the team comes together (as it has recently), I really enjoy the brand of basketball he coaches. What’s not to like? Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs, but I think we have a great shot to make the Tourney this year, and after that happens, maybe we’ll continue to win consistently in the next few years and enjoy a bit of a Hoya renaissance.
HP: It’s Year Three of the Ewing era, so we should have a solid foundation and a winning team. I was looking forward to this season (as much as a guy like me can look forward to anything). I thought we could compete with the best of the Big East and win two games in the Tourney.
Instead, we’re pretty much rebuilding after this season. Again. It feels like we’ve been rebuilding for five years. Our players are dropping like flies and we’ve been incredibly inconsistent. I want Patrick to succeed. I really do. But we need to get some new players ASAP and bring the swagger back.
Q: Were you pleased by Georgetown’s successful romp through the non-conference schedule?
HO: Absolutely. Two big road wins and solid victories against Texas and Syracuse. I’m happy. Ewing’s first win against the Orange and it wasn’t even close. And we played well against Duke too. In hindsight, the Penn State loss doesn’t look all that bad because, well, Penn State is good. They are a sure-fire Tournament team.
HP: Not really. Sure, it was surprising that we won six in a row. But do you remember that we got smoked by Penn State at home? Or that we dropped one to UNC Freaking Greensboro? And as much as it was nice to roll through mid-December with a bunch of wins, who did we really beat? Ready for a casual deep dive, fella?
Oklahoma State lost to Wichita State by 19, lost to Minnesota by 20, and lost to Texas Tech by 35. SMU is kind of meh, a bubble team at best. And Syracuse? This might legitimately be the worst ‘Cuse team in the entire Boeheim era. They’ll probably have a losing record. They’re not good. None of these teams are. Texas? Please. Blown out by Providence.
Q: What is the ceiling for this year’s Hoyas?
HO: I can’t help thinking about the 2012-13 Hoyas. I really can’t! Think about it. During that season, we lost a key player from our roster (Gregg Whittington), we beat Texas at the Garden, we cruised past American in our last tune-up before Big East play, we lost our first two conference games (at Marquette, home v. Pitt), and then turned our season around after thumping St. John’s in our third conference game. It’s all coming together!
But wait, there’s more. Depth was also an issue on that team. We only played eight guys, so we got into trouble from time to time with fouls. And think about how the players on that team compare to the remaining players on this year’s team:
An alpha do-everything sophomore (Otto Porter, Mac McClung); a tough-nosed defensive player who can help in the backcourt and occasionally knock down threes (Jabril Trawick, Jagan Mosely); a Nigerian prince off the bench who rebounds and defends well in the post (Moses Ayegba, Qudus Wahab); a sharp-shooting off-guard who comes off the bench and can hit threes in a hurry (D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (as a freshman), Jahvon Blair); a heady point guard who passes and defends well, but can create his own shot when necessary (Markel Starks, Terrell Allen).
Instead of Lubick and Comrade Hopkins (both solid defenders, but not all that polished offensively), we have Omer Yurtseven (perhaps not as good defensively, but highly skilled and a double-double machine). The 2012-13 team also had Aaron Bowen as the eighth man X factor, and we no longer have a guy like that. But we do have Jamorko Pickett! And he defends, he rebounds, and he hits threes!
It’s pretty close, right?! We have at least five above average defenders and a number of solid shooters. If we just concentrate on defense and share the basketball, can’t we be just as good and win the Big East?
HP: We might get nine or ten wins in the conference and sneak into the Tourney. But screw the ceiling, let’s talk about the floor. We might not win more than four or five games in the conference. Who are we beating? DePaul is pretty decent this year. So yeah, we could finish ninth or tenth in the league, but people will still somehow praise Ewing for keeping the team together after all of the defections. I hate myself.
And I’m sorry, did this dude just compare this year’s team to the 2012-13 squad? Mac McClung is not Otto Porter. Mac McClung hardly plays any defense. And are we seriously comparing Blair to DSR? For realz? DSR was one of the all-time leading scorers. I could go on, but I won’t, because it’s just silliness.
Q: Wasn’t it great to see Big John watching the game at the arena again?
HO: No doubt. Love that guy.
HP: No doubt. Love that guy.
Q. Predictions for the next game (at Villanova on Saturday)?
HO: Shock the world. Win a squeaker on a three by Pickett after my guy Jiggy takes a charge.
HP: Lose by 25. See you in hell.