Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Despite Losses, More Road Ahead in Basketball Season

“O-ver-ra-ted!”

Sorry for rekindling your nightmares from Wednesday evening, but the shock therapy is necessary if Georgetown men’s basketball fans want to survive the next few weeks. Things are so bad right now that even 50-year-old graduates of Old Dominion are finding themselves compelled to write letters to THE HOYA taunting students half their age.

David Jones, Class of 1979, was kind enough to acknowledge in a letter (“Old Dominion Scoffs at GU”, Nov. 21, 2006, A2) that coming “within 13 points of the Monarchs, even in your poor excuse for a high school gym, is quite a feat.” From such an experienced college basketball fan, the consolation is much appreciated.

Of course, few opposing fans were as kind as Mr. Jones. Most took great pleasure in filling McDonough Gymnasium and Verizon Center with chants suggesting that the Hoyas, with losses to Old Dominion and now Oregon, aren’t quite worthy of their No. 8 preseason ranking. With Cameron Indoor Stadium on tap for tomorrow and opponents like Villanova and Pittsburgh on the horizon, more grief may very well be in store for the Hoya faithful.

So what’s wrong with the Hoyas? Just how overrated are they? And how are they supposed to beat No. 10 Duke, which just quashed Old Dominion 89-40, on Saturday? Grieving Georgetowners have had a multitude of reactions, and their complaints encompass all five stages of grief.

Denial: “The Hoyas aren’t actually overrated, and their losses were the result of careless mental mistakes by freshmen.” This is accurate only to an extent. In both games, Georgetown showed a sudden inability to hold onto the ball when threatened in the second half – but the culprits in those cases were predominantly Marc Egerson and Jonathan Wallace, not freshmen. Worse, the Hoyas’ slippery fingers constitute more than a freak occurrence. With 14 turnovers against ODU and 17 against Oregon, they’re looking bad against teams that have their own issues with holding onto the ball.

Anger: “Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert have been nothing short of useless.” In both cases, this is an exaggeration. Missing bunnies and then losing the rebound should never be a serious concern for a 7-foot-2 junior, but prior to Wednesday’s game Hibbert used his size well, even if his dominant dunks and blocks were sometimes interrupted by moments of awkwardness that bury fans’ heads in their hands.

As for Green, he’s played solidly on the road (which is why almost no one is aware of it). Yet Green’s occasional failure to even take shots is not always the result of an impermeable double-team, and there’s no denying that his silence has hurt the Hoyas mightily. Green has had two games that were markedly worse than the rest, and they were versus Old Dominion and Oregon.

“When [Green] is off, more than likely, we will be off,” Coach Thompson said following the loss to ODU. “That doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.”

Bargaining: “The two losses are good for the Hoyas and will serve as a wake-up call.” Are you crazy? First of all, this notion assumes that the “wake-up call” is an actual thing, not just something teams make up to justify one-loss seasons. Second, it forgets that the Hoyas didn’t exactly transform their play after the loss to Old Dominion. If you’re not convinced that Georgetown isn’t the wake-up-call kind of team, take a look at how the Hoyas responded every time they faced second-half pressure this season. Versus Hartford, when the game could have gone either way, they shot for three and missed all three times. Versus ODU, they committed three turnovers and missed two free throws before scoring again. Versus Oregon, Wallace did everything he could, but the Hoyas kept blowing scoring chances and freshman forward DaJuan Summers passed the ball to a cameraman.

Depression: “Our defense sucks, our offense is inconsistent, and our NCAA hopes are in the toilet.” True, true, and false. Georgetown’s defense does seem to be perpetually one step behind; against Oregan, the Hoyas could be seen bumping into each other and creating open chances for the Ducks. The offense, meanwhile, has lost much of its aggression, perhaps out of fear of succumbing to more under-the-rim turnovers. Against ODU, the Hoyas were repeatedly forced to shoot for three with the shot clock expiring.

“We’re tentative, we’re unsure, we’re not sure where we’re going or what we’re doing,” Thompson said after the Oregon game. “We are growing, we are growing and we’re working through it. We are a young team. We have three guys [Green, Hibbert and Wallace] that have experience and everyone else is trying to get a feel for what’s going on.”

Now here’s the acceptance: Georgetown is not one of the top 16 teams in the country. It’s strange to admit it, because 2006-07 is supposed to be the season in which the Hoyas exceed last year’s performance, the season in which they find themselves challenging for an NCAA title.

Since this is my last column of the year, I thought I would flash back to the first one I ever wrote – about Georgetown’s 15-point-back-down-to-earth loss to Boston College in January 2005 – and be able to look back and say, “Look how far we’ve come.”

But as Thompson said, Georgetown is young, and its heavy reliance on young players resembles 2004-05 more than it does 2005-06. Summers and forward Vernon Macklin are like the Green and Hibbert of yesterday. And when the Green and Hibbert of today are both struggling, the impressive play of Jonathan Wallace and the obvious potential of Summers are not enough to carry an entire college basketball team.

Guess what, though? John Thompson III is a good coach. And there are a lot of games left for the Hoyas to learn to make smarter passes, to engage Green and to clean up their switches on defense. The transformation may, regrettably, materialize long after Georgetown plays Duke tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean the Hoyas can’t finish this season with momentum, a top-25 ranking and an NCAA-tournament performance that will turn heads.

Can they still win it all? That talk was, and is, premature. But there’s little doubt that a lot of good can happen to Georgetown men’s basketball next semester. In fact, if Thompson can survive his first small crisis as coach of the Hoyas, you might even find yourself writing about it when you turn 50.

Alex Fumelli is a junior in the College. He can be reached at fumellithehoya.com. This is the last appearance of THE MENDOZA LINE for the 2006-07 academic year.

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