Monday, January 26, 2009

Bloody Sunday

There's a special, sad kind of heartbreak whenever you come to realize that something you thought was true is not and never was. There is no Santa Claus. Fat-free ice cream is, in fact, fattening. And the 2008-09 Georgetown Hoyas are not that good a basketball team.

Oh, they had us fooled, kicking around the top 10 for a few weeks, going up to UConn and winning the conference opener, whipping Syracuse at all looked good. We saw the best of Georgetown, and it looked good enough to beat anybody.

But over the past week, we have seen the worst of the Hoyas, and the problems are very real. You do not lose at home to West Virginia by 17 points if you're a conference title contender. And you most certainly do not lose, anywhere, by any number of points, to Seton Hall. No matter how much PJ Carlesimo nostalgia is going on in the building.

Until yesterday, the only loss by a Top Nine Big East team to a Bottom Seven one this year was Notre Dame's Jan. 3 loss at St. John's. Now, there is finally a second -- this inexplicable, lackluster loss by Georgetown at Seton Hall. They shot terribly, defended terribly, rebounded terribly (of course) and deserved to lose to one of the worst teams in the league.

It was freaking depressing, and the main reason is that it points up so many alarming problems. As I wrote a few days ago, people have said the problem with the Hoyas is depth, meaning lack of good bench play. But I think there's a depth problem in the starting five. Jessie Sapp is just not having any kind of useful season. Chris Wright has settled into mediocrity after a brilliant start. Greg Monroe is incredible, but teams can lock down on him now because they know the guards aren't good enough to beat them. And when Summers has a bad game and can't score (as has happened in each of the past two), the whole team looks lost. They get out of their tight, disciplined offense. They stop looking for the good shot and they start shooting the three, which right now they can't hit.

This doesn't look like a John Thompson III team right now, and it's a shame, because it sure did a few weeks ago. Right now it's tied for ninth place with Notre Dame and Cincinnati. Right now it's failing to take advantage of the easing out of the schedule. Right now, rather than ripping the bench, you want to see more of Clark and Vaughn and Henry Sims, because when they come in at least you feel a change in the energy level.

Again, it's not even February yet. Maybe they go off and win the rest of their games. Maybe they go into Marquette this weekend and do something incredible. Maybe Sapp gets hot, Summers wakes up and it all starts clicking again. At some point this season, that's likely to happen. The question is for how long, and whether the real Hoyas are closer to the team that won at UConn or the one that lost at Seton Hall.

Right now, it's tough not to think it's the latter.

Elsewhere, yada, yada, yada...Louisville wins at Syracuse, continuing to look like the best team in the league, and Pitt wins at West Virginia. Right now, rather than a "Power Nine," there appears to be a "Power Four" atop the Big East. Pitt, Louisville, UConn and Marquette look to be a notch above the rest. (And that could easily be a Power Three if Marquette doesn't handle the toughening of its own schedule in the coming weeks.) Syracuse is good but not as good as those four. Notre Dame, same thing. Villanova, Georgetown...please. West Virgina? Well, you think they can hang with that crew, but then they go out and lose at home to Pitt, so then you think maybe they can't.

Is it possible this conference isn't as deep as we all thought?

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