Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Thoughts on Georgetown-Notre Dame

I wonder if this year's Hoya team is going to have to settle for a lot of these "Fought-hard-played-well-but-came-up-short" games this year. The Tennessee loss qualifies. The Pitt loss does not. And this latest absolutely does.

The fact that they were still within a couple of three-pointers in the final minute Monday night is a testament to (a) a soft Notre Dame defense that's going to let a lot of teams that aren't as good as Georgetown hang around longer than they should and (b) that poise and composure we've talked about before -- the calm that has become the trademark of the JTIII teams.

Georgetown didn't play badly in this game -- they just didn't hit enough shots. Chris Wright and Jessie Sapp are in brutal shooting slumps right now, Summers got in early foul trouble and there's nobody coming off the bench who can make up for that lack of production. Add that to the schedule, which is a bone saw, and you're going to lose some games. I just hope they can take out their frustrations on Providence before next week, which is Syracuse and Duke.

Scattered notes from Big Monday:

-I see no reason to believe Luke Harangody isn't still the best player in the league. The show he put on in the first half, before his own foul trouble, was simply astounding. He's a beast under the basket, as we all know, but the incredible thing about him is he can score from almost anywhere. He has the hook, the fadeaway. He has that look in his eye like he wants to take over the game and knows he can. He hits every free throw. He reminds me of Christian Laettner, only stronger and physically tougher. If his guys on the perimeter are hitting their threes, it's going to be impossible for anybody to stop this guy. St. John's beat Notre Dame on Saturday, but they didn't stop Harangody. They let him do his thing and stopped everybody else. Sounds like a decent game plan.

-Neither one of these teams can rebound, but it's a particularly glaring problem right now for the Hoyas. Their defense is consistently excellent, in transition and in the half court. They hassle every shot, every pass. They're a nightmare to play against. But getting a stop on defense doesn't help if the other team just gets the rebound and puts the ball right back up and in. I don't know where the rebounding is going to come from. Monroe has tons of game on both ends of the court, but he's not strong enough right now to bang around with the Harangodys and DeJuan Blairs of the world. Chris Wright may be the second-best rebounder on the team right now, and he's a guard. Summers is obviously an offensive player. I have a feeling this is going to be a weakness that just doesn't get solved.

-The issue of Georgetown's depth is a real one, and it's a problem of rhythm. The Hoyas' offense is based entirely on pace, rhythm and patience. The starting five runs it beautifully. Omar Wattad can look very good in it too. But beyond that, everybody who comes off the bench looks a tick tentative, and that's death for an offense that relies on pace and rhythm. You can see the difference when the starting five is on the floor, moving the ball around, running the cuts and screens, and when Vaughn or Clark or Sims is in there and it just moves a notch or two slower. Of course, it might all look better if some of those outside shots were falling.

-Jay Bilas has developed the thing I hated most about Billy Packer -- an obsession with talking about the officials, and in particular calls that are not made. You can sit there through any basketball game and talk about missed calls. The pace of the game makes that a fact of life. But it's not good TV. At the end of the day, missed calls DON'T MATTER. And if you keep talking about them all game, it's going to take away from the action on the court, of which there is plenty and for which people are actually tuning in. Bilas is outstanding when he talks basketball. He should stick to that.

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