Saturday, February 21, 2009

Marquette 78, Georgetown 72, or "A Long Day's Journey to the NIT Bubble"

I mean, it may well be that Pablo Picasso was a fantastic dart thrower -- a champion dart thrower. And it may be that, as such, Pablo Picasso loved to show off his dart-throwing abilities. It may be that, any chance he got, Picasso would get up from his easel, head down to the local pub and challenge everybody in sight to games of cricket, or 501. That for days at a time, he would forget all about painting and just throw darts.


If that were the case, then there was probably somebody in Pablo Picasso's life who could get in the dude's ear and shout, "Okay! We get it! You're good at darts! But for God's sake, man! You're Picasso! Freaking PAINT already!"

Greg Monroe is an ultra-talented 6-foot-10 center for whom the Marquette Golden Eagles had no answer today. If the Georgetown Hoyas had wanted to, and if Monroe had been up for it, they could have run the entire second-half offense through him and won this game. He wasn't in foul trouble, the defense was working, and there were plenty of half-court sets, even some transition opportunities, that called for Monroe to forcefully take the ball to the basket and score.

But that doesn't work when all the guy wants to do is pass. It doesn't work when the offense works to get the big man the ball inside only to watch him dish it off at the last minute when the right play would be to shoot a hook shot, or even dunk the ball and scream the roof off the place like a real, monster big man does.

It doesn't work when there's nobody to get in Greg Monroe's ear and shout, "Okay! We get it! You're a great passer! But for God's sake, man! You're 6-foot-10! Freaking SCORE already!"

But this is just part of it, of course. There is so much else wrong. I have yet, for instance, to identify the problem for which Nikita Meschariakov is the answer. The offense seemed to work pretty beautifully for the final 17 minutes of the first half, while he sat stapled to the bench with three fouls. Near as I can figure, he's made about one shot since JTII dropped him into the starting lineup. And if he can't shoot, it's basically like playing with four.

Meschariakov's defensive breakdown with 48 seconds left in the game is the kind of thing that keeps you home in March. The team, down four in the final minute, plays stellar defense for 33 seconds. And then, with the shot clock gasping for air, you fall asleep and let your man get loose on the baseline for an easy layup that seals the game. Freaking brutal. And of course, not the only time today that it happened to someone in a Hoya uniform. The open three that tied the game for Marquette at the end of the first half was such a breakdown, and the past month is littered with them. When Selection Sunday comes and goes without "Georgetown" on one of those little bracket lines, it's going to be because they played the entire month of February without being able to make a single big defensive stop. On anybody.

And then there are the threes. I swear, at this point, the scouting report on Georgetown must say something like, "Let them make a boatload of threes in the first half, because then they'll think they're good at it, and they'll keep shooting them even when it doesn't make any sense, and they won't make a single one in the second half when all they really have to do is run their real offense and their pressure defense and they'd beat us by eight, and we'll win."

I still believe this guy is a good coach, but he's not coaching this team very well. Everybody's allowed a bad year, and JTIII is smack in the middle of his first bad year as Georgetown's coach. This particular group, for whatever reason, isn't buying into the offense or the defense the way his past teams have. This particular group doesn't maintain focus for 40 minutes, doesn't trust its plan, and as a result it loses. Pretty much every game.

The opinion of the ESPN halftime crew seemed to be that the Hoyas would have to finish at least 3-2 to have a shot at the NCAAs. Doug Gottlieb's point is that it's a weak bubble this year, and the Hoyas have a brutal schedule and a strong RPI. But now they have to go 3-1, which means either beating Louisville at home on Monday or winning at Villanova next Saturday. Not likely.

And if they do just miss, and they look back on the games that were winnable -- that they should have won -- they'll remember Seton Hall and West Virginia and Cincinnati (twice!), and they'll remember today's game, too. Because Marquette is good, and worthy of its record and standing in the conference. But this game was winnable, and once again, they didn't win it.

No comments:

Post a Comment