Republishing 1/31/15 Are Hoyas Prominent or Less Prominent? The ProminentPlay Scenario Still in Play!

The ProminentPlay Scenario Still in Play!

(Republished from 1/13/15)

Here are three scenarios I envision for the Hoyas down the stretch leading to the Big East tournament, starting with the best case scenario:

The ProminentPlay Scenario: While this analysis is more intuitive than stat-driven, the reasoning for each scenario is based on my several hours of watching the team play throughout the season and analyzing each player’s growth, team chemistry and trends. This ProminentPlay Scenario predicts that the Hoyas, in this best case scenario, will go 7-2 in its final 9 games to finish 21-8, 13-5 in the Big East, finish in the Top 25 (between 20 and 25) and have momentum going into the post-season tourney. The Hoyas have an opportunity to win the Big East regular season outright or share with other team/s depending on other teams’ finishes. This scenario predicts that the 2 losses will come on the road, at 2 of the following 3: Villanova, St. John’s or Seton Hall, most likely in Philly and in Newark. This scenario also assumes that the Xavier loss has shaken the team to the extent that they know they cannot lose games at Creighton, against DePaul and they need to resurrect the energy and confidence shown in the DePaul, Butler, Marquette and Villanova games. This scenario also assumes the Hoyas had the talent to beat Wisconsin and Kansas, but they were not ready early in the season to take those powers down. The upperclass leadership and freshmen will gel at the right time and scoring will be abundant rather than like pulling teeth and that the team will shoot over 48% from field goal range, 34% from the arc and 70% at the line, while minimizing turnovers and sharing the ball well, i.e. plenty of assists. They will also need to play “Gene Smith style” Lockdown defense, Josh Smith and Mikael Hopkins need to own the boards and the freshmen will play with the confidence and talent of experienced sophomores. 35% chance

The LessProminent Scenario: The Less ProminentPlay Scenario predicts that the Hoyas may have some trouble regrouping after the ugly loss to Xavier. While the team will beat Creighton tomorrow because if it doesn’t, the season may be doomed, in this LessProminent Scenario, will go 6-3-in its final 9 games to finish 20-9, 12-6 in the Big East, perhaps finish in the Top 25 (close to 25) and have a bit less momentum going into the post-season tourney. This scenario also provides the Hoyas with an opportunity to share in the Big East regular season title although this suggests that #7 Villanova will likely take that prize. This scenario predicts that 2 or 3 losses will come on the road, at Villanova, Butler, or Seton Hall, and if the Hoyas win one of those on the road, it may drop another home game to Providence or The Hall. While the Hoyas may struggle some, it has enough talent to pull through a tough conference schedule with half of its remaining games on the road. The Hoyas have not been a good road team and now is the time to correct course. Under ProminentPlay and LessProminentScenario alike, the Hoyas can play with the best teams in the land but will need to find some consistency to carry into the post season. 45% chance

The “We’dBetterRecaptureProminence” at the Big East Tournament Scenario: This scenario, at a 20% chance, has the Hoyas struggling to hit their stride down the stretch. They will lose 3 or 4 on the road or 3 on the road and one at home to finish 5-4 in the last 9, 19-10 and 11-7 in conference. Unranked, their post-season status will rely much more on what they accomplish in the Big East tourney, where they will need to reach the semis to prove their mettle.

Georgetown holds its future in its hands. With seniors on the way out, Smith, Hopkins, Trawick and Bowen, this group has something to prove. At the same time, the freshmen seem very eager to make an early mark. I think the key to which Scenario plays out is the extent to which these two groups combine to reach that common goal, whatever it may be:

1. A Big East title, regular season or otherwise;

2. An NCAA berth; and if 2,

3. How far could this team go. One game at a time, we shall see which Scenario materializes and the best way to approach it, as always, is one game at a time.

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Hoyas vs. St. John’s at MSG 2/28/15: Not Just Another Game, It’s a Harbinger

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Skate, or Wait?

For the 18-8 Hoyas, it’s the antepenultimate game of the regular season. It’s a rematch against the 19-8 St. John’s Red Storm at the World’s Most Famous Arena. While some fans may lull themselves into believing this game isn’t huge for the Hoyas, I beg to differ.  In my opinion, this game will be a showcase of what to expect from the post-season Hoyas, in the BIG EAST tournament and beyond.  The difference between a win and a loss is the difference between a team that believes that it can create some magic in the post-season and a team that will be satisfied with less, perhaps a decent showing in the BET and a first round win in The Big Dance.

Why Do I Believe This?

I.  This harkens back to my columns over the past few weeks–is this Georgetown Team a “Prominent” Team or a “LessProminent” One?  The Team holds fate in its hands.  A win at the Garden, a home away from home for the Georgetown Hoyas where so much BIG EAST history has been written, would give the Hoyas a 19-8 record on the season, the #2 ranking in the conference (pending Butler’s next game), and a return visit to the Top 25.  A loss, by contrast, hands the Johnnies a 20-win season (20-8) and may ensure the Red Storm an NCAA tournament berth (barring any subsequent breakdown) while adding pressure to the Hoyas to finish its season with a win at Butler then a home victory against Seton Hall on Senior Day next weekend to achieve a 20-win season, which must be one of the goals this team has set for itself.

II.  This is the time for a team to build upon its confidence coming off of wins on the road at Seton Hall, home against St. John’s, and a rather shaky finish in a win at home against DePaul, a perennial bottom dweller in the conference.  This is the time to shake off any cobwebs, set aside the blowouts (really only two, Villanova and Xavier on the road), and focus on the positive and what must be done–tomorrow, and game by game–to keep improving as a team.  This won’t be an easy task against St. John’s, who has dreams and goals of its own after several years of suffering and missing the NCAA tourney.  (Hoya fans, let’s not forget our reward last season was a trip to the NIT).

III.  It’s February 28th and no more excuses can be made, such as “we haven’t figured out our best combination” and after two months of playing in the conference, with at least one game against every team, the Hoyas know what it takes to win, as well as what will cause a loss.  Having dominated the Johnnies at home on 2/17, we also know that does not ensure a similar result on the road (e.g., Villanova).  So, at this point in the season, these are the contests that separate the Contenders from the Pretenders, and the Best in Show from the Just Don’t Know.

It’s Been (Such a Short Time) Since Last We Met:  Eleven days ago in DC at the Phone Booth (2/17) when the Hoyas prevailed, 79-57.  Hoyas’ Balanced Scoring and Teamwork:  In its first contest, six Hoyas scored in double figures, including Mikael Hopkins off the bench, who shot a perfect 5-5 from the field, 2 for 4 at the line, with 8 boards and 3 steals in 20 minutes. Freshman Sir’Isaac Copeland (If the Johnnies have a “Sir”, the Hoyas must too!) scored 12 points to lead a balanced Georgetown offense. Josh Smith, L.J. Peak and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (DSR) each scored 12, and Jabril Trawick added 11. The Hoyas had only 9 turnovers and a total of 15 assists, 7 steals and 7 assists while dominating the boards, 46-31. Copeland had 9 rebounds (along with 3 blocks), DSR had 10 and Hopkins, 8. Freshman Paul White contributed 6 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 15 minutes of play.  Phil Greene IV led the Red Storm (17-9, 6-7) with 18 points and Sir’Dominic Pointer added 16.

The Johnnies’ Freefall:  Then #17 in the nation St. John’s started to self-destruct on December 31st, losing to Seton Hall then going 3-6 early in conference play.  Since then the Johnnies have sputtered along, overall now 8-7 in the BIG EAST with its last loss coming to the Hoyas on February 17th.   Over its last 8 games, the Red Storm have regained momentum, are 6-2, having lost to Georgetown and at Butler, 85-62.  The Johnnies hung around with #5 Duke for much of its game on January 25th, finally succumbing, 77-68.

Not sure what this means, but …

Thirty Years Ago Yesterday (2/27/85):  The infamous Sweater Game in which the #2 Georgetown Hoyas met the #1 St. John’s Redmen at the Garden.  Two future Hall of Fame coaches in the initial decade of what would become a legendary conference met in what has become one of the most celebrated games in college basketball history. Televised nationally on the then 6-year old ESPN network, a game and season with a rich history and background too lengthy for the scope of this blog entry, it may be enough to say that tickets for a game of the #1 vs #2 team in the nation, in the same conference late in the season, listed at $12.50 were being scalped for $300 apiece.  In 1985.

At the end of the day on 2/27/85 the Hoyas topped #1 St. John’s, 85-69, with conference legends and college and future NBA superstars, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin, among others, going head to head.  Ewing was 10-13 from the floor and dominated inside: 20 points, nine rebounds, six blocks. Sophomore Reggie Williams scored a then career-high 25 points on 9-13 from the field and 7-8 from the line. Mullin was held to 21 points on 8-16 shooting and was no match defensively for Williams. David Wingate added 12 for the Hoyas.  Walter Berry had 15 for the Redmen.  In pre-game warmups, Carnesecca came out wearing his “lucky” sweater that he had worn for consecutive games as his team rolled through that season. As the crowd rose to see Carnesecca meet Thompson, Coach Thompson opened his coat to show a $9 t-shirt replica of the same sweater. The packed arena roared with laughter. As Coach Thompson stated, “With all the talk about the sweater, I thought I’d better get one, too,” said Thompson. “If the sweater can carry us to victory, I wanted one.”

While history of this magnitude may not be created tomorrow, both teams have something tangible to play for in each team’s quest to return to greatness.  

NB:  They are no longer the Redmen.  Dan Snyder, take note–it can be accomplished.

 

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Miscellany:  The series with St. John’s is the longest in program history. While the Hoyas trail 54-48, they have won seven of the last eight games.

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Hoyas #26 in the AP and Coaches Polls

As predicted earlier this morning … not yet back in the Top 25 in those 2 polls.  Are ranked in Top 25 in other polls and #20 in RPI.

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Hoyas Sweep Season Series in Scrappy Game with Desperate DePaul, 68-63, on Stormy Saturday Night in DC

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The Prominent NewsThe Hoyas secured the victory and made it three consecutive victories before they hit the road for rematches with St. John’s and Butler.  The Hoyas gutted this one out, as the outcome was in doubt, especially late in the second half, when the game was won at the free throw line.  The Hoyas, now 18-8 overall, 10-5 in the BIG EAST, second place in the BIG EAST behind rival Villanova, secured a first round bye in the BET in New York in March, where all bets are off now for who will secure the conference tournament crown.

The LessProminent NewsThe Hoyas struggled mightily to secure this win against one of the bottom feeders in the BIG EAST.  The consistency and strong play of the past two games was not evident, and whether it was the unusual Saturday night (8pm start), the battle instincts of a team, DePaul, who is simply trying to save face at this point in the season as it cannot seem to catch a break, or whether the Hoyas were careless on defense and sloppy on offense, this was not a game made for the “Fan Experience”.  Most fans were on edge throughout much of the game as Georgetown could not seem to build upon any lead and allowed DePaul to stay around the entire game, always too close for comfort.

The Game While it wasn’t pretty, it was a win.  Sloppiness was written all over it in the first half.  The Hoyas led by three points at the half and used a 7-3 spurt over the opening few minutes of the second half to push the lead to double digits, 40-30, on a jumper from DSR.  A layup and free throw from Smith at the 15:29 mark gave the Hoyas a 43-32 lead. DePaul responded with seven unanswered points and cut the lead to 43-39 on a layup from Aaron Simpson at the 14 minute mark.  The Hoyas twice took an eight-point lead, first on a Copeland layup and then on a dunk from senior forward Aaron Bowen. DePaul then went on a 10-5 run to pull within two points, 54-52, after a 3-pointer from reserve Forrest Robinson with 6:27 remaining. Robinson was draining threes and the Hoyas could not seem to stop him.  Another 3-pointer from Robinson, his third-straight, narrowed the gap to 56-55, but an 8-1 Hoya run over 3:50, capped by a jumper from Copeland and Trawick’s layup led to some breathing room at 64-56.   DePaul wouldn’t quit and narrowed the gap to two points, 64-62, after free throws from the Blue Demons’ season high scorer, guard Billy Garrett, Jr., held under average for the game, with 27 seconds left. Georgetown freshman guard Tre Campbell then increased the lead to four, 66-62, with a pair of free throws. After DePaul scored one on a free throw from Jamee Crockett, Trawick hit one of two free throws with 13 second left to give the Hoyas a 4-point advantage, 67-63.  A combination of timely free throws and stops sealed the victory for the Hoyas.

NotSoProminent Stats But Good Enough on a Stormy Night in DC:  The Hoyas shot 44.6 percent from the floor (25-of-56), 30.8 percent from the arc (4-of-13) and 70.0 percent from the free throw line (14-of-20).  Significantly, GU held a 43-30 advantage on the boards and handed out 12 assists while committing 13 turnovers, 6 of which came from freshmen Peak and White combined.

The ProminentPlayers of the Game:  “The Core” of DSR, Smith, Copeland and Trawick carried the team on Saturday night while other teammates struggled to contribute in a productive way.  Junior guard and stalwart DSR led the team with  19 points and seven rebounds, and Smith, who had little impact in the first half, came out hungry for the ball in the second half and was the force who took control of the game. Smith recorded his sixth double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds.  Credit both Smith for his desire to get the ball and his teammates for feeding him inside proficiently.  Freshman forward Copeland continued to relish his starting role and provided the scoring and support needed by his team, adding 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Senior guard Jabril Trawick finished with 10 points, six rebounds and three assists, including the ProminentPlay of the Game. Michael Hopkins also played an efficient and effective 15 minutes, mostly as a substitute for Smith on defense.

The ProminentPlay of the GameWhile Trawick earns ProminentPlay of the Game willing his way to a critical reverse layup in the second half, both Smith and Tre Campbell share Honorable Mention for each hitting two critical free throws down the stretch.  Trawick’s will to the hoop is emblematic of his grit and determination all season long and his team’s desire to gut out the win, sloppy or not.  It became clear in the final minutes that this game was going to be won or lost at the line and while 70% is not stellar, it was enough for the Hoyas to get the job done on Saturday night.

Coach’s Observation:  “All wins are good.  We made too many unforced errors … It’s a good win.”

http://news.yahoo.com/video/john-thompson-iii-win-over-042034760-cbs.html;_ylt=A0LEVi9DZutUZRMA9UInnIlQ;_ylu=X3oDMTEzMW0yNTZkBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMQRjb2xvA2JmMQR2dGlkA1lIUzAwMV8x

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Next up:  The Hoyas are going to have play much improved ball on the road against St. John’s and Butler.  (UPDATE:  On Monday night, the Johnnies put away Xavier at home to improve to 19-8 and virtually ensure a post-season at large bid)  Having secured a bye in he first round of the BIG EAST tournament, the Hoyas must strive for improved performance, and wins on the road at this point in the season would show resilience and experience to finish the season strong and prepare for the post-season.  However, no one should be looking past St. John’s, who will look to avenge their loss against the Hoyas on January 28th.  Madison Square Garden is a familiar venue for the Hoyas.  This season they beat a very good Indiana team there, 91-87, in OT, when IU was hovering around the Top 25-30 (like the Hoyas) on December 27th.  Tip off time is noon Saturday 2/28 at the World’s Most Famous Arena.

Return to the Top 25 in the AP and Coaches Polls?  Doubtful but possible.  I think we’ll see the Hoyas hanging around the 26-28th spots when the rankings are released today. UPDATE:  Hoyas are indeed #26 in both polls.

Miscellany:  Finally the fans at the Phone Booth were rewarded with a free Chick-fil-A sandwich as DePaul missed consecutive free throws in the final minutes consistent with the Chick-fil-A season promotion.  That may have led to the loudest cheer of the night from the crowd of approximately 8,000.

See you at the Garden!

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Hoyas Face DePaul Blue Demons at the Phone Booth Saturday Night

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With four games to go in its Big East regular season, tonight in Prime Time (8pm Tipoff), the Georgetown Hoyas host DePaul at Verizon Center.  Taking one game at a time, no team should be overlooked and to continue its Road to Prominence, the Hoyas must continue its steady play against all conference opponents.  Coming off two solid victories against Seton Hall on the road and St. John’s at home, the Hoyas conclude its 2-game homestand against the struggling Blue Demons, who have a 12-15 overall record and are 6-8 in conference.

Desperate for a win, the Blue Demons have lost 6 of their last 7 and 8 of their last 11 games.  Their last win was on February 3rd at home, beating Seton Hall 75-62 and have since lost at Butler and St. John’s and at home to Providence, 84-57.  DePaul is led in scoring by sophomore guard Billy Garrett, Jr., who averages 13.5 points per game and junior forward Myke Henry at 12.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.  Sophomore center Tommy Hamilton IV is third in scoring with 10.7 ppt and 5.3 rpg.

On Tuesday night at the Phone Booth, the Hoyas (17-8 overall, 9-5 in the BIG EAST) dominated St. John’s, 79-57, a team that is still holding onto an opportunity to get to the Big Dance this season.  The Hoyas have won seven of their last 10 games and are currently rated No. 20 in the country by RPI standards.  By contrast, the Blue Demons, who will have no post-season of any kind without a dramatic ending (winning out and/or winning the Big East tournament, highly unlikely), still have something to play for:  PRIDE.  The Hoyas are coming off of their most balanced team effort of the season, where six players, including Mikael Hopkins, as a reserve, scored in double figures, the Hoyas tied their season low in turnovers with 9, dominated the boards and shot well from the arc.

Last Time Around:  The teams last met on January 13th in Chicago in a physical game where the Hoyas rebounded from a loss to Providence with a solid team game to beat the Blue Demons, 78-72.  DSR led all scorers with 25 points, including some timely and effective free throw shooting at the end of the game (6 of 8 in the final minute).  The Hoyas shot 81.3% from the line, 50% from the field and 40% from the arc.  Trawick scored all of his 11 points in the first half, and the Hoyas led at halftime, 44-39. Josh Smith contributed 8 points, 4 boards, 3 assists and 3 blocks.  LJ Peak scored 8 points on solid shooting, 3 rebounds, a block and a steal, and Copeland played a strong 20 minutes off the bench with 8 points, 4 boards and 2 blocks.   DePaul was led by junior forward Myke Henry, who finished with 17 points. Talented sophomore guard Billy Garrett Jr. had 16 points and two other Blue Demon playes finished in double figures–Jamee Crockett with 12, and Aaron Simpson with 11.

Recent Hoya Accolades:  Freshman forward Isaac Copeland, who is peaking at the right time for the Hoyas and got the start in place of Hopkins, was named the BIG EAST Rookie of the Week after his 20-point, 8-rebound outing against Seton Hall last week, the second time this season he has earned that honor. Sir Isaac averages 6.7 points per game, 3.5 rebounds and is shooting 48% from the field.

Last week Hoya center Josh Smith, second on the team in scoring with 11.4 points and leads the team with 6.1 rebounds, was named to the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award Watch List.  Smith is first in the BIG EAST in field goal percentage at 63.9 percent.

If the Hoya veterans–DSR, Trawick, Smith, Hopkins and Bowen–and freshmen continue to play as well as a team as they have in recent contests, they should prevail tonight. Copeland, Peak (starters) and reserve Paul White, have combined as some of the more formidable freshmen in the nation this year.  Add reserve point guard and local product (St. John’s High School) Tre Campbell, who has played some fine minutes in his first season as a Hoya, and this is the deepest squad the Hoyas have had in the JTIII Era.  Georgetown’s freshmen have combined to average 24.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.1 steals per game.

Miscellany: Saturday’s game with DePaul will be the 32nd meeting all-time between the teams. The Hoyas lead the series, 24-7, and have won 15 of the last 16 meetings and the last eight games in the Phone Booth. This Saturday night game is the first for the Hoyas at Verizon Center since March 2, 2013, a 64-51 win over Rutgers.

 

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The Georgetown Hoyas Tame the Red Storm, 79-57, with a Balanced Attack

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The Georgetown Hoyas (17-8, 9-5 Big East) continue to Peak and Surge at the right time.  No better time than mid-February to take advantage of the home court advantage after a win on the road in Newark vs. Seton Hall and before Saturday’s (1/21/15) game with DePaul.

This was a perfect game to instruct young hoopsters on the Value of Teamwork and Sharing the Ball.  Generally speaking, at the high school level and below, it is still possible for an exceptional single player to take over and win championships.  While possibly once true in college ball, in my opinion today no team is going to ride one player to a championship.  The Hoyas may lack such a player but as a Team, this team has great potential.

Against the Johnnies, six Hoyas scored in double figures, including Mikael Hopkins off the bench, who may have read my locally flavored advice to him before the Seton Hall game?  (FUHGEDDABOUD the criticism about your scoring. You are the best damn (excuse me) defender in the paint we have and we’ll need you tonight. The points will come, but if you swat those shots …  and shut down the Pirates, no one cares if you score 4 or 6 or 8, but who knows? THINKABOUD scoring when you can because you can score, despite the criticism. The team may not count on your points but your points can help us win games … .”)  Even if he isn’t reading LPP :-), it’s nice to see him showcase his talent at both ends of the court and for that reason I proudly present Mikael Hopkins with the ProminentPlay Game Ball.  Hopkins shot a perfect 5-5 from the field, 2 for 4 at the line, with 8 boards and 3 steals in 20 minutes.  It’s not easy to experience shifting roles but there are times when coaches wisely make decisions for the good of the team.  At this point in the season, when freshman Isaac Copeland is coming on as a complete player for the Hoyas, Coach JTIII has the enviable position of having to decide whom to start on a deep and talented team.  While Copeland continued to demonstrate his talent, Mikael came off the bench to give his team fine minutes.

ProminentPlay of the Game:  While Mikael gets the game ball, Sir Isaac dazzled the crowd with this dunk.  th-1

How many Hoya fans are dreaming of a Copeland-White-Peak-Campbell-Mourning team augmented by incoming center Jessie Govan and other recruits next year or the following?

Well, this Hoya fan says, “Don’t dream of The Future. The Future is Now!”

How Balanced Was the Scoring and How Well Did the Team Share the Ball?  Copeland scored 12 points and grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds to lead a balanced Georgetown.  Along with Sir Isaac, Josh Smith, L.J. Peak and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (DSR), who each scored 12, Jabril Trawick added 11 points, finding the sweet spot from the arc where he was 3 for 5.  The Hoyas had only 9 turnovers and a total of 15 assists, 7 steals and 7 assists while dominating the boards, 46-31.  Copeland had 9 rebounds (along with 3 blocks), DSR had 10 and Hopkins, 8.  Freshman Paul White contributed 6 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 15 minutes of play.

How They Did It:  Building up to a 33-23 halftime lead after Hopkins tied the game at 19-19, in the second half the Hoyas nailed their first seven shots behind the arc and led by 66-50 with 6:42 left to play.  They never looked back and did not let the Johnnie’s back in.

Phil Greene IV led the Red Storm (17-9, 6-7) with 18 points and Sir’Dominic Pointer added 16.

Room for Improvement:  By no means was the game perfect. Against another team on another day, a 59% (16 of 27, Josh 2 for 7) free throw shooting just won’t cut it.  Also, DSR, while trying to do it all as point guard and scorer, has seen his shooting percentage suffer this season;  on Tuesday night he was 3 for 11 from the field and 1 for 6 from the arc, but a cool 5 for 6 from the line, where he is generally unflappable. He added 6 assists and a block.

As my pre-game commentary noted, the Red Storm were the hot team entering this contest.  Aside from two games (‘Nova at home and Seton Hall on the road) in the last few weeks, the Hoyas’ were struggling to find consistency.  What Hoya team would show up?  The squad that overwhelmed Villanova or the one swept by Xavier and Providence; granted, each of those teams is talented but we expected to beat them at home.  The Wildcats simply slapped us around in Philly as we dominated them in our Phone Booth.

NextUp:  With DePaul coming to town on Saturday for an unusually late or “prime time” 8pm game, the Hoyas have yet another chance to tune up for a rematch with …. drum roll … the Johnnies at Madison Square Garden.  Some interesting scheduling there, Big East Conference, when the Hoyas play St. John’s twice in the span of 11 days?  In any case, the Garden is very much a home away from home for the Hoyas and they should not be rattled by the venue or crowd.  Not to overlook the DePaul Blue Demons, who sit 7th in the conference standings today, are now 6-8 in conference play and whom the Hoyas beat by 6 points, 78-72, on the road on 1/13.  That win came immediately after the 3 point OT loss at Providence and prior to starting a mini-winning streak of 4.  While 12-15 for the season, DePaul will no doubt play for pride and improvement and cannot be overlooked.

L.

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Hoyas Host St. John’s and Enter the Final Stretch of the Regular Season

Hoyas Ascending?

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(The Exorcist Stairs, Georgetown)

It’s really that time, Hoya Fans.  Seems like just yesterday the team was traveling to the Bahamas to compete in the Battle4Atlantis to cut their teeth, especially the Freshmen Five (Peak, Copeland, White, Campbell and Mourning), and here we sit, with five games remaining, starting with a visit from the Johnnies tonight here in the Phone Booth.

With the season in jeopardy and the Hoyas dropping from the Top 25 for the second time this season after a loss to Providence at home followed by a blowout by the Villanova Wildcats in Philly, the Hoyas acquitted themselves well with a strong performance at Seton Hall.  They took advantage of a team, the Pirates, that had started the season strong but apparently is losing its grip at the wrong time and at a rapid pace–last night Sterling Gibbs capped that slide with a physical blow to the face of the Cats’ Ryan Arcidiacano–and dominated the Pirates for much of the game leading to a 20-point victory.

The Red Storm Arrive in a Snow StormTonight the Hoyas can build on that significant victory when they face the Red Storm at home, a team they will meet for the first time this season.  St. John’s is now 17-8 overall and 6-6 in the Big East, to the Hoyas’ 16-8 and 8-5 in the conference, and is contending for a spot as the likely 6th team from the Big East to qualify for the NCAA Tournament and so bet on the fact they will come to play. They are led in scoring by senior guard D’Angelo Harrison, who averages 19 points per game.  Sophomore guard Rysheed Jordan averages 14 ppg.  Senior guard Sir Dominic Pointer (Vote for Best Name in Big East?) and junior forward Chris Obekpa lead the team in rebounding with 7 rpg each.  I think it’s fair to say this is the strongest team assembled for the Johnnies in some time, and everyone who cares about the conference is rooting for a strong St. John’s, the New York based team in a NYC-HQ’d Big East.  Right now the Red Storm sit just below 7-7 Xavier in the conference standings at #6, 2 behind Georgetown, so Steve Lavin and team will be no pushover. After a mid-season slide, losing 6 of 8 (one to Duke, 77-68, having stayed with the Blue Devils much of that game), the Red Storm have rebounded by winning 4 of their last 5, having beaten both Xavier and Providence in that stretch and having lost only to Butler on February 3rd at Butler, 85-62.

Where The Hoyas Stand After Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Weekend, Rankings Run Amuck:

#4 in the Big East and #31 in the AP Poll, behind Providence, Murray State (?) and Temple.  # 32 in the Coaches Poll, behind Indiana (whom they have beaten on a neutral court), Michigan State and Dayton.  To those who care, the Hoyas dropped out of the ESPN Top 25 Power Rankings to #27 after Dan Diego State.  Clearly, the ESPN prognosticators thinks more highly of the Hoyas than Providence (who beat us twice), Dayton, Michigan State and Texas.  #23 in the RPI, #22 in the BPI, does any of this make sense when the Hoyas rank #3 or 4 in Strength of Schedule (SOS) and teams like Gonzaga and Kentucky have played nobody this season and are locks on the #1 tournament seed as of today?  Last but not least, Self-Appointed Chief Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has the Hoyas a 7 seed in the Midwest, playing Temple in Omaha.  Don’t worry, Fans, this will all change soon.

The Sixth Man?:  Since classes were cancelled today because one of those predicted mega snowstorms in DC that never quite pan out but are large enough to shut the city and federal government down, Hoya fans, including students, should be present in large numbers tonight to cheer on their Hoyas.

So, Where Do We Stand on the 1/31/15 ProminentPlay Scenarios:In a prior post, I set forth 3 scenarios with 9 games to go.  To recap,

(I)  The ProminentPlay Scenario predicted that the Hoyas, in the best case scenario, would go 7-2 in its final 9 games to finish 21-8, 13-5 in the Big East, finish in the Top 25 (between 20 and 25) and have momentum going into the post-season tourney. win the Big East regular season outright or share with other team/s, with 2 of its losses will coming on the road, at Villanova, St. John’s or Seton Hall.

2/17/15 UPDATE–GOOD NEWS!  THE HOYAS STILL HAVE A CHANCE TO PLAY OUT THIS SCENARIO IF THEY SWEEP THE NEXT 5 GAMES.  What is unlikely is that share of a regular season title with the Wildcats now in first at 11-2, unlikely to lose 3 of the their final 5 games.  Kiss that goodbye.  However, don’t kiss off a second place finish when the Hoyas have another shot at #2 in the conference (#19 in the nation) Butler on March 3rd.  Butlers third leading scorer, sophomore forward Andrew Chrabascz is out for the rest of the regular season with a broken bone in his hand and that could impact the Bulldogs’ final stretch.  As of today I’m bullish and think this scenario is 70% possible IF–A BIG IF–the Hoyas can continue to play with the focus and skill shown in the victories over Nova and the Hall. 

(II) The LessProminent Scenario predicted that the team will finish would go 6-3-in its final 9 games to finish 20-9, 12-6 in the Big East, perhaps finish in the Top 25 (close to 25) and have less momentum going into the post-season tourney. The Hoyas could have an opportunity to share in the Big East regular season title although it was likely that the then #7 Wildcats would take that prize. Predicted that 2 or 3 losses will come on the road, at Villanova, Butler, or Seton Hall, and that the Hoyas may drop another home game to Providence or The Hall.

2/17/15 UPDATE–TODAY I BELIEVE THIS SCENARIO HAS ONLY A 25% CHANCE OF PLAYING OUT AND THIS WOULD INVOLVE A LOSS AT ST. JOHN’S OR BUTLER.  However, if the Hoyas beat the Johnnies tonight and should beat DePaul on Saturday, I think they will have sufficient momentum to knock out the St. John’s on the road on February 28th and Butler on March 3rd, then finish up with a strong win at home against the faltering Hall.

Today I provide only a 5% chance of this scary scenario, that is, (III) The “We’dBetterRecaptureProminence” at the Big East Tournament Scenario had the Hoyas losing 3 or 4 on the road or 3 on the road and one at home to finish 5-4 in the last 9, 19-10 and 11-7 in conference, their post-season status relying much more on what they accomplish in the Big East tourney. Whew!

Finally, the Exorcist Stairs.  A perfect image at a time when the Hoyas and fans everywhere look to 2015 as a year to exorcise all of those post-season demons.  It started in Atlantis where the young Hoyas (we now frequently have 2 or 3 freshmen playing many minutes) beat Florida and played a strong, winnable game against mighty Wisconsin.  A close loss to Butler ended that early season tournament.  Now the question is will the Hoyas build on the experience of a long and challenging season, which also included a close loss to Kansas and victories over a very good Indiana team, a blowout of Villanova at home and some strong conference road wins to lead the team, a game at a time, to the end of the season and into the post?

In a week where Hoyas Bill Clinton and Dikembe enjoyed the NBA All Star Game together, Hoya thespian and former rower Bradley Cooper locked lips with nonagenarian sex symbol Betty White, doesn’t it seem that the time might be right for some action, love, redemption?!

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Hoyas Right the Ship at the Pru Center, Regain Touch and Storm the Hall, 86-67

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The Hoyas took a page from the national champion Georgetown sailing team, corrected course and steered clear of disaster by getting their season back on track in Newark against the Seton Hall Pirates.  No doubt who controlled the waters in the Port Newark on February 10th.  Some said the season was on the brink, some thought the Hoyas were heading towards the dreaded Bubble, but junior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (DSR), freshman forward Isaac Copeland and their mates had a response for the doubters on Tuesday night–Storm the Hall!

Doubtful that the team read my post from Tuesday afternoon when this Jersey Girl gave them some biased and locally flavored advice, but it seems they responded accordingly. DSR regained his touch and led the team with 23 points, and Copeland had a career-high 20 points and 8 rebounds in his second start this season to lead the once faltering Georgetown (3 losses in their prior 4 games) to a blowout of sinking  Seton Hall, 86-67.

This is however, a Blowout with a Caveat.  That caveat is that the Hoyas let the Hall back in the game after surging in the first half, hitting 11 of their first 16 shots to take a 20-point lead.  Down 27-7, the Pirates regrouped, fought back and tied the game at 44 early in the second half on a 3-pointer by Pirates junior guard and star Sterling Gibbs.  However, that night the Hoyas had a second surge in them and after DSR hit a 3-pointer to put Georgetown ahead at 47-44,  Copeland then took over, scoring the next 12 points for the Hoyas, capping a sensational series with a 3-pointer followed by a three-point play for a 59-48 lead with 12 minutes left in the game.

Senior stalwart Jabril Trawick added 12 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists to contribute to Georgetown’s second win in five games, after dropping two at home to Xavier and Providence and suffering an embarrassing blowout in Philly at the hands of the Big East leading Villanova Wildcats.  The Cats now look like a lock for regular season champion after beating the Friars in a battle at the Dunk on Wednesday night, 74-68.  The Friars went down fighting and they too look like they belong in the top of the conference pack, with Butler and Georgetown, if the Hoyas, now 16-8, 8-5 Big East, continue to play as well as they did against the Hall and in the first matchup with Villanova.

Against the Pirates, the Hoyas shot 52.5 percent from the field, 42% from the arc and 78% at the line.  Outstanding, Hoyas!

Other ProminentStatLines:  18 Hoya assists, 10 steals and only 10 turnovers, with 38 rebounds to Hall’s 33.

The Hall in Freefall:  Gibbs hit his season average, 17 points, to lead Seton Hall, who fell to 15-9, 5-7, after a promising start to the season where they spent some time ranked in the Top 25.  Freshman forward Angel Delgado added 12 points and 15 rebounds.  The Pirates lost their third straight and sixth in eight games and may be watching their NCAA tournament hopes fade.

Immediately after the game, Pirate sophomore guard Jaren Sina, who was offered by Indiana and other top schools, announced that he will transfer out of The Hall.  Looks like Coach Kevin Willard is dealing with some internal issues that are playing out on the court.

ProminentPlayer of the Game:  While DSR had 23 points, expected of the Big East pre-season POY, Isaac Copeland deserves the ProminentPlay Game Ball.  With more games like this, this Hoya team may be going somewhere in the BET and the NCAA tournament.  If Copeland and White can continue to improve and play as well as they have demonstrated, this team is deeper than any Hoya team in recent memory.

Need I Sing the Praises of Aaron Bowen Again?:  Bowen provided another  strong performance for the Hoyas off the bench.  In just 15 minutes of play, AB had 7 points (3 for 6 from the field, 1-1 from the line), 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.

Bench Clearing:  No, not a Brawl!  Rather, the Hoyas cleared the bench on the road so Trey Mourning, Riyan Williams and David Allen all got some time (a minute or so) at the Pru Center.  I think we all want to see more of Trey, soon!

Next for the Hoyas:  The Hoyas host the St. John’s Red Storm at the Phone Booth on February 17th, and have a week between games, which Coach JTIII said the team will use  to improve their game.

One player who needs to focus on improvement is senior center Josh Smith. Hoya fans continue to blame the Refs for undeserving foul calls, but that won’t help the cause–it’s a fact of life that Josh has to live with as the Big East certified Refs haven’t gotten the Memo.  Starter Smith played only 12 minutes, had 4 points, 2 rebounds and a turnover.  Other Hoya Big Mikael Hopkins (who lost his starting spot to Copeland), played only 16 minutes, with 7 rebounds, 3 points, 3 turnovers and 4 fouls.  Given Josh’s and Mikael’s play of late, the Hoyas may be relying mightily on Copeland and his freshmen mates, Paul White LJ Peak, for scoring and rebounding as the regular season comes to a close and the post-season awaits.  White, in 19 minutes, played efficiently and had 5 points, 3 boards, 3 assists and 2 blocks, the only two of the team.

LF

 

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Hoyas Travel to Newark for Critical Road Game with Seton Hall: FUHGEDDABOUDIT!

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For one post today I am going to put on my Fan cap, all of my Georgetown gear, blue hair and face paint.  Every game is important now, with six remaining in the regular season and of those 6, tonight at the Pru (as in Prudential Center) in Newark against The Hall, and subsequent matchups with St. John’s and Butler on the road.  The three home games are against DePaul, and rematches with The Hall and The Johnnies.

Having lost three of the last four, and two of those bad losses, what does the team need to do?

FUHGEDDABOUDIT!

YES, YOU ARE IN NJ NOW.  Not “fuhgeddaboudit” in the sense that the Villanova, Xavier and Providence losses didn’t happen, but FUHGEDDABOUDIT! in that you must move on, Hoyas, and it is not worth the time, energy, or emotion to think about what could have been but rather to end the season on a strong note starting in the greatest city in New Jersey.  The Nets may have bolted but Newark, NJ is really the only happening major city in NJ today (I say sadly as Trenton is my hometown), and you can make an impact there tonight!

FUHGEDDABOUD any prior poor efforts at the Pru Center.  Think about only what you can control, tonight’s game.  I was shocked to learn from guhoyas.com today that this will be the 98th all-time meeting between the schools, the second most against any opponent.  (What team have we played most?)  THINKABOUD the fact that the Hoyas lead the series, 55-42. FUHGEDDABOUD the fact that The Pirates won both games against us last season. THINKABOUD that YOU, HOYAS, have won seven of the last 11 games against Seton Hall under JTIII.

As a fan, I’m going to ask each player to FUHGEDDABOUD and THINKABOUD something before tonight’s game.  One for Coach JTIII too.  :-)

DSR: 

FUHGEDDABOUD that horrible shooting game in Philly.  You are a great shooter and you will regain that touch.  Don’t force shots but THINKABOUD how nice it feels to hear the swish of that net or the quiet of the opposing crowd.

JOSH:

FUHGEDDABOUD the fact that there will be ticky tack fouls but play smart and don’t make stupid fouls (you know those happen occasionally).  THINKABOUD what a force you can be for this team when you have your game on and THINKABOUD putting the ball into the hoop instead of on the floor, where it may be stolen.

JABRIL:

FUHGEDDABOUD that loss to Nova, which may have hurt you more because it was in your hometown.  THINKABOUD that you are the heart and soul of this team, and are a great decisionmaker and helluva 3 point shooter.  THINKABOUD willing your way to the hoop as only you do, and draw fouls, when others pass around the perimeter and waste time.  And THINKABOUD making all of those free throws!

MIKAEL:

FUHGEDDABOUD the criticism about your scoring.  You are the best damn (excuse me) defender in the paint we have and we’ll need you tonight.  The points will come, but if you swat those shots and dole out the blocks and shut down the Pirates, no one cares if you score 4 or 6 or 8, but who knows?  THINKABOUD scoring when you can because you can score, despite the criticism.  The team may not count on your points but your points can help us win games, especially points at the line.

LJ:

FUHGEDDABOUD the fact that you are a freshman.  As we head into the heart of February, THINKABOUD the fact that you are effectively a sophomore now.  You have had more minutes than the majority of Hoya freshman and we need your leadership, good decisionmaking and points.  THINKABOUD taking high percentage shots and slashing  to the hoop, as you beautifully do, when you can.

AARON (AB): 

FUHGEDDABOUD the fact that you don’t play as many minutes as you should because when you get into the game, you always make an impact.  THINKABOUD the fact that YOU had the best game in Philly  (10 points, three rebounds and two steals) as the team struggled and that you are a senior leader who is capable of leading this team to victory tonight and beyond.  And THINKABOUD making all of your free throws.  :-)  You have a great stroke.  Finally, THINKABOUD playing great D against the Hall!

ISAAC:

FUHGEDDABOUD any recent shooting woes and know that you too, like LJ, Paul and Tre, are very important to this team.  THINKABOUD the fact that you have the opportunity to help your team get back on track with smart play and sharp shooting.

PAUL:

A similar message to you as to Isaac.  FUHGEDDABOUD any recent shooting woes.  You may have the greatest pure shot on this team and Hoya fans want you to get hot right about now.  THINKABOUD the fact that you are part of this exceptional class of freshmen and can lead this team tonight, this season and in seasons to come!  THINKABOUD starting with tonight!

TRE: 

FUHGEDDABOUD anything that is bothering you.  THINKABOUD the fact that you, when you enter the game, inject spark into the team like AB does.  THINKABOUD that you are part of a group of freshmen who collectively average 23.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.2 steals per game (thanks, guhoyas.com)  THINKABOUD that you are a strong point guard, and while young, have made some key plays and shots this season.

REGGIE:

FUHGEDDABOUD how few minutes you play.  I know it’s hard to get into a groove when you are not on the court for many minutes.  THINKABOUD what a great shot you have and how the team needs you when you are in the game.

COACH:

FUHGEDDABOUD decorum once in a while.  You are a great ambassador for Georgetown basketball and an exceptional mentor to your players. THINKABOUD losing your shit once in a while (like your Dad did), firing up the team and acting crazy.  I know that is hard for a Princeton Tiger but we Hoyas like to get crazy sometimes.  :-)

HOYA TEAM:

THINKABOUD beating the Hall tonight and FUHGEDDABOUD yesterday!

AND THINGALODABOUD STERLING GIBBS, YEA, STOP HIM.  :-)

After that win, if you are hungry, you can find the best Portuguese food within a few blocks of the Pru Center in the Ironbound Neighborhood!42703726

 

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Brotherly Love in Short Supply as Hoyas Fall Hard in ‘Nova Rematch, 69-53

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NB:  Before Georgetown-Villanova game commentary, I’d like to pay respect to Hall of Fame Coach Dean Smith, who passed away this morning.  Georgetown’s history intersected with Coach Smith’s team in 1982, of course. UNC fan, or not, one cannot deny his greatness and impact on the game of college hoops. Rest in peace, Coach.

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Let’s face it–no one ever had this road game against #7 Villanova penciled in as a “Win”.  However, the Hoya faithful, especially after dismantling the Wildcats at home on January 19th, held out hope, if not for a season sweep, a competitive matchup in the City of Brotherly Love on Saturday.  Instead of a competition, the game resembled more a showcase of Villanova talent at the expense of the Hoyas.  In fact, the Wildcats treated the Hoyas with the same “respect” that the Hoyas showed the Cats in DC.  The Hoyas were not in the game but for the first 5-6 minutes and failed to make a run to cut into Villanova’s very comfortable 15-20 point lead throughout much of the game.

The “George Clooney of college basketball”, as one commentator referred to him, Coach Jay Wright, said it best: “They looked like we did last game and they looked like we did.”

What hurts most for the Hoyas is not the Villanova loss per se, but the fact they have lost 3 of their last 4 games, two at home (to Xavier and Providence) and the schedule does not get much easier.  The 15-8, 7-5 in conference Hoyas next face Seton Hall on Tuesday night 2/10 and its potential conference Player of the Year candidate Sterling Gibbs at the Prudential Center.  The Hoyas return home on 2/17 for two consecutive and critical home games against St John’s followed by DePaul in 2/21.  Two of the final three Hoya games are on the road against St. John’s and #22 Butler, with the final Senior Day home game against The Hall on March 7th.

The Game:  It was all Villanova this time, and senior guard Darrun Hilliard II led his team with 15 points. Josh Hart added 13 to help the Cats avenge its worst loss of the season to the Hoyas two weeks ago, 78-58 on Jan. 19th at the Verizon Center. The Wildcats raced out to a 17-point lead and never let the Hoyas back in the game.  The Cats hit  50% (12 of 24)  3-pointers and led by as many as 24.

Shooting 36% this season from the arc, the Wildcats shot with ease against the Hoyas’ defense. In the first half alone, Hilliard and junior guard Dylan Ennis hit consecutive 3s for a 12-7 lead that sparked the rout. Ennis hit one for a 10-point lead, junior guard Ryan Arcidiacono made it 27-13 with his and the Wildcats finished 7 of 13 in the half.  In the second half Villanova’s sophomore forward Kris Jenkins hit consecutive 3s for a 51-29 lead.

Villanova looked very much like the pre-season #1 conference pick and at least the #7 team in the nation.  The Cats’ only other loss was a 66-61 overtime loss at Seton Hall on January 3rd.  Now 21-2, 8-2, Wright’s squad looks like a lock for the Big East regular season champion and en route to at least a 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, barring any unexpected turbulence.

Hot vs. Cold:  The Hoyas were as cold as their opponent was hot.  They picked a bad day to have their poorest offensive game of the season.  The Hoyas could not find their touch or any rhythm.  They shot 30% for the game from the floor (18 of 60)  and missed 16 of 17 3-point attempts for a 5.9% mark.  They shot a decent 72.7 percent from the line (16-of-22).

Down 14 points, 37-23 at the half, the Hoyas failed to regroup.  Season leading scorer D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (DSR), who averages 15.8 ppg, was held to 2 points for the game.  Senior center Josh Smith, who averages 12 ppg, finished with 7 points and 2 rebounds.  This was in stark contrast to the first game in D.C., where DSR scored 17 for the Hoyas and Smith, 9 points and 8 rebounds, who put the game away as early as the Cats did yesterday.  In the first game between the two teams, the Hoyas led 42-20 and shot 60 percent in the first half and 51 percent for the game.

Anything Prominent?:  The only offensive “bright spots” for the Hoyas were freshman small forward L.J. Peak, who scored 15 points for the Hoyas (on 6 for 18 shooting and 0 for 4 from the arc), and reserve Aaron Bowen, who scored 10 points in 17  minutes and injected some spark into what appeared to be a lifeless team over many minutes.  Bowen was 3 for 6 from the field and 4 for 6 from the free throw line with 3 boards, 2 steals and an assist.  Philly native Jabril Trawick added 8 points, 4 boards, 2 assists and a steal and while he played with his usual intensity, the Hoyas as a team struggled. As opposed to the ascending Wildcats, the Hoyas will drop out of the Top 25 for a second time this season, after this loss and the loss to Providence earlier in the week.

Rebounding Edge:  With all the misses, the Hoyas held a 39-34 rebounding edge, had 10 assists, a season high 14 steals but failed to convert on them.

Adding Insult to Injury:  With a packed house of 20,587 at the Wells Fargo Center, Villanova wore 1985 throwback uniforms to commemorate its national championship season 30 years ago and played highlights from that title game on the big screen.  No one has to remind Hoya fans of that Era or Hoya students of hoops history of Villanova’s “Perfect Game”.  It is seared in Hoyas fans’ memories forever.

Miscellany:

BIG EAST Teams Reprimand Student Athletes:  Not that it had any impact on the game, but Jay Wright pulled forward Daniel Ochefu from the starting lineup for being late for a class.  Ochefu sat out just a few minutes before he entered the game.

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