Women’s World Cup Final: Can the ’15ers find Magic vs Japan?

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Once upon a time, there were the ’99ers.  The team that beat China after playing to a 0-0 scoreless tie after 120 minutes.  Not much needs to be recounted here, as this team was seared into our national consciousness.  That special team did more for women’s  and girls’  sports, soccer itself (the game, not simply women’s soccer) and national pride in the sports arena than perhaps any team or individual or law in our history.  The only two comparable names that come to mind are Billie Jean King and Title IX.  This is not to dis- anyone else, but in 1999 the nation was focused on this ‘wholesome’ young team, with a senior or two in terms of the sport (Michelle Akers, Joy Fawcett and Carla Overbeck, the latter two players with young children in tow, the original “soccer moms” only they played the sport at the highest level and had children too!).  The names that resonate are Mia (need not add “Hamm”) and Brandi Chastain, who became more than the others the public face of the team, especially Brandi after the now iconic photograph that is sports history.  If you don’t know it, you probably shouldn’t be reading this.  :-)  Kristine Lilly was the energizer bunny of the team, playing for years beyond ’99, leading the team into the future and tying it to the present time.  Julie Foudy, however, is the player who has become the spokesperson for the ’99ers over time, the analyst, the one who could have become a physician (and chose soccer over medical school), the Stanford alum who became the natural leader and living historian for the team that captured millions of hearts in the Summer of ’99.  (Julie was scratched for Brandi to take the final PK in ’99.)  The FIFA World Cup final between the U.S. and China, July 10th, 1999, played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, was the most-attended women’s sports event in history with an official attendance of 90,185.  

Fast forward first to 2011.  Welcome largely a new team, a 21st century team of young women, many who were inspired by the ’99ers (current forward Alex Morgan was 10 years old in ’99).  A team led by perhaps the greatest player in at least U.S. women’s soccer history, Abby Wambach, a 2X Olympic gold medalist (2004 and 2012), seeking her first World Cup title ever (before she retires from the game this year) and the first USWNT World Cup title since ’99.  The team fell short against Japan after an exciting 120 minutes leading to penalty kicks.  Unlike the magical victory against China in PKs in 1999 where goalie Brianna Scurry came up with a big save followed by a perfect left footer by Brandi to seal the victory and hoist the Cup,  the Magic was not to be in 2011, and the USA had to accept a second place finish.

Now is the time.  Today is the day.  Four years later a slightly different team, still with a core of players including Wambach, Morgan, Carli Lloyd (arguably the player destined for the Golden Ball should the USA prevail tonight), stalwart and yet embattled off the field goalie Hope Solo, tough as nails, controversial and determined, arguably the most exciting player on the pitch, Megan Rapinoe, as well as a team deep in talent at all positions.  Relative unknowns have come on this year to dazzle us, including defenders Julie Johnston and Meghan Klingenberg, it would take a tome to adequately describe each player’s role and importance to the team.  Needless to say, they appear to be peaking at the right time.  The Cup is not on home turf this time but it is as close as possible, in Vancouver, B.C. in Canada.  The US will have the crowd on its side on Canadian soil.

Coach Jill Ellis has been expert in dealing with a relentless media and criticism from all social media megaphones, including from former superstar Michelle Akers and I wonder why she would strike so hard at the current coach if there weren’t something from the past under her skin.  The US team did not dazzle in Group Play, but exited on top and unscathed and have been improving ever since.  The two games leading to this date, July 5th, 2015, have not been perfect but there has been exceptional play against first China then Germany to advance to the Rematch with Japan.  Carli Lloyd may have emerged as the “star” of this team, scoring when needed and making superb plays to set up key goals;  however, that is only what the fans see at the end of the play.  It takes an entire team moving the ball down the astroturf pitch (for another blog) from Solo to Kelley O’Hara’s beautiful touch.

There is one more match left to play, and I would not be surprised if this match shatters all viewing records.  The difference between ’99 and ’15, however, is that viewers indeed had fewer sports options and consumers had not yet started cutting the cable cord and moved from television to internet viewing.  However measured,  I predict that the nation with be tuned in on the 5th of July, 2015 much as they were on July 10th, 1999.  And,  when the game is over and if (or when?) the USWNT is able to achieve its only goal, a World Cup victory, the next generation of young soccer players, boys and girls, will be speaking about the ’15ers for years to come.

Countdown to Kickoff.

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Playoff Season in the Nation’s Capital: Wizards and Capitals Rising! LJ Peak’s Future with the Hoyas in Question?

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Hi Friends,

I have missed you.  It has been a month since Duke beat Wisconsin for the NCAA hoops championship.  I never blogged about that game and all I can remember now is that the Badgers choked as Duke became Duke.  Sadly for Wisconsin, after that huge upset of Kentucky, they could not repeat the heroics in the championship game.  I felt mostly for Bo Ryan, who may never get to another national final game.  Frank Kaminskys don’t come along every season.  On the other hand, Duke won and sent their One and Dones off to the NBA Draft.  Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones, Bye Bye.  Grayson Allen will be back and he was the player who may have been most responsible for the victory.

Since then, Washington D.C. and its sports fans have enjoyed a pro sports resurgence of sorts, with its Wizards and Capitals both in the second round of the NBA and NHL playoffs, respectively.  The Wizards swept the Toronto Raptors in the first series, and after last night’s loss, playing without its floor general, John Wall, are now tied 1-1 with the Atlanta Hawks.  Lottery pick, former Georgetown Hoya Otto Porter is showing his stuff in this post-season, his second in the league.  Because of his injury last season, this is very much like a rookie season and Hoya fans can now recognize the player they came to love as a Hoya.  He is doing it all, scoring with great accuracy, rebounding, assists and steals, loading the stat columns and playing selflessly, perhaps appropriate at this time.

The Capitals beat the Islanders in a hard fought, exciting series and have now moved onto the “other” New York team, the Rangers, leading 2-1 going into tonight’s game, which I will attend and Rock the Red with the greatest hockey fans in the league!  With a chance to go up 3-1 tonight at home, Ted Leonsis cannot possibly be tired from all the travel.  It must be exhilarating!

Last week I attended the Georgetown Hoyas end of season banquet.  It was the first post-season banquet I had attended since the Final Four season of 2007 and couldn’t be happier to have chosen this one.  While the team was no doubt disappointed that it didn’t advance to the Sweet 16 (a #4 seed that it was), clearly these guys are a tight group and I loved speaking with most of the players that evening.  I bid farewell to the seniors, Aaron, Jabril, Tyler and Mikael, while telling everyone else how much I look forward to next season.  DSR seemed very comfortable and happy with his decision to return.  Clearly these young men act like brothers and the speeches of all of the seniors that evening underscored the “family element” of the Hoya team, with JTIII and his staff at the helm.

Regarding the Hoyas, there is a rumor out there about LJ Peak, rising sophomore, and it was first reported on Rivals.com:  “May 5, 2015 – Rumors have abounded rising sophomore guard/forward [db]L.J. Peak[/db] is facing something big in his life. Resultantly, his tenure on The Hilltop has been questioned going forward. ”

I have heard some specifics but until it is official, will not report here.

Be back in the morning, after the Caps take a 3-1 lead over the Rangers!

LPP

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The 2015 Final Four: A Yawner Followed by a Heavyweight Bout; Duke and Wisconsin to Meet in the Championship Game

Calpostgame-1It hurts.

Twenty years from now the only thing that anyone will remember about this Final Four is that Big Blue Nation went down.  The Dream of 40-0, gone, at the hands of the mighty Wisconsin Badgers, who will only be remembered if they win the national championship against Duke.  That is the harsh reality of sports.  38-1, while impressive, will fade from memory, and all talk of the “Best Team in NCAA Hoops History” is history.  The Wisconsin Badgers, as impressive as its upset of Calipari’s “NBA Light” Kentucky team, will also fade quickly in hoops history if they fail to seal the deal by hoisting the trophy.

The Indiana Hoosiers retain the distinction of being the only undefeated team in college basketball since the 1975-76 season.

With the exception of the first four minutes of the game, the Michigan State-Duke game was a yawner for all fans but Duke fans.  Sparty came out strong, pulling ahead 14-6 just 4 minutes into the game, making 5 of their first 7 shots and the first four they took from beyond the 3-point line. Duke then hit the switch, turned up the heat on D and turned to their POY contender, Jahlil Okafor, and took over.  The Izzone, as passionate as they are, could play no role in this game because Duke took control early in the first half and never looked back.  While Michigan State earned its way into the Final Four with several close games over strong opponents, including Virginia, Oklahoma and Louisville, one longed for a more competitive matchup.  Duke had a breezy time of it sailing into the national championship game, simply overpowering the Spartans, 81-61, and we shall know on Monday night whether that will work to the Blue Devils’ advantage, or not.

The Duke freshmen soon headed to the NBA, Justise Winslow, scored 19 points, had 9 boards and was 5 for 7 from the field.  Fellow freshman Jahlil Okafor added 18 points, 6 boards and was 7 for 11 from the field.  Senior Quinn Cook added 17.  Will Duke add another, 5th title, in the city where it won its first under Coach 1K in 1991?  His 4th was only 5 years ago, in 2010. Expect Duke in the Final Four once every 5 years?  It certainly feels like it.

Michigan State’s guard Denzel Valentine had 9 of his 22 points in the opening run, including three 3-pointers.  Valentine had 11 rebounds for the Spartans, who ended the season 27-12, while his teammate Travis Trice added 16 points.  Sparty didn’t have the personnel to match up with Duke.

On the other hand, the featured Final Four game had just about everything one expects in a great national semifinal game:  two evenly matched teams, lead changes and runs, dominant bigs, talented guards, future pros, and questionable calls. (More about that later)  From the outset, it was clear that Wisconsin was up for the challenge and that Kentucky was vulnerable, particularly after that close call with Notre Dame in the Elite Eight.  In fact, while Kentucky was 38-0 going into last night’s game, that undefeated status was due to one fact:  the Wildcats played in the inferior SEC Conference this season.  In other conferences, that simply would not have been the case.  The Badgers, by contrast, benefited from its competition in the BIG TEN Conference.

The Badgers were led by their POY and future pro Frank Kaminsky 20 points, 11 boards 2 assists and 2 blocks and his teammate,  other future NBAer, Sam Dekker (16 points).  Wisconsin took over in the final minutes and went on the most important run of the game.  Tied at 60, Andrew Harrison missed on Kentucky’s next possession. Then Dekker hit a 3-pointer that gave Wisconsin the lead for good with 1:42 left.  At 64-63 with 24 seconds left, Kaminsky hit two free throws. He and Bronson Koenig went 7 for 8 from the line over the last 24 seconds to finish with the 71-64 victory.

About the officiating, in both games, it was poor to atrocious.  It could not have affected the blowout in the Duke-Michigan State game but at times early on seemed to be leaning Duke’s way.  Money in Vegas affecting these games?  Don’t doubt it, can’t prove it.  However, the poor calls in the Kentucky-Wisconsin game had the opportunity to affect the close game.  While I viewed the poor officiating to overall favor the Big Blue, the most obvious call was actually a 2-point putback late in the game by the Badgers that was “scored” despite a shot clock violation.  On the other hand, a blatant Fragrant 2 faceslap was missed, that would have resulted in 2 free throws and the ball for the Badgers.  What did occur was that it motivated Wisconsin to rev up their game in the final minutes, so in the end, the missed call did not affect the game in Big Blue’s favor.

Poor Losers?  A few Kentucky players left the court without shaking hands with Wisconsin players and Andrew Harrison made an unfortunate comment directed to Kaminsky while he was miked during the press conference. 

Happy 22nd Birthday Present, Frank Kaminsky!

Next Up?  Coach 1K achieves his 5th championship or Bo Ryan achieves his 1st Division I championship (Wisconsin won its last basketball championship in 1941)

Hoya fans, check this out:  http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=12621766  One of our favorite Final Four players, Jeff Green, with the NBA play of the night!

 

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Torn About the Final Four 4/4/15: Rarified Air in Embattled Indiana–Duke vs. Michigan State followed by Wisconsin vs Kentucky

I’m torn about the Final Four for many reasons, including:

1.  The Georgetown Hoyas aren’t playing in Indianapolis.  I know, I know … get over it already.  To add insult to injury, my favorite player is graduating (Aaron Bowen), I will miss Jabril immensely, and DSR declared for the draft.  On the latter point, who can blame him really?  He can go back and get his degree.  He probably feels that he isn’t going to improve so much in another year in school to become a lottery pick–he is too small.  He is pursuing his dream, and like Jeff Green, Greg Monroe, and other players before him, he will be able to return in summers to finish his degree if he so desires.  Hoyas hope so.

2.  Frankly, I don’t love any of the teams in the Final Four and my feelings range from extreme dislike (Kentucky, One and Done U, Slick Calipari) to fondness for Coach Tom Izzo, although the odds are really stacked against #7 Michigan State playing among 3 #1 seeds.  While I do believe that they could knock off Duke, I would have to be delusional to believe they could beat Kentucky.  I reserve that chance for Wisconsin today, IF (a big IF) they play a perfect game and Kaminsky displays his POY chops;  and I do believe that Duke, with its magical sorcerer’s powers and Coach 1K, could in fact take down the Wildcats in the championship game.

3.  While Wisconsin’s chances may be slim, it’s not hard to root for Bo Ryan, who, while so successful in March, has never hoisted that trophy.  Besides, this a special Badgers team.  Whereas those of the past always had Sweet 16 written all over them, this one has Kaminsky, and the school’s first college Player of the Year.  I’d be happy for Bo.

4.  I have consistently said that I will never again root against Tom Izzo in March.  Does that extend to a Final Four matchup against the Duke Blue Devils?  Sure, why not.  This is Tom Izzo.  His Spartan team is probably not as talented as the Blue Devils but a great coach can take a team far.  They are in Indianapolis today, correct?

5.  The Blue Devils, that is a tricky one.  I have blood ties, related to multiple Dukies.  One wants their loved ones to experience the thrill of victory, but haven’t they won enough?  :-)  Never enough, I think.  Of course everyone is expecting and the hoops world/at least the Sports Media wants to see a Duke-Kentucky final.  It is likely.  What is rather unlikely is an All Big Ten final. It would possibly have the worst TV ratings in decades for a championship game.

6.  The Evil Empire:  I cannot, will not root for Kentucky.  It’s everything that is wrong with college basketball.  It’s not pure, it’s NBA light, it’s Calipari–does he even pretend to coach for a team that’s part of an educational institution?  So even if Duke too has become One and Done U, bye bye Jahlil, it is difficult to question some academic integrity there, although Coach 1K doubles as the University President and makes all decisions at Duke, correct?

So, with little to no skin in the game, brackets busted, I have one thing left to root for:  great games.  Let the Games Begin!  And Go Hoyas, 2015-16!!

LPP

 

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Georgetown Hoyas: Wrapping Up 2014-15 Season, 75-64 Loss to Utes in Round of 32 and Looking to the Future

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I apologize to the LPP Faithful for this delayed blog.  I was traveling abroad during the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 and March Madness means nothing there.  Only rugby and UK and European football raises blood pressure where I was.  A few final words to the Hoya faithful and interested fans on this past season, where Georgetown finished 22-11 overall and 12-6 in the Big East.

I.  Georgetown Hoyas Conclude 2014-15 Campaign with 75-64 Loss to the Utes in Round of 32 :

Perhaps it took me a trip across “the pond” in the middle of the night to write a fitting conclusion to the Hoyas season. This season had a bit of everything: The Promise; The Stumbling; The Resurrection; The Harsh Ending. Thus I conclude this–my first–season of blogging about Georgetown Men’s Basketball. A program that formed in my consciousness in the 1980s and a team that continues to capture my attention and heart in 2015. This may say as much about myself as it does about them.  However, the focus belongs and remains on the team and program.

In prior entries, I have already paid tribute to the team and individuals; the Coach and staff that progressed beyond the double digit seed in the Round of 64 and advanced to contention for a Sweet 16 berth.

So as I write over Newfoundland toward Cape Bonavista, Bonavista Bay and Trinity Bay, I restate first the story that has already been amply covered by the mainstream media and the bloggers: the #4 Hoyas, of the South region, fell in Portland Oregon to the #5 Utah Utes, a team that finished second in the well respected and proven PAC12, along with two other PAC12 teams that remained in the Sweet 16: the UCLA Bruins, who were on the proverbial bubble before the tournament began, and eventually fell to the Zags; and the #2 seed Arizona Wildcats, who eventually fell to #1Wisconsin, in a tight matchup where the Badgers overpowered the Cats in the end.

The Hoyas played with the Utes through many minutes, tied even at the half, 32-32, after the Hoyas came out of the gates with hot shooting they could not sustain in the second half.  Then the team experienced and Hoya fans watched that familiar breakdown in the second half, not completely explicable except to say that it seemed to happen at this time during the season. No one can engage in finger-pointing towards anyone. DSR was shut down by the Utes’ D, and other players much respond. Josh Smith responded in the second half, but it was another case of “too little too late”.  Statistically, the Hoyas did not play their best basketball of the season but credit that in part to the Utes’ D or lack of Hoyas O, and the 2014-15 season was then over.

Perhaps there is little to be gained—now—in analyzing the loss to Utah, except to say that this is the last Hoya fans will be seeing the following players on the Court, and LPP has paid tribute to each played in past blog entries: Jabril Trawick, Mikael Hopkins, Aaron Bowen and Josh Smith. No one senior was able to take control of this game to lead the team onto the Sweet 16, and that was not generally the Seniors’ style or even this team’s style. While DSR at times had propelled his team to victory, DSR does not have the ability of either Jeff Green, or past Hoya greats, to carry the team on his back through several rounds of the tournament, and we can’t forget that Green had both Hibbert and Wallace, and Ewing Jr., to assist him to the heights of a Final Four. In my opinion, DSR should not consider a jump to the NBA–but we shall see what he decides.

In the Final Game, the freshmen played well, LJ Peak leading in scoring with 18 and Isaac Copeland finishing with 14 points.  Georgetown scoring was rounded out by DSR’s 12 points and Trawick’s 10.  While the entire team struggled from the field with the exception of Peak (7 for 8 from the field, 3 for 4 from the arc), DSR really struggled, on 6 for 15 shooting from the field and 0 for 7 from the arc.  The ONLY bench points in the final game were 2 from Hopkins, although he and White saw double digit minutes, and Hayes pulled down 4 boards and had a steal in 8 minutes of playing time.  The Utes shot nearly 60% from both the field and the arc and the Hoyas were sub 50% for the game in both categories (43% and 36%, respectively).  Josh Smith ended his last game as a Hoya with 8 points and 6 boards in 17 minutes, with 4 personal fouls.  That was the “average Josh Smith” game during his Hoya career.  While Hoya fans loved his promise and the breakout games, he was not the reliable center and player that I think Coach JTIII, team and fans expected with the transfer from UCLA.  So likable as a person, but Smith was not able to put together a sting of consistent big games as a Hoya.  In the Round of 32 game against the Utes, the word I have used all season, URGENCY, again seemed to be lacking. I rarely questioned EFFORT; only urgency, and the strategy it takes to win a close game in March.

Aaron Bowen saw 6 minutes in this game, and to me, that is a travesty.  As you know, I have been a great fan of Bowen, and he had a great deal to offer the Hoyas and showed it, when given time.  The best athlete on this team, with the energy to make things happen and play D, I shook my head as he sat on the bench as the Hoyas went down.

II.  The Final Four:  Since then, the Utes lost to Duke in a tight game, 63-57, and the Final Four is set (this is the first time in my life that I was not Stateside for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 so had to follow online in the middle of the night while work faced me in the morning): few surprises, overall #1 seed Kentucky, who escaped by a point at the free throw line to the Notre Dame Irish, not in recent years a scary team by any means; #1 seed Wisconsin, led by big man Frank Kaminsky, whom the Hoyas shut down early in the season in the Bahamas, whose future in the pros seems to me to be a question mark (he will go but will he star?); #1 seed Duke, with its post-season struggles in the past few years, who surprisingly lived up to expectations this year, and have only one chance to win a championship with Jahlil Okofor (he’s soon gone); and last but not least, Mighty Tom Izzo’s #7 seed Spartans of Michigan State (The Outlier among 3 #1 Final Four teams). Believe me, I will never again bet against Tom Izzo in March. There are the Men of March and then there are the Mighty Men of March, among whom Izzo belongs.  I would not be surprised if Sparty surprises but then again, Kentucky now may wake up after the scare by the Irish and that may spell disaster for its next two opponents.

III. The Struggling Big 10? (Really): This can be addressed in 8 words: Wisconsin and Michigan State in the Final Four. So we also have the already Knighted Wildcats of Kentucky of the SEC, until the Irish showed the Cats’ vulnerability and the Blue Devils of the ACC. What happened to the Cavaliers and the Tar Heels? Duke returns to form and in the end, if Duke faces Kentucky, who will you root for? Will you forget that you Hate Christian Laettner (ESPN reminds us), if you are old enough to remember him, and root for Duke, or will you root for anyone who plays Kentucky, as will most who live outside the State? Will you consider that Coach K is another One and Done Coach, as is anyone who wants to win an NCAA championship? If Duke wins, he could lose half his team but like Calipari, he’ll retool his starting lineup and perhaps have a “second string” as good as his first? Is this truly college hoops?  Yes, it is in this Age of the Amateur Sports Multimilliondollar/Billion Dollar business.

IV.  Looking Forward for the Hoyas: Hoya fans look to the SuperFrosh who excited fans this season, namely, Isaac Copeland, LJ Peak, Tre Campbell and Paul White, and those who didn’t have much playing time, including Trey Mourning;  DSR, returning stalwart, pre-season Big East Player of the Year 2014-15; and other players who have shown great promise, especially true center Bradley Hayes (can we bring back Hoya bigs to coach him, imagine Patrick Ewing developing Bradley Hayes this summer!). Add to that already on board Akoy Agau, transfer from Louisville, 4 star recruits Jessie Govan, #10 center in the nation by one source, #27 power forward Marcus Derrickson and #18 small forward Kaleb Johnson,  and what do the Hoyas have to look forward to in 2014-15? I wish I could answer that with certainty, but can say there is great promise.

Frustrated Fans: We understand how you feel. Everyone wants to go to the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final 4, but there are roughly 350 Division I basketball teams in the country and with the exception of Syracuse and a few others, most are eligible to get to that point. The Coach that every team wants, Shaka Smart, went out in the Round of 64?  Yet Shaka may be headed to Austin, Texas.  Does that seem right?  I’ve heard they may even offer school naming rights to Shaka, renaming the venerable Texas university Texas Smart University (:-)))  Fired Coach Rick Barnes is already signed to Tennessee, salivating about beating the school that ousted him, a coach that took his team 16 of 17 times to the Big Dance.  Is there something wrong with this picture?  Top 10 ranked Villanova and Coach Jay Wright laid an egg in the Round of 32. UVA’s Coach Tony Bennett, who has revived the program to the extent of winning the ACC championship, experienced the same fate. Let’s face it—there are only a few elite coaches and 4 of them indeed remain in the tournament. Regardless of how you feel about them: Calipari, Coach 1K, Izzo and Bo Ryan, these are coaches who win championships or regularly take their teams far into March. Four of 300 coaches or at least 60-80 who have a dream of getting the final weekend.  Sean Miller and Shaka are included in those ranks, in the Younger Set.

As a Hoya fan, I will savor the past and hope for the future. We are graduating 4 tremendous seniors, plus one experienced Coach Tyler Adams, and many teams in the tournament cannot boast that accomplishment. I wish the best for All and thank them, again, for the memories. I don’t know their plans, whether it is playing, coaching, business, law, but know they will continue to represent. May all Hoyas support Jabril, Mikael, Aaron, Josh and Tyler as they leave the Hilltop. We will never forget—We Are/You Are Georgetown!

I may be finished with writing about the Hoyas season, but am going to continue to cover the Final Four and other sports … hope that you will continue to follow ProminentPlay!

LPP

 

 

 

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#4 Seed Hoyas and # 5 Seed Utes Face Off for Chance to Dance at Sweet Sixteen Party

th Where it all started–Jabril dancing at Midnight Madness

Do you wanna dance?  I want to dance with somebody.  You should be dancing! Just ask Mikael and David!  https://youtu.be/devaiemGiSA

However you’d like to express it, the Georgetown Hoyas are dancing in the Round of 32 and face the #5 seed Utah Utes of the PAC12 Conference  (7:45 p.m. ET, CBS).  Yes, Fans. today you don’t have to find TruTV.  The Utes finished second in the conference behind the mighty Arizona Wildcats, a #2 seed that could have easily been a #1 seed, and played 4 ranked teams through the regular season.  Of the teams that they played, all 4 of those teams are still dancing as the date and time of publication.  The Utes and Hoyas will meet for the first time in hoops history at the Moda Center this afternoon (4:45 PT).  The Utes advanced with a 57-50 win against the Stephen A. Austin (SFA) Lumberjacks just prior to Georgetown’s game with EWU on Thursday.

Steve Fisher’s San Diego State team is still dancing (Ute loss to then #16 SDSU on 11/18, 53-49), then #8 Wichita State (69-68 Ute OT win at home, 12/3) is still dancing, Oregon (69-58 loss in OR on 2/22) and Arizona (2 losses, 69-51 in Tucson, later 63-57 at home), UCLA (loss 69-59 in LA on 1/29) still dancing as well. The Utes also lost to non-tourney team U. of Washington on March 7th in the PAC12 tournament, 77-68.

With no ugly losses this season, the Utes are a team on the rise with its current coach.  While this is Utah’s first tournament appearance since 2009, and the victory over SFA its first since 2005, Coach K(rystkowiak) is clearly building a program and new tradition that harkens back to its glory days under former coach Rick Majerus, when the Utes advanced to the tourney 11 of 14 seasons, and fell to Kentucky 78-69 in the 1989 title game after defeating defending champ Arizona. Since Krystkowiak arrived at Utah 4 years ago, the Utes have steadily improved every season, from 6 wins in his first season to 21 last year, and 25 so far this season.  Hoyas hope to prevent #26.

The only common opponent of the Hoyas and Utes was Kansas, and those games ended similarly.  After Kansas beat the Hoyas 75-70 at Verizon Center on December 10, the Jayhawks traveled to the Sprint Center in Kansas City to beat the Utes 63-60 on December 13th.

Today Vegas odds has a line in favor of the Utes -4.5.  What do the Hoyas care about Vegas odds when they have Bradley Hayes!  Hayes beat all odds on Thursday night by playing the perfect 10 minutes of basketball to change the course of Hoya hoops history!  Vegas Schmegas!

Unlike the unsportsmanlike trash talking Jim Hayward, Utah Coach Krystkowiak shows respect for the Georgetown Hoyas, and that is reciprocated.   Krystkowiak said that his team’s opponent, Georgetown, is synonymous with basketball:

“It’s not anything you think about with many other sports. If you said name 10 basketball schools to an average fan, I wouldn’t be surprised if Georgetown was one of the teams that they threw out … It’s a heck of an opportunity, but at the same time a heck of a challenge.”

Coach K of Utah, unlike the Coach H of EWU, shows respect for the Hoya program and noted that our legendary alum Patrick Ewing is a buddy. He added, “I’ve got a lot of respect for their program.”

Show Us The Party:  So the guys are going to have to find another way to get fired up for this game and that is easy:  THEY SHOULD BE DANCING, YEA!  Win tonight, and seniors Trawick, Bowen, Hopkins, Smith and Coach Tyler Adams and teammates punch their ticket to the Sweet 16 party in Houston.  And do tell me what Hoyas don’t like a great party?  Whether a Sweet 16 or a Presidential Inauguration or a pitcher of beer at the Tombs, the best college pub in America, Hoyas love parties.  Political, social, and athletic, the Hoyas are also synonymous with parties. And studiousness.  Hoyas know that you get to the party through hard work.  Hopefully Coach JTIII will have his student-athletes as prepared for the Utes as they were for the Eagles.

Utah’s Weapons:   The Utes are best known for a great defense.  They also have senior guard Delon Wright, who leads the Utes with an average of 14.9 points per game, and is the younger brother of Portland Trail Blazer Dorell Wright.  Good bloodline.  While the Hoyas should not pay much attention to this as the Utes beat a strong SFA team on Thursday, senior center Dallin Bachynski tweaked his ankle and sprained it, missing two days of practice and did not play against SFA.  He should be ready for the game with Georgetown, according to Krystkowiak.  Regarding Wright, Krystkowiak said that his leg is a “little sore.” He iced it after the SFA game.  Wright added, “It will be sore, but I’ll be able to play.”

Mutual Respect:  Coach JTIII, on the Utes’ defense:   “They’re big. They’re versatile. They do a good job of just staying in front of you. There’s no easy basket,” he said. “You watch tape after tape after tape. No one gets an easy basket against them. They really make you work every possession to get a decent look at the basket.”

 

 

th-2 Coach, want to keep dancing with your team and fans?

LPP

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The Hoyas Advance to the Round of 32; Bradley Hayes, “The Perfect Ten Minutes”

th-1 Junior leader DSR and Freshman Tre Campbell showing Hoya Swag against Eastern Washington U. Eagles.

Call it what you will.  Redemption.  Monkey off the back.  Relief.  There are multiple ways to express how Hoya Nation, students, fans, alumni, former student-athletes, Coach and Team, felt about the 74-64 victory over the practically pre-ordained latest double-digit seed to take down the #4 seed Georgetown Hoyas (22-10, 12-6 Big East).  From Portland Oregon at the Moda Center to Washington, D.C., and in cities and towns where Hoya fans reside in the U.S. and globally, the anxiety was palpable. Social media was all atwitter since Selection Sunday with prognosticators, bracketologists, even proctologists,  agnostics, and lawyers who dream of coaching (collectively and loosely, “Fans”) about how the #4 seeded Hoyas would respond to its “Second Round” game with the #13 seed Eastern Washington Eagles (26-8, 14-4 Big Sky).  Of course, the Hoyas would be tested yet again and challenged to erase the recent past string (an NCAA tournament record) of 5 consecutive losses as a single digit seed to a double digit seed.  To further confound fans, EWU featured the highest D-I scorer in the nation, Tyler Harvey, son of an NCAA referee, and whom we were told was a carbon copy of the former college star Stephan Curry at Davidson (2008), when the unfortunate String of Post-Season Defeat began.

th-4 EWU Coach Jim Hayward won’t be talking to Jim Rome anytime again soon, except perhaps to discuss EWU’s loss to the Hoyas.

Add to that Hayward guaranteeing a win against the Hoyas and a 10:52 Eastern time start when East coast fans are normally settling down to a night’s sleep and that creates a great deal of Agita in Hoya Nation.  Connected as we are through Facebook, Twitter and other media channels to some of the most loyal and devoted Hoya fans on this planet, I can guarantee that there would be no relief nor exhaling until the buzzer sounded with a Hoya victory.  In fact, when one former Hoya great posted that he was heading to bed when the Hoyas appeared to have a comfortable lead, several of his friends and followers practically begged him to stay awake.  And guess what? He did!

The Game:  In many respects, it was similar to many Hoya conference and non-conference games this season.  A slow start, Josh Smith getting 2 early fouls, a game of runs,  Mikael Hopkins getting into early foul trouble too, and a game largely controlled by Hoya stalwart guards DSR and Trawick. Then highly touted Tyler Harvey started showing his crazy shooting ability and as a result, EWU quickly opened a 15-10 lead on back-to-back threes by Harvey and senior guard Parker Kelley.

Then the game suddenly looked like nothing Hoya fans had seen this season, from 45 bench points as compared with 39 points from the starters, to the performance of players such as 7 foot true center junior Bradley Hayes, who had played an average of 3.4 minutes and 1.0 points per game this season, and entered the game with nine minutes to go to play “The Perfect Ten Minutes”.  What did B.J. aka Bradley Hayes do in those 10 minutes, after filling in for Smith and Hopkins, characteristically foul-plagued early in the game?  Hayes came off the bench and played the final nine minutes of the first half and scored eight points on perfect 3 for 3 shooting from the field and 2 for 2 from the line, recorded 6 rebounds and 1 assist.  This feat set the Hoya Facebook and Twittersphere into a virtual frenzy, with comments from “Who is this?” (obviously not the most observant fan) to “Where Has Hayes Been All Season?”  The proper response to that is of course, “on the bench”.  Query whether that is where he belongs.  As some suggest, Josh Smith may be the better center against bigger and slower teams but Hayes had what it took against EWU to propel his Hoya team into the future and to erase memories of the String of Post-Season Defeat.

At about the same time that Hayes entered the game, senior Aaron Bowen was called on as well. Bowen added great defense, swarming Harvey as well as contributing 8 points on 3 for 6 shooting from the field, 1 for 1 from the arc and 1 for 5 from the free throw line (he will improve against the Utes). Harvey and the Eagles simultaneously went cold from the field, connecting on only one of their last seven first-half attempts.  The Hoyas led 43-33 at the half, which was ultimately the final differential of the game (10 points).

Despite foul trouble, Mikael Hopkins too played 21 strong minutes and finished with 10 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks and was 8 for 8 from the foul line. The Georgetown defense, which has been among the nation’s best all season, recorded three blocks and was consistently altering shots.

th  Bradley Hayes Manhandling Tyler Harvey 

If Hayes was the Undeniable Hero and ProminentPlayer of the Game, Trawick and DSR must share in that honor. Trawick did everything he could do to carry the Hoyas over the victory line and narrowly escaped a Flagrant 1 call.  Clearly, Harvey’s paternal NCAA referee connections didn’t help him when officials reviewed a Harvey travel followed by some contact with Trawick and a Harvey flop. Trawick finished with 10 points, 3 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals.  DSR scored 25, pulled down 8  rebounds and hit the free throws that sealed the victory.  The only DSR negative was sloppy second half play:  he had 6 turnovers of the Hoya total of 14, to the Eagles’ 9 for the game.  Overall the Hoyas shot 52.1% from the field, 47.8% from the arc and 71.9% from the line, besting the Eagles in all but the latter category (86.7%).

th-3 Trawick Doing What He Does:  Everything

After building a 23-point lead, as the second half progressed, the Hoyas came dangerously close to letting that sizable lead slip away.  In the second half, EWU threw a full court press that shook the Hoyas into turning the ball over leading to EWU conversions.  With 9 minutes remaining in the game, the Hoyas started to both slow down its offense and get sloppy, went cold from the field and EWU pulled within 7.   As the Hoyas stagnated, EWU regained its scoring touch and Harvey, despite good D from Georgetown, finished with 27 points on 9 for 20 shooting, 7 above his season average. Harvey got help from his teammates, especially freshman guard Sir Washington and junior forward Venky Jois (“Funky Joe”?), who fought for their tournament lives and came up short against the determined Hoyas.

Thankfully for Hoya Nation, Georgetown, led by DSR, was able to make enough free throws to preserve the victory (DSR missed 4 free throws that he normally sinks unconsciously).

If there are a few lessons to learn from this game, and a credit to Coach JTIII on the first,

1.  This Hoya Team is deep and talented enough to find different combinations to work against teams they haven’s seen all season and may never play again in our lifetimes.  Peak, a starter, played limited minutes and Tre Campbell played an effective 28 minutes and showed why he is the Hoyas’ current and future point guard.  Bradley Hayes, enough said above. Freshman Paul White also had a nice outing, his best in a while, on 4 for 5 and 2 for 3 shooting finishing with 10 points.

2.  This Hoya Team can and will win without Joshua Smith.  This is a player Hoya fans all root for and at times appears dominant, then disappears.  We should assume that the team cannot rely on Josh for any significant period of any game.  When he is present and his game is on, he can be the most dominant player on the floor. Last night Josh picked up 2 fouls in less than 4 minutes and was gone.  That is the norm.

3.  This Hoya Team cannot win by playing (or holding the ball for 35-second shot clock possessions) to protect large leads.  We have seen it this season and in prior seasons when the Hoyas build big leads and then, to borrow a from a commentator, “take their foot off the pedal.”  They may get away with this against the Eagles of the Big Sky Conference, but won’t against the PAC12’s Utes or, I will save this for next post, any subsequent opponent. Two things generally happen when the Hoyas play tentatively on offense–they fall out of any offensive flow (compare first and second halves last night) and fail to score and commit sloppy turnovers.  Proof:  last night’s game.  This is an easy fix.  Team, keep on playing.  With a 23 point lead, continue to score, and don’t allow the opponent to close the gap!

Next Up:  The Hoyas Face #5 Seed Utah in the Round of 32  (Blog Entry Coming soon)  Utah, who played Stephen F. Austin immediately before the Georgetown-EWU game, survived a second-half run by SFA to prevail 57-50.

th-2 Freshman Paul White blocking EWU #22 shot.

LPP

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Staying True to Seed, #4 Hoyas Turn Over a Page in Hoops History, Beat #13 EWU Eagles, 84-74

ProminentPlayer of the Game, Bradley Hayes #42

P8_HayesvsXavier_ChrisBien

Full game analysis to follow shortly.

Two names that won’t haunt the Georgetown Hoyas for years to come:  Jim Hayford and Tyler Harvey.  You can forget about them starting now!

DO Remember that Bradley Hayes played the greatest game of his career and showed why the Hoyas may have the best 3rd string center in Division I.

Up Next:  The Utes of Utah … waiting for Utes Coach Larry Krystkowiak to tell Jim Rome, “The Georgetown Hoyas are overrated and you should have us in your bracket.”  Didn’t he say that?  May we start a rumor?

LPP

 

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Hoyas Draw 4 Seed in South Region; Face 13 Seed Eastern Washington U in NCAA First Round Thursday Night

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Who are these #13 seed Eastern Washington University (EWU) Eagles?  (26-8, 14-4; clinched bid in Big Sky Conference, which includes Montana, Sacramento State and Northern Arizona, among others)

What do we know?  First, EWU’s head coach Jim Hayford stated on Jim Rome’s show, “We’re going to win, talk again, Jim,”  encouraging fans to fill out their brackets with EWU moving forward.  Another cocky headline seeker, I guess.  They have one “quality” win this season over a team that the Hoyas also beat: the unranked Indiana Hoosiers (in Bloomington, 88-86 on 11/24).  EWU also beat a U of Washington team when that team was ranked 17th early in the season, and they otherwise faced no nationally ranked teams except SMU, in a 77-68 loss on 11/22.  That doesn’t mean they have little talent, but it’s difficult to compare these teams on an equal playing field.

What is Eastern Washington University (EWU)?  A regional public university headquartered in Cheney, Washington, with programs offered at other campuses, including Spokane. Founded  in 1882, it  was originally known as Benjamin P. Cheney Academy to honor its founder until it was renamed in 1889 as State Normal School. After several name changes, in 1977, the school’s name was changed for the ‘final’ time to Eastern Washington University by the State Legislature. As of 2014, EWU enrolled over 13,000 graduate and undergraduate students at both its Cheney and Spokane campuses.

The university is classified as “inclusive, since the university admitted eighty-two percent of those who applied to be freshmen in 2010″ and almost 90% of those freshmen were from Washington.

The alumni who tops the list of notable alumni now is “Tom Ackerman, former NFL center.”  Three quarters on that list have played football, somewhere. However, the leading scorer in the nation, point guard Tyler Harvey, a 6′ 4″ junior guard averaging 22 ppg.,  is attempting to ascend to the top of the list with an upset over Georgetown.

I believe we have a strong and capable Hoya team who oppose that aspiration and will prevent the coach’s predicted outcome.

Where Do They Play This Game?  The Hoyas meet the Eagles for the first time in history at the Moda Center in Portland OR tomorrow night.

th-1 th-2

Hoya fans have seen this before.  A bigger, strong and faster Georgetown team facing a smaller but quick and hot outside shooting team. This is where Swarming Hoya D comes into play.

Guess who Tyler’s idol is?  Yep, now superstar Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, formerly of … Davidson (2008).  Even more reason to shut him down.

What the Hoyas Need To Do:

1.  If not forget, compartmentalize tournament history.  No doubt this Georgetown team, as well as alumni, students and fans and of course JTIII, need to start now by making the past the past and creating a new post-season future.   We all know the facts–the Hoyas are looking to avoid losing to a double-digit seed in the NCAA tournament for their sixth consecutive appearance, back to 2008, with Stephen Curry and Davidson.

2.  Ignore the Haters, Embrace Your Lovers.  Of course teams and fans are still targeting the Hoyas from the Big East with the Great Tradition.  But the only thing that should matter to this 2015 Hoya team is its own legacy and creating tradition.  Remember that you are loved by many and you have legions of fans, near and far, who are rooting for you to succeed.  You may not hear all of our cheers in the Moda Center but we are there.

3.  The Usual Goals:  Great defense, especially to stop Harvey (a 43 % three-point shooter and 85 % foul shooter) but don’t forget his teammates.  Watch Venky Jois inside. Get out to an early lead/don’t play from behind and move the ball well for good shots.  Use Josh early and often and stay out of foul trouble.  Get to the rim for easy shots and draw fouls and convert.  Take care of the ball and treat every possession as important as it is, and every stop at the other end accordingly.  Easy for me to say from 3000 miles away, right?  You know what to do!

Georgetown, with a 226 year history, must take the long view.  The past 7 years were painful yes, but that is a blip on the screen of a 100 year+ hoops program.  It’s our time again, Hoyas.  You have the talent.  Hear our cheers for you and play your game.  We want to go on a run with you, starting in just over 24 hours.

#HoyaSaxa #H4L #BeatEWU #PutEmAway

th-4 #23Aaron Bowen, in that crazy tip in game winner over Louisville at Verizon Center 2013.

 

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Selection Sunday is Here! Musketeers Show Hoyas the X-it in the BIG EAST Semis then Lose to Villanova in Final; Six BIG EAST Teams Await NCAA Tournament Fate

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Don’t look too long at this logo or if a Hoya fan, you may grow increasingly angry. X marks the spot, and the Hoyas cannot seem to crack the X Code.  The third time was not the charm, even though Hoya faithful filled Madison Square Garden ready to hunker down for another night in any hotel room or on any floor to see their team play in the final.  It was not to be in 2015.

On Friday night, 3/11, in the BIG EAST Semifinals, the Hoyas mounted a furious comeback in the final seven minutes of the second half after floundering offensively for much of the game.  They came up short, too little too late, dropping this third season meeting by 2 points, 65-63. There are two ways to view the game, (The Negative View) as one in which the team was out of sync, could not find the hoop or an answer, yet again, for Matt Stainbrook and his Musketeers; OR the Hoyas fell behind and fought valiantly but came up short in the final seconds in what could have been one of the Great Comebacks of All Time in the BET (The Positive View).  Ultimately Villanova disposed of the X-Men and their muskets.

Actually, this blogger’s perspective falls squarely in the middle of these views and acknowledges that the Hoya offense was anemic and the team put forward one of its worst efforts of the season for nearly 3/4 of the game;  on the other hand, even I, who had given up (rarely do), was buoyed by the great effort of the team late in the second half which almost led to a comeback for the ages.  It started with a scrum involving none other than the senior Philly Phenom himself, Jabril Trawick, who endured a push from a Musketeer (Jalen Reynolds) and tempers flared.  The Hoyas for once were rewarded with free throws from the assessed fouls and the comeback began and the momentum swung towards Georgetown.  Owe every bit of fight in the comeback effort to Jabril. the Co–ProminentPlayer of the Game, who finished with 19 points, and was a significant 10 for 12  from the free throw line.  Trawick was one of the only Hoyas who played with the requisite intensity and urgency the stage the Comeback.  

With Trawick, freshman Isaac Copeland, other Co-ProminentPlayer of the Game, showed why his stock is rising and why he will be a leader for the Hoyas when he scored 15 critical points to assist in the comeback.  The Hoyas will need Copeland and all Freshmen to step up in the tourney if they are going to make a run.  Fortunately, several freshmen have seen many minutes this season, including Peak and Copeland, now starters, and Paul White and recently, Tre Campbell, who is emerging as the team’s true point guard and one who may be capable of adding real firepower and critical ball handling in the NCAA Tournament.

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-Butler vs Georgetown

DSR struggled again against Xavier (11 points, 3 TOs, 4 fouls) as well as Josh Smith (10 points, 4 fouls), while starting strong, soon found his usual place on the pine where he watched his team falter over the course of the the first half and well into the second half.  Too little and too late overall from the Hoyas, despite a comeback attempt that could have been one for the Big East history books.

Lessons Learned from BET:

1.  DSR will not on his talent and scoring alone lead the Hoyas into the post-season.  Nor will Josh Smith, who has rarely scored more than 10 or 12 points this season, largely because he spends at least half of each game on the bench in foul trouble.  A winning formula for the Hoyas will require a team effort and one that involves better ball control, better shot selection, consistent D and importantly, the confidence that has eluded the team in the recent past post seasons.  No doubt the talent is there, 21 wins don’t happen without talent in this conference and in games, Ws and Ls, against some of the best teams in the country, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kansas, Villanova, Butler (4-4).

2.  A Sense of Urgency.  Even as the Xavier lead ballooned to 21, the Hoyas played nonchalantly, as if they had forever to come back.  Well, last I looked there are 20 minute halves and the first goal is to avoid the situation, falling so deep into a hole; and the second goal is to play with a sense of urgency, which seemed to be lacking in the team until Trawick and Copeland ignited the spark.  The only way the Hoyas make a run into March is a team effort with a Sense of Urgency.  No one player can carry this team, and everyone must play like every possession counts, because you know what?  It does!

It’s 2 hours from the Selection Show and I will be there with the Team, Students, Alumni and Fans in Leo’s as we await Georgetown’s placement in the Big Dance.  A likely 6 seed at this point, the future will unfold as it will and our first opponent and game location will be revealed then Coach and the Team get back to work. Hoya fans everywhere are hoping for a run, which means a win followed by another win etc.  However, all that matters now is that first game in what I believe the Committee still now calls the “Second Round” game in the round of 64.  Senseless nomenclature.

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Whatever happens in March, this is my ProminentPlayer of the Season.  Jabril Trawick #55 is the heart, soul and spirit of the Hoyas, and anyone who does not see this young man’s value to the team and overall promise hasn’t been watching.  DSR is Georgetown’s steady point guard who scores buckets of points at times, Mikael is the Great Defender, Josh plays well when he plays and is unstoppable if and when he gets the ball where he needs it.  LJ Peak is a promising freshman starter who is still finding his game, and Isaac Copeland already looks like the special player and great shooter we thought he’d be.  Aaron Bowen is the player I will miss most on the court just because I love his athleticism and effort and makes big plays, often highlight reel worthy, when we need them.  Tre Campbell and Paul White are contributing to the team and every player on the bench, Reggie Cameron, David Allen, Riyan Williams and Trey Mourning, are present and future Hoya contributors and the reason this team has earned the right to play on.  A special thanks to Tyler Adams and his coaching contributions and constant encouragement to his teammates.  However, Jabril takes the ProminentPlayer Award for all that he brings to every minute of every game, the sense of urgency, toughness and improvement to his game that only comes through incredible hard work.

Go Hoyas!  We Are _______________! 

 

 

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