Thursday, September 24, 2009

Preview 2009-10 -- Georgetown Hoyas

Too Busy for the Details?
From #1 in 2008 to #12 in 2009, (back to) #? in 2010? Anyone feel the need for some Dramamine? Coach Thompson will bring back a sophomore and junior dominated squad for 2010. The Hoyas will finish higher than they did in 2009 -- they bring back most of their points, minutes and rebounding. The entering class does not promise any missing (or last) pieces; everything is already in the program. The challenge was to bring them back, having lost #4 DaJuan Summers who would have been a senior this season. Prognosis -- A 2nd quartile finish.

3 Years At a Glance


The Hoyas lost a lot of returning minutes going into the 2009 season. Had Summers taken his senior season the returning minutes would have been >80%, providing Georgetown with the kind of experience that they had going into the 2008 season. But that did not come to pass. Of particular interest is the absence of 3 point shooting, that outside threat has historically worked to Georgetown's advantage when the Princeton Offense was a well oiled machine.

According to Pomeroy...
Overall ORtg111.245117.218124.82
Overall DRtg91.12286.4689.320
Big East ORtg101.412104.58111.41
Big East DRtg102.9793.1295.34
Four Factors -- Overall
All Off. eFG%53.04156.8457.04
All Off. TOv%21.624721.219222.0213
All Off. OReb%33.514833.813240.28
All Off. FTA/FGA41.94134.223736.6164
All Def. eFG%45.94042.0144.110
All Def. TOv%21.69818.927919.3267
All Def. OReb%36.229232.815733.9191
All Def. FTA/FGA33.310236.016332.178
Four Factors -- Big East
BE Off. eFG%51.0752.7256.91
BE Off. TOv%22.31421.91422.314
BE Off. OReb%34.1931.21339.83
BE Off. FTA/FGA34.6737.5728.65
BE Def. eFG%49.1842.5145.23
BE Def. TOv%20.9419.7819.97
BE Def. OReb%36.71232.0633.48
BE Def. FTA/FGA38.41240.61219.82
All Gms Cons27.534022.123822.1233
All Gms Luck-.113339+.02196+.00155

Turnovers aside, the Hoya's 2006-07 four factors profile is probably as close to ideal for the Princeton Offense as a team can get. Despite very average defensive numbers in conference play in both 2007 and 2008, the Hoyas maintained their status as an elite team. 2009's stepback defensively came in shot defense and defensive rebounding.

For the Record...
Big East7110.3891530.8331330.813
Post Season?NIT/Rnd 1NCAA/Rnd 2NCAA/Rnd 5

I believed the Hoyas would have difficulty earning a third consecutive BET bye seed in 2009. The squad's youth, especially when taken in the context of the conference's overall maturity, coupled with the loss of specific skills offered by Roy Hibbert (rebounding & scoring efficiency) and Jon Wallace (perimeter offense), would weigh heavily against them. I did not anticipate a losing conference record however.

The Hoya's Nucleus
On Offense

Summers (departed), Wright and Monroe formed the "offensive engine" for the Hoyas. With Summers' exit, who will step into that role? Monroe may have a few more touches in him, but if Georgetown is reduced to an inside/outside duo (Wright-Monroe), they will give away those aspects of the Princeton Offense (simultaneous, multiple inside/outside scoring threats) most responsible for it's efficiency. Austin Freeman seems poised to assume a larger role, but a versatile wing/forward, in the mold of Jeff Green or Summers would be most helpful...Jason Clark anyone?

On Defense
Chris Wright81.09.525.
Greg Monroe76.016.718.821.35.13.7
Austin Freeman72.511.314.613.90.61.8
Jason Clark45.
Nikita Mescheriakov25.38.27.827.50.71.7
Henry Sims21.813.25.720.26.31.8
Julian Vaughn20.912.

The Hoyas need to find defensive rebounds. Among the returning players, only Greg Monroe was ranked in Pomeroy's Top 500. For a program that boasted 2 sometimes 3 top 500 rebounders (a Top 100 in 2006), 2009 was a big step back.

Significant Additions
With no gaping holes to fill and no inbound transfers this season, it comes as no surprise the incoming true freshmen (three of them) are not Top 10/50 types. Of the three, 6-7, 190 lb 5th year #3 Hollis Thompson has received the widest recognition. Hollis enrolled in the Spring 2009 and participated in practices during the last season. 6-2 #2 guard Vee Sanford and 6-7, 200 lbs Jerrelle Benimon, a #4 out of Fauquier H.S. (VA) will have time to learn Coach Thompson's system.

Explode If...
As the 2009 season wound down the bloggers over at Hoya Prospectus launched an indepth exploration of why the Hoyas' season went South. While definative conclusions were few, they did examine 6 different (statistical) aspects of the Hoyas' game, "Pace and Turnovers", "Shooting" (efficient conversion), "Shot Selection", "Free Throw Defense" (not as strange as it sounds, it was actually a preamble to luck and experience...), "More Luck" and "Experience and Depth". The bloggers did not develop a structured narrative for what happened to Georgetown. Of the series, the first two were the most enlightening. They, when combined with a largely overlooked (but in my opinion, one of the best posts written on the blog) entry titled "The Problem of Rebounding", probably explain what happened to Georgetown. During the 2007 season Ken Pomeroy identified one of Georgetown's enduring paradoxes -- that the Hoyas, running a low possession offensive system (the Princeton Offense) and somewhat prone to turnovers were, nevertheless, one of the most efficient offensive teams in DI ball. In the 2 seasons since their Final Four appearance the bloggers observed the Hoya's increasing pace (possessions per game), even as their offensive efficiency declined (slightly at first, a good deal more last season). The key to efficient offensive possessions was their offensive rebounding. The Hoyas were able to parlay missed FGAs into a second 35 second period, usually long enough to reset their offense and take advantage of what they learned about the defense in their last offensive sequence. Given enough 2nd chances, they were able to convert. As their offensive rebounding declined (with no appreciable increase in their field goal shooting percentages), their pace increased and offensive efficiency declined. To right the ship, the Hoyas will have to begin with rebounding.
1. Monroe, a top 500 rebounder at both ends of the floor needs to become a top 100 rebounder. Sims, when he hits the floor, will have to embrace the mission as well. The Hoyas excelled when at least two players were ranked in Pomeroy's top 500 for rebounding (with one of the ranked players higher...much higher). The third rebounding monster will most likely have to come from a guard spot -- Austin Freeman, Jason Clark possibly -- or Nikita Mescheriakov (or Hollis Thompson?) a forward.
2. Consistent 3 point shooting departed with Jon Wallace in 2008. Jesse Sapp and DaJuan Summers took responsibility for that part of the Hoya offense in 2009, but with mixed results as both had conversion rates in the mid-high 30s. The mantle will pass to some combination of Mescheriakov, Clark, Freeman and Wright, a quartet whose accuracy ranged from the mid 20s to the mid 30s. The group will have to add about 10 points to their completion percentage.
3. The person holding the ball in the Princeton Offense ideally should have three options -- pass to one of two cutters or take the shot himself. The key is to have the player best able to score the points take the shot. It is no coincidence that in their best seasons Georgetown had 2 players -- one usually a forward -- ranked in the top 500 in Ast%...with a third player just outside of that ranking. Point guard Chris Wright had an assist rate of 25% (maybe too high!?), with the next highest just outside the top 500 ranking. The issue is not the number of assists, but rather the distribution/frequency of assists. If Chris Wright understands that his job is not to find the shooter and get him the ball, but rather to "set the table" -- that is, initiate the offense, -- then run his pattern, thus allowing the offense sequence run out with each player who holds the ball decide to pass or take the shot, the offensive system play to it's strength.

Implode If...
The Hoyas rolled into Storr on December 29th to open their Big East season. They were 10-1 and the Huskies were 11-0. Georgetown throttled UConn 74-63, and seemed to be on their way. Even through the next 2½ weeks, the Hoyas maintained a 12-4 record (a home loss to Pitt and 2 road losses, one to Duke and the other to Notre Dame) with Monroe joining Wright in the top 500 for assist rates, and guard/forward Austin Freeman hovering just below at 16. Then the well oiled machine fell apart as they went 4-11 the rest of the way, as Monroe's assist rate declined to 18.8 while Freeman slumped to 14.6. Given there were no injuries or dismissals due to academics or discipline, the collapse was especially odd. What causes a season to turn on a dime? What caused the Hoya season to turn in 3 weeks?
1. They cannot control the offensive or defensive boards. Offensive boards will allow them to compensate for average shooting without being penalized too severely for turnovers. Defensive rebounding can depress the opponent's score, especially if they are a poor shooting team.
2. Don't distribute the ball. Don't get the ball to the player with the best chance to score.

Crucial Run/Bellweather Games
Georgetown under Coach Thompson has usually had a What?!!?? game or two in the OOC, so a mediocre outing early will most likely not be a clear indication of how they are progressing. Their game versus Washington in the John Wooden Classic, should be a good early bellweather. Playing on a Pac-10 court, the Huskies, winners of the regular season Pac-10 title last season, will not exactly have a homecourt advantage, but it will be pretty close. A good showing in Los Angeles, if coupled with a win over Butler, a well coached program out of the Horizon League, will surely be an early indication that the Hoyas are moving in the right direction.

The Hoyas will be tested early in their Big East schedule, as they host Connecticut on 1/9 (their 4th game in the Big East regular season) to open a two game homestand that features Seton Hall as the encore. Georgetown then takes to the road for two games, first against the Wildcats and then the Panthers. 4-0 through that stretch would most likely put them at 7-0 (they open with a 3 game sequence that begins with a home game against St. John's and then a Mid-West road trip that takes them to DePaul and Marquette). A 5-2 or better start should be taken as good news by the Hoya fan-base. Their five game run to close out the season, three home games against Syracuse, Notre Dame and Cincinnati separated by road trips to Louisville and West Virginia will be difficult. But if the Hoyas are, like last season, out of gas at that point, that run will be brutal.

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