- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 6, 2008

As Georgetown exits its successful trip to the Old Spice Classic and enters the second half of its pre-Big East slate, it’s time to cue up Ennio Morricone’s famous soundtrack and review the good, the bad and the ugly of the Hoyas’ first five performances.

The Good

Greg Monroe - The freshman center leads the No. 20 Hoyas (4-1) in scoring (14.4 points), rebounding (5.6) and blocks (2.4). The 6-foot-11, 250-pound Monroe dominated inside and out on both ends of the floor, in the halfcourt and in transition against Georgetown’s first five opponents. The only negative is the New Orleans native needs more touches; Monroe is tied for 17th in the nation in field goal percentage (66.7) but attempts just 7.8 shots per game.

Defense - Continuing a trend under John Thompson III, the Hoyas rank 10th in the nation and first in the Big East in field goal percentage defense (34.4) and once again specialize in contesting nearly every shot in both their zone and man sets.

Man-to-man offense - Cementing another of their tendencies in Thompson’s tenure, the Hoyas are murder against teams that guard them man-to-man. In a 75-48 loss to the Hoyas, Maryland found out the hard way what most teams in the nation have already discovered: Defending the Hoyas with anything other than a zone is pointless. Thompson’s Princeton-based sets are devastating against man defense, which is why the Hoyas aren’t likely to see much more of the defense this season except against Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Duke.

The Bad

Bench - When the Hoyas lost key reserves Patrick Ewing Jr., Jeremiah Rivers and Vernon Macklin after last season to either graduation or transfer, Georgetown’s bench was bound to suffer. Few could have anticipated that the drop-off would be this dramatic. Georgetown’s five starters have combined to shoot 54 percent from the field; its shaky bench manages just 29.6 percent. Freshman guard Jason Clark is a solid sixth man with outstanding potential. Swingman Omar Wattad brings solid energy and a streaky jumper. Florida State transfer Julian Vaughn has a superb frame at 6-foot-9, 246 pounds but must provide more muscle on the boards. Things get nightmarish after that; reserve forwards Henry Sims and Nikita Mescheriakov are a combined 0-for-10 from 3-point range with seven turnovers, no assists and 10 rebounds.

The Ugly

Rebounding - Once again, this is shaping up to be Georgetown’s Achilles’ heel. The Hoyas rank 13th in the Big East in rebounding with a minus 0.6 rebounding margin. And once again, the primary culprit is forward DaJuan Summers, the 6-9 junior who ranks last among the squad’s starters in boards (3.4).

Zone offense - At times, the Hoyas have looked almost as inept against zone defenses as they have looked exceptional against man-to-man sets. Part of the problem has been the team’s poor 3-point shooting to date (28 percent). That number should improve once marksmen Austin Freeman (4-for-16) and Chris Wright (5-for-17) find their shots and Sims and Mescheriakov stop taking them.

Of greater concern is the team’s approach against opposing zones. In Monroe, the Hoyas have the prototypical zone-buster. An excellent passer and slasher, Monroe should be a terror at the elbow for the Hoyas. Saturday’s game against undersized American (4-3) may provide the perfect test for the Hoyas’ zone offense as Georgetown prepares for next week’s matchup with No. 18 Memphis and its challenging Big East start (at No. 2 Connecticut, vs. No. 3 Pittsburgh, at No. 7 Notre Dame).

“Much like the Maryland team, it’s a team we’re very familiar with,” Thompson said of American. “Our guys know their guys, they’ve played together a lot, so this isn’t a game where I need to give a big speech to get them fired up to play or respect the opponent. … We are focused on understanding that we’re trying to get ready for league play.”



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