The Georgetown Hoyas will return from the 2011 Maui Invitational with a fifth-place finish to their name after wins over Division II Chaminade and No. 8 Memphis offset some of the sting of Monday night's 67-63 loss to No. 14 Kansas. This was the first chance to see the Hoyas against quality opposition in 2011-12, and naturally several traits -- some good and some bad -- made themselves known right away. Let's take a look back.
The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same: Despite the departures of Austin Freeman and Chris Wright, the ethos of John Thompson III's team remains much the same as in previous years. The offense is based on quick passing, big men cutting to the basket and guards knocking down outside shots. The defense is designed to make opposing teams use all 35 seconds of the clock and deny them easy looks at the basket. The talent and the settings are different, but let there be no doubt: this is still absolutely a Princeton-style team.
If the tournament is any indication, Jason Clark will likely be playing the role of Freeman this year. Clark announced himself to the college basketball world with a 26-point performance on 9-of-17 shooting in the 91-88 overtime win over Memphis on Wednesday. In the process, the senior from Arlington showed an impressive inside-outside game and a willingness to take the big shot that this year's Georgetown team desperately needs.
The Interior Offense: Georgetown's big men were a liability on offense last season, and Hoyas fans should be pleased to know that an extra year's experience and a summer's work has paid partial dividends. I was particularly impressed with Henry Sims, who seems poised for a big senior season after putting up 24 points and eight rebounds in the win over Memphis.
Meanwhile, sophomore Nate Lubick is, to put it kindly, a work in progress. Against Kansas, Lubick attempted just two field goals (both misses), scored four points and grabbed only three rebounds in 29 minutes. Against Memphis, Lubick got only 16 minutes of floor time, but managed to miss all six field goals that he attempted. Fortunately for Georgetown, freshman forward Otto Porter seems to be the real deal. The Missouri native played 40 minutes and chipped in nine points and eight rebounds against Memphis and broke into double figures against Kansas (12 points in 26 minutes). No one should expect those types of performances every time out from Porter, but right now, he's giving Georgetown a lot more on both ends of the floor than Lubick. John Thompson III wouldn't be much of a coach if he didn't take notice.
The Interior Defense: By and large, Georgetown didn't do nearly a good enough job of defending the paint in its two games against Division I opposition. In the loss to Kansas, Jawhawks forward Thomas Robinson ran amok down low, scoring 20 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. In all, Kansas shot 47.1 percent from the field (24-for-51), a stat that will not have pleased the Hoyas coaching staff.
"Now their guards did a very good job of getting into the meat of our defense, and our bigs probably stepped up a little bit too much and ended up with what feels like 14 dunks."
By contrast, Memphis guards Will Barton and Joe Jackson were able to drive to the goal with relative ease, scoring 22 and 20 points, respectively. This was a big part of the reason why Memphis made nearly 50 percent of their shots (31-for-63) . Georgetown was able to get away with an overtime victory, but the interior defense will have to improve significantly before the Hoyas start Big East play.
Overall Outlook: As it relates to this week's performances, I would be more encouraged by the loss to Kansas than by the win over Memphis, as counter-intuitive as that sounds. Kansas is talented, well-coached and likely underrated at No. 14, and the Hoyas fought the Jayhawks to the end. Memphis is talented, but not particularly well-coached. They are defensively fragile and almost certainly overrated at No. 8. But not only did Georgetown need overtime to beat them, they needed a Memphis turnover on their next-to-last possession of regulation just to be in a position to tie the game.
Down the road, the hope is that this week will serve as the first step on the road to respectability, if not contention. The preseason predictions that the Hoyas would finish in the bottom of half of the Big East standings would no doubt have been a cause of consternation, but if the performances of this week are any guide, Georgetown fans should be prepared to have their early expectations exceeded.
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