The Van Buren Boys

The Blogosphere's best source for the latest analysis and
commentary from the world of Georgetown Hoyas basketball.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Georgetown-WVU Recap: The Jester Is Not Laughing

The Hoyas got throttled at home last night by the West Virginia Mountaineers. I'm not happy about it. I'm not happy about it, but things like that are going to happen to a young team. You're going to lose a game or two that you were expected to win. It's like Coach Thompson said during his post-game news conference. It's a "blip." You have to move on. So, I'm not happy about losing, but I can take it.

What I cannot take, however, is a team that gives up. Sometimes even well coached players lose their poise. But last night, in the waning minutes of the game, I saw a JTIII-coached team just complete give up while the clock was still running. In the last minute, or minute and a half, the Hoyas figured out that they didn't have time to come back and they just stopped caring. They let WVU get an uncontested, and monstrous, dunk. They started walking away from the ball as the last 20 seconds rolled off the clock.

I understand being upset at a bad loss. I do not understand not having enough self-respect, or respect for your fans, to let your opponent disrespect you on your home court like that. The game is 40 minutes long. You are supposed to play all 40 minutes. If I was the Georgetown coach I would sit every player on the floor at the end of last night's game for the beginning of Sunday's match-up against Seton Hall.

That's all I have to say about that.

Otherwise, the game was what it was. We shot horribly (20-51, and 2-16 from behind the arc). We turned the ball over like it was our job (19 turnovers for the game, with 11 coming in the first half). We missed free throws (16-25). WVU played good defense. They focused on Greg Monroe--denying him the ball and then double teaming him when he managed to get his hands on the rock. In return we played sloppy defense. The Mountaineers seemed to have an open shooter on every possession, and even when it was apparent that Da'Sean Butler was tearing us up (he had 15 in the first half) we couldn't manage to get a defender on him to slow him down (he finished with 27). It was just a bad game on every level, and still we were within two points with less than 12 minutes to play.

Let's hope the Hoyas shake it off for their three game road trip. The first two games, at Seton Hall and at Cincinnati are infinitely winnable. The game at Marquette on January 31st will be very tough. Let's see if these young Hoyas can remember how to fight.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Musings on Georgetown-Syracuse

I don’t have a lot of time to post, but I just wanted to say that last night’s thrashing of the Syracuse Orangemen was one of the most enjoyable Georgetown games I can remember. In fact, I think I enjoyed this game more than any that I have seen in person since Roy Hibbert hit that three to beat UConn at home last year.

It was just a thing of beauty. When’s the last time we saw the Hoyas look so unstoppable with their shooting. This year’s iteration of the Blue & Grey has never looked so hot from the floor. Everything about the game was just a lot of fun, from the students chanting “Ni-ki-ta, Ni-ki-ta” as Mescheriakov left the floor after shedding his normal “deer-in-the-headlights” play for two quick and timely threes; to the monster jam from Henry Sims; to the dejected look on the face of the ‘Cuse fans who I had to contend with in the Comcast Sportsnet box (thanks to Behemoth for pulling those tickets).

Just a few quick points:

1.) It was nice to see the Hoyas put together a strong performance in a game where Monroe didn’t do a lot of scoring. His final line (10 points) is misleading. Many of those points came down the stretch when the game was already firmly in hand. Don’t get me wrong, Greg did a lot of other things (i.e., leading the team with 6 assists). It was great, however, to see other players hitting the shots. It will serve us well down the stretch.

2.) The bench was the real story of this game. If you had told me a week ago that the bench would score 29 points against a top 10 team I would have said that you were crazy. Well, it looks like crazy just happened. Not only did the bench produce some points, but they played some valuable minutes, which left our starters looking rested and ready to play down the stretch. In our losses to Pitt and Notre Dame the most apparent problem (to me, anyway) was how absolutely exhausted our starting five looked. Exhausted players = ineffective players. The more the bench develops and is able to spell the starters, the more prepared the Hoyas will be to go the distance against the other elite teams of the Big East.

3.) On a related note, how about the rise of Jason Clark. He’s looked fantastic the last few games. He really is becoming the player that we expected him to be when he came to Georgetown. He scored 12 points last night on 5 for 6 from the field (including 2 for 3 from beyond the arc). He also looked comfortable handling the rock.

4.) The flip side of the rise of Jason Clark is the disappearance of Jessie Sapp. I didn’t expect Jessie to be a star this year, but I feel like he’s fading away. It’s sad. I’ve always enjoyed the energy that Jessie brings to the floor. At times, I feel like you can actually see the boxer in him. Last night he played less time than any other starter (19 minutes) and only scored 2 points -– making him the lowest scorer of the 10 individuals that got playing time. He also had two turnovers. The only bright side was the three steals he picked up.

5.) Did anyone else notice that Hollis Thompson dressed for the game and Byron Jansen did not? Is Byron hurt? Or is there a limit on how many players you can dress for a game? If the answer to that second question is “yes,” did JTIII just choose to dress Thompson instead of Jansen? Why would you do that for a player that isn’t supposed to play this year? I could probably dig around the Hoya Talk boards and find an answer, but if someone can save me the trouble by explaining in a comment it would be much appreciated.

6.) Does this scare anyone else? C’mon just give us one more year!

Anyway, bring on Duke!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

An Interesting Anecdote From The L.A. Times

I missed this on Big John's radio broadcast, which I rarely listen to because, well, I have a job and can't spend all day listening to sports radio. Having recently finished Leonard Shapiro's biography of John Thompson, Jr. (which is a good read), I thought that this was humorous.

Anyway, this is what The Los Angeles Times had to say:

Hoya means what?

John Thompson III, Georgetown's basketball coach, might want to quit
listening to sports-talk radio, especially when the one talking is his

John Thompson Jr., the former Georgetown coach, recently told listeners of
his show on Washington's WTEM that the Hoyas could cure their rebounding
problems if they had some "thugs."

As college basketball blog Rush the Court points out, Thompson, who was
known for defending his players against such labeling, would have taken
"umbrage" if any media type had suggested when he was coaching that some college
basketball players were thugs.

To his credit, JTIII, while acknowledging his team's rebounding
deficiencies, said merely that the Hoyas need players "with a nose for the

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Starks Profile in Post

Two painful losses under our belts and I feel like turning to something a bit more fun. (For the record, I expect the Hoyas to rebound just fine (in both senses). We are young, but very talented. The guys just need to get into a rhythm and work on some things. Greg Monroe--just keep doing what you are doing.) The Washington Post has this great video today on Markel Starks, who will join the Hoyas in 2 years.

Monday, January 05, 2009

AP Poll: Hoyas #9

Georgetown finished one spot higher in the AP poll, coming in at number nine. Again, Pitt is number one and there are nine Big East teams in the Top 25.

The interesting thing is that Georgetown's performance this week (beating UConn in Connecticut and losing to Pitt at home) caused them to gain two spots in the AP poll...while dropping two spots in the ESPN/USA Today poll.

I don't know what to make of that.

Ouch! That's a Little Rough, Gary.

Every week CBS Sportsline's Gary Parrish has his "Monday Look Back." One of the standard sections of that column is Gary's "Player Who Should Lose His Scholarship." This is this week's entry:

Player(s) who should lose (their) scholarship(s): I'm adjusting this category this week to include Georgetown's starting guards, namely Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jessie Sapp. After going 12-of-26 from the field and combining to finish with 34 points in that win at Connecticut, they stunk it up Saturday in a 70-54 home loss to Pittsburgh. Wright, Freeman and Sapp combined to go 4-of-22 from the field (including 2-of-12 from 3-point range), and when that happens against a quality opponent the Hoyas are typically going to lose, even when DaJuan Summers and Greg Monroe combine for 37 points.


The guards definitely let Georgetown down on Saturday. But Chris Right has been fantastic the rest of this (early) season, Freeman is always solid, and Sapp was one of the few players providing some passion as the game against Pitt started to get out of control (anyone who saw his reaction after the block/tie up he managed down low knows what I'm talking about). They had a horrible game. But it is just one game! Let's see what happens against the Irish tonight!

ESPN/USA Today Rankings: Hoyas #10

The ESPN/USA Today Poll just game out. After beating UConn and getting drubbed (at home) to Pitt, the Georgetown Hoyas are #10.

The biggger story, however, is the incredibly strong showing for the Big East. After UNC's suprise loss to BC, The Pitt Panthers take the number 1 slots for the first time in school history. Behind them in the top 25 are another eight Big East teams, including three more in the top 10--UConn at number five, Syracuse at number nine, and, again, Georgetown at number 10. The Big East's other representatives in the Top 25 are Notre Dame (13), Marquette (15), Villanova (17), Louisville (21), and West Virginia (22).

It's going to be a long Big East season!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Hoya Fans are Everywhere

From my perch at MSK, I've learned that Hoya hoop fans are literally everywhere; from M Street to the bowels of the hospitals in NYC. When I walked into the radiation room last week, I was sporting one of my old Hoya track long sleeve t-shirts. Eddie, my radiation tech, noticed the Hoyas logo and very excitedly began to tell me how he was in his words a "Hoya Hoop nut". He told me how he loved the Hoyas since the days of Patrick Ewing, Sr and followed Papa Ewing throughout his career. He's also a big fan of Monroe.

Anyway, the point of my story is that Hoya Paranoia is all over and has afflicted all ages. It's amazing what hooks people in. For Eddie it was Ewing. For me, it was Iverson taking on UConn in '95. Loyal readers, what's the first time you realized you were hooked?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Hollis is at Georgetown

As reported earlier on Hoyatalk, Hollis Thompson has enrolled at Georgetown. He evidently completed his high school coursework and was able to graduate early. Being fully qualified, he has enrolled at Georgetown as a second-semester freshman, who will practice with the team, but will not actually suit up. This is a great opportunity for Hollis to (1) bulk up, (2) learn the offense, and (3) work with the coaches on his skill development. This could be huge--especially if Summers jumps to the league. Thompson will not have a massive learning curve. By all accounts he is an exceptional student and a great kid. It is great to have him aboard. And barring some surprise, that finishes off the class of 2009.
Here is the report from

Hollis Thompson to Enroll at Georgetown for Spring Semester
California Forward admitted for Spring semester

Jan. 1, 2009
Washington DC - Georgetown University Head Men's Basketball Coach John Thompson III announced today that recruit Hollis Thompson, a 6-6, 180 lb. forward from Loyola High School in Los Angeles, California, has been admitted to Georgetown.

"Hollis will enroll for the 2009 spring semester," [begins January 7]" Coach Thompson said. "There are no plans for him to play, but he will practice with the team as he acclimates himself to college life. We feel this will be an exceptional opportunity for Hollis. It gives him a chance to adjust to life on and off the court before he begins intercollegiate competition in the 2009-2010 season."

Hollis is listed as an elite recruit with several recruiting web sites. He averaged 14.0 ppg and chose Georgetown over Duke, UCLA, USC and Arizona.

Katz still hearts the Hoyas ... and other thoughts

I loved this mention of the Hoyas from Andy Katz's New Year's piece:

Georgetown closed 2008 with a resounding win at Connecticut. The Hoyas host Pitt on Saturday (ESPN, noon) in a game that is as anticipated as any in the Big East this season. Illinois closed the calendar year with an impressive overtime win at Purdue. Michigan is up next for the Illini, and that game could provide insight into the Big Ten winner. This is good for the sport. This is really good. Georgetown has returned to power status.

It proved its strength two seasons ago when it reached the Final Four. The Hoyas are not wilting. They're getting stronger and more firm in their standing as an annual title contender, and those back-to-back regular-season Big East titles are evidence. A third is hardly out of the question. Pitt has become a new player among the Big East elite this decade. But having Georgetown back is good for the game.

Why? Well, the sport needs the Hoyas. Call me a traditionalist, but name recognition matters. Georgetown, which plays in the nation's capital, is synonymous with college basketball. Having that school's basketball program on television and mattering nationally is good for business.

This got me thinking about just how far we have come since we began this blog to coincide with JTIII's hiring as head coach. (Granted, our posting thus far this season has been halting at best.) After that first season, which featured a disappointing fade down the stretch soothed by glimpses of future glory, Jester linked to an Andy Katz piece that didn't even list Georgetown among the top 50 programs in the country, heading into the 2005-2006 season:

That season we spent much of the year in the top 25 and went to the sweet 16. The following year: top 25, plus Big East reg season/tourney champs and final four. Last year we were almost as good, save the disastrous loss in the second round to Davidson. This year we might even be better. What a testament to what many of us said during the ugly Esherick days. College basketball is all about the head coach. Plan and simple. Are facilities important? Yes. Does this issue need to be addressed at Georgetown? Of course. But it is worth appreciating what a difference a great coach makes.

I hope that the excitement of this year and the realization that the recent success was not just a fluke will spur more alumni to give to the program and to encourage the university to make the needed facilities investment. Reading between the lines of the JTIII contract extension negotiations, it seems that he was promised a new practice facility, but Lord knows how long that could take. With the economic downturn, he and we may need to be patient. That said, once the time comes, everyone needs to give generously.

Success in such a highly competitive environment is guaranteed to be fleeting without sustained commitment. This is true for great programs and great coaches. We learned that lesson at Georgetown in the late 1990s. Other programs, Temple, Michigan, Maryland, Depaul, St. John's and UNLV, to name a few, have also learned this the hard way.

Remember: high school students naturally have a very small frame of reference. They don't know who went to the final four 5 years ago, let alone 10 years ago. We can never become complacent again, as another JTIII may not be available to walk through those doors of an aging McDonough gym.

So let's enjoy our current success and plan for more in the future! Happy New Year's everyone!