The Van Buren Boys

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

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Hoyas are Media Darlings

The recent winning streak has led to a number of lauditory articles on John Thompson III and the Hoyas. Although this press is warranted and enjoyable, there is still a long way to go before anyone can consider this season a success. I first want Nova's scalp and then there is the matter of Pitt ... and Cuse .... and UConnvict. The boys still have some work to do. But here are the articles.

Princeton Offense, NBA Talent

When people talk about the Princeton offense, they're usually referring to the style of attack run by Pete Carril and Bill Carmody for many years at that school. The Tigers knew they couldn't attract the kind of highflying stars common at basketball factories like North Carolina and Kentucky. Instead, Carril devised a precision motion offense, one that encourages constant cutting and screening, backdoor passes, and even big men taking open three-pointers. Schools such as Air Force have used talent that's a half-notch better and parlayed a variant of the Princeton offense into major success. But the Hoyas have taken the next step. A high-profile basketball program playing in the elite Big East conference, Georgetown has implemented the Princeton offense, using an array of talented players, some of whom will surely play, maybe even star, in the NBA. And while other schools have tweaked the Princeton offense to include their own wrinkles, the Hoyas have stayed true to the original formula. That's no surprise given that their coach, John Thompson III, succeeded Carril and Carmody as the Tigers' head man before coming to D.C. to carry on his father's legacy.

At 100, Georgetown Looking Strong Thanks to JTIII

More discouraging to followers of the program, the University itself did not appear to care about the slow demise of a team that had long been part of the University’s identity. Then-Athletic Director Joe Lang issued a statement defending Esherick, saying that it was an unreasonable expectation that the team make the NCAA Tournament every year. The outcry from alumni and fans alike was audible. And despite Lang and Esherick’s defiance, as the 2003-04 season ended, the changes began. The Hoyas dropped their final nine games, even losing to a St. John’s team that had suspended six scholarship players for the season after a scandal with a prostitute, and an embattled Esherick was finally fired. When the coaching search began, it was only natural that John Thompson III’s name was included among the candidates. At the time, however, he did not enjoy the almost universal approval from the Hoya fan base he does today. On the popular Hoya Talk online bulletin board at, posters called for Fran Dunphy, Johnny Dawkins or another Duke Assistant du Jour. Some suggested it was best to break from the past and begin a new tradition, feeling that continuing with another member of the Thompson family would mean clinging to the same, tired standard that had led the program to its current state. The doubts lessened over the course of JTIII’s first year, as he guided Georgetown to a win at Pittsburgh in his Big East debut and later claimed a last-second win over Notre Dame (close games had been the Hoyas’ bane during the Esherick days). All of the doubts were silenced on Jan. 21, 2006 — the day Georgetown beat No. 1 Duke 87-84 in front of a sold-out Verizon Center. The proverbial electricity displayed by fans at that game could have powered Manhattan — for a decade. The best example of that emotion came as time expired and the gray-clad fans swept onto the floor. Even Ted Leonsis, as in Washington Capitals owner / AOL mogul Ted Leonsis, sprung from his courtside seat and into the celebration, nearly mauling a wheel-chair bound Hoya fan in the process.

KenPom Loves the Hoyas

KenPom's offensive ratings are therefore based on shooting percentages, turnovers, rebounds and free throws. And, as noted above, this year's Georgetown team has the best offensive rating since he began keeping track. The previous best? The 2005 North Carolina national championship team. "Georgetown is screwed by the fact that they play at such a slow pace, so no one really appreciates what they do offensively," he told me. "They don't score as much as North Carolina, they can't, because they have 20 possessions less than North Carolina. When people look at offensive effectiveness, they look at how many points you score a game. Carolina scores 88 [2nd in the country], Georgetown scores 69 [160th]. Even now, now that the Hoyas are rolling, people get sucked in and think they're a defensive team, but considering the number of possessions they get, their offense is incredible.... "I think [people] misunderstand the team, let's put it that way. I mean, if you see them play, you understand that their offense is pretty awesome, but people that don't see them play game in and game out, they think they're like Princeton or Northwestern, they get them confused with an ordinary low-scoring team. Obviously that's not the case. Their offense is unstoppable."

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