The Van Buren Boys

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Post and Times have season previews today

Barker still does not think that the Hoyas will wind up missing Jeff that much. I agree that Georgetown does have an all-around better team. But who will take the big shot? That's the question. Wallace can do so on a set play, but can't always create. I think DaJaun, who has shown a knack for drawing fouls, may become out go-to guy, but I'm not counting out Wright or Freeman.

Sound environment

Even without Jeff Green, Georgetown begins its quest for a Final Four encore blessed with the Excalibur of experience. Entering this week's hoops season tipoff, virtually every media outlet has weighed in on the Hoyas' hopes with some variation on the theme of life after Green. Last season's Big East player of the year averaged 14.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists. And after Green's leap to the NBA, much has been made of how the Hoyas would replace such a player. In fact, too much has been made of the post-Green void. The reality is that Georgetown's overall roster is deeper, more balanced and more talented this season. And most importantly, the Hoyas have a profusion of perhaps the most valuable commodity in college sports: experience. Among the 25 teams ranked in the preseason AP poll, only No. 12 Oregon boasts more returning starts in its potential opening-game lineup than the fifth-ranked Hoyas. Led by fourth-year starting point man Jonathan Wallace, whose resume features more starts than any other Division I player (102), the Hoyas feature a seasoned cast coming off the added experiential bonus of a Final Four appearance. The most remarkable thing about Georgetown heading into the season isn't who's missing; it's who's back. The Hoyas return four starters and eight of the nine principal pieces from the squad that swept both Big East titles en route to a 30-7 campaign and the school's first Final Four showing since 1985.
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"Nobody is going to take Jeff Green's position," Thompson said. "I'm not sitting here having watched tapes all summer saying, 'How are we going to fill Jeff Green's void?' This is a totally different group with different strengths, different weaknesses and different players. ... Even the same guys are totally different parts. [Sophomore forward] Vernon Macklin, for instance, is a totally different player this year than he was last year. Collectively, we'll figure out the mix and approach that gives us the best chance for success." Perhaps the biggest difference between last season's squad and the current Georgetown crew is that Thompson and Co. have far more options in terms of both personnel and style this season. Entering last season, Wallace was the team's only proven ball-handler and perimeter shooter. This season, the team has three proven ball-handlers in Wallace, Sapp and reserve guard Jeremiah Rivers and three proven gunners in Wallace, Summers and Sapp. Throw in the heralded local perimeter duo of McDonald's All-Americans Austin Freeman and Chris Wright and the Hoyas feature a far deeper backcourt than last season. That should give Thompson the freedom to run and press without foul concerns this season, as well as giving him more lineup options against the league's traditionally guard-centric teams (Marquette and Villanova). The upshot is that even without Green, the Hoyas enter this season with far fewer question marks and more experience. And while that doesn't necessarily translate into a deeper run in the NCAA tournament, it does mean that Georgetown has fewer hurdles on its way to becoming an elite-level team. Said Thompson: "Can we be better than last year? I don't know, but I certainly hope so. I do know that we definitely have more pieces and more options, and that gives us the opportunity to be better."

Powell's piece in the Post discusses what JTIII has accomplished in such a short time at Georgetown. It is one of those articles that makes we very happy that they inked the contract extension!

These Coaches Lead, And the Wins Follow

So Thompson III and Pitino are at the forefront of the Big East, which has always been a coaches' league, its identity forged in large part by the men who stood on the sidelines and won with distinct styles and big personalities. "I think Dave Gavitt [a founder of the Big East] said it best: The NBA is about the name on the back, and the college game is about the name on the front," Tranghese said. "When the NBA introduced the hardship rule, we were all worried about the effect of that. I think what it's proven to us is it's reinforced the brand name, which is Georgetown/John Thompson, Connecticut/Jim Calhoun, Syracuse/Jim Boeheim." It isn't easy to coach in the Big East, with its sheer size, variety of playing styles, and experienced coaches. The conference added two new coaches this season: Bob Huggins, who has the sixth-highest winning percentage among active coaches (.737), takes over at West Virginia, and Stan Heath, who led Kent State and Arkansas to the NCAA tournament, was hired by South Florida. Their arrival means that 14 of the 16 head coaches have taken a team to the NCAA tournament, and the only two that haven't, Rutgers's Fred Hill and St. John's Norm Roberts, were assistants on NCAA tournament teams. Six coaches have coached in the Final Four: Connecticut's Calhoun, Syracuse's Boeheim, Huggins (at Cincinnati), Pitino (at Providence, Kentucky and Louisville), Thompson III and Marquette's Tom Crean.
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Both the Hoyas and Cardinals have great players and great depth this season. For Georgetown, it's been a relatively quick process to get to this point. In Thompson's first season (2004-05), the Hoyas' rotation consisted of essentially seven players, none of whom were seniors. Now, Georgetown has an established core of players, led by senior center Roy Hibbert, a preseason all-American, and senior guard Jonathan Wallace -- both of whom were in that first seven-man rotation. "It's incredible just how quickly and fast his program has risen to national prominence again," said Heath, who faces a steep challenge in building the Bulls' program (four conference wins in two seasons). "You've got to give him a lot of credit for retooling the program into a national powerhouse." Pitino was well-established as a strong recruiter when he came to Louisville, after the success he had at Kentucky, but Thompson was an unknown quantity coming from Princeton. His first recruiting class didn't pan out -- only one player from that group, junior guard Jessie Sapp (National Christian), is still with the program -- but his subsequent classes have been impressive. The Hoyas now have three McDonald's all-Americans on their roster: sophomore forward Vernon Macklin and freshman guards Austin Freeman (DeMatha) and Chris Wright (St. John's). Next year's recruiting class will be Thompson's strongest; he has unofficial commitments from four players rated among the top 100 seniors in the country, led by forward Greg Monroe, the No. 1 rated player according to Thompson weighed heavily in Monroe's decision to commit to the Hoyas over Duke, Connecticut, LSU and Texas. "He was a pretty big factor," Monroe told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "He's a very intelligent man. He's very professional. He runs his program the right way. He's very hands-on. He's a very, very impressive coach, a very good coach, probably one of the best ones out there right now." No team has won more Big East games (regular season and tournament) over the past two seasons than the Hoyas, who are 28-10. "I think he's an unbelievable coach," Marquette guard Jerel McNeal said of Thompson III. "He makes it hard on the opponent, starting with the type of offense that they play, and getting the best shot selection and at the same time, letting his more talented players make plays. He's done an incredible job. He's definitely one of the premier coaches in the league and the country."

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