After being relegated to the NIT in 2009, the Georgetown Hoyas (23-11, 10-8 Big East) made it back to the NCAA Tournament last season. They did it after finishing tied for seventh in the conference and beating three teams in the Big East Tournament, including Syracuse. Even their loss in the championship game was a good one as they just missed beating West Virginia in the final 60-58.
However, the Hoyas had a disappointing NCAA Tournament as they lost to Ohio 97-83 in the first round. The team didn’t seem to be quite up to playing at the level required of the Big Dance. This year, Georgetown, which brings back all but on major contributor, will be a better team and go further.
Who are they missing? It’s star frontcourt player Greg Monroe. In the frontcourt as a center, Monroe averaged 16.1 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.8 APG and 1.5 BPG. The amazingly talented center left after a massive sophomore year and was chosen by Detroit as the seventh overall pick in the NBA Draft. With Monroe leaving, the Hoyas will have to find someway to make up for his offensive and defensive contributions. The good news is that Georgetown has a solid alternative.
Swingman Julien Vaughn (6-9, 247 lbs., SR, #22, 7.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.4 apg, 22.6 mpg, .576 FG, .273 3PT, .571 FT) was the team’s power forward last season. The former Florida State player will move over to center. His 22.6 MPG was the most he played in his college career. He was a major contributor in the first two-thirds of the season but then faded in the last 11 games, failing to score in double digits. There will be more expected from Vaughn this season—more inside scoring, banging and rebounding. Vaughn was ranked 92nd nationally in percentage of shots blocked (7.0%).
Jerrelle Benimon (6-7, 242 lbs., SO, #20, 1.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 0.4 apg, 12.1 mpg, .394 FG, .167 3PT, .667 FT) looks to be ready to start at power forward. Last season, he showed no fear around the rim as a rebounder, pounding the boards and grabbing balls at will. And what was especially helpful was Benimon grabbed rebbies at both ends of the court. He is a tough competitor who takes no prisoners.
Hollis Thompson will man the small forward spot (6-7, 205 lbs., SO, #1, 4.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.0 apg, 19.5 mpg, .451 FG, .438 3PT, .615 FT). He proved to have smooth moves as a freshman last season. He played wing and shot the lights out from downtown. Moving inside to the small forward spot, he’ll be able to hit inside or pop out for a three, stretching the defense.
There is great news as far as the backcourt is concerned. The Hoyas have one of the finest guard duos in the nation—senior point guard Chris Wright and junior shooting guard Jason Clark. They can
Last season, Wright (6-1, 208 lbs., SR, #4, 15.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.1 apg, 35.1 mpg, .470 FG, .336 3PT, .777 FT) was exceptional from the foul line and from two-point land. Over the past two seasons, he’s shown fine growth and has proven to be a dynamic on-court leader. Along with being able to setup plays, he can score in bunches and has the ability to put in 20 or more points per game. He will be one of the most prolific point men in the game this season. Wright was 64th (87.8%) nationally in percentage of minutes played.
Clark (6-2, 170 lbs., JR, #21, 10.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.0 apg, 33.4 mpg, .475 FG, .424 3PT, .758 FT) is a tough and tenacious defender who can pop threes in one after the other. His effective field goal percentage of 60.2% was 42nd nationally and his true scoring percentage of 63.4% came in at 33rd. Like his counterpart, Wright, he too played a lot of minutes. The major concern for the Hoyas is making sure these guys get some rest so that they can be effective throughout the season and into the postseason. There are some sound backups ready to provide relief.
Swingman Austin Freeman (6-4, 227 lbs., SR, #15, 16.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.4 apg, 34.4 mpg, .525 FG, .444 3PT, .856 FT), who discovered last year that he had diabetes, is back and healthy, having managed to get his disease under control quickly. He missed just one game last season. He can easily be a starter or he may be the sixth-man in. The amazingly versatile Freeman will be a huge asset in the front and back.
Freshman forward Nate Lubick, who brings an exceptional basketball IQ to the court, is a strong, aggressive post player who knows how to utilize his 6-8, 227-pound frame. The Massachusetts High School Player of the Year and top 50 recruit will be given a chance to play some minutes immediately. He could see quite a few minutes if he adjusts to the college game quickly.
For the guards, relief should come from combo guard Vee Sanford (6-8, 215 lbs., SO, #20, 14.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.1 apg, 29.4 mpg, .547 FG, .451 3PT, .676 FT) and freshman Markel Starks at the point. Sanford struggled with threes as a frosh but showed an exceptionally accurate foul shot. He’s a hustling player who should be more consistent in his second season. Starks brings quickness and smarts to the point.
The Georgetown Hoyas were exceptional on offense last season. Their offensive efficiency was 117.4—that was ninth in the nation. Their effective field goal percentage, which was 5th in the nation, was 55.7%. They were 21st in three-point percentage (38.7%) and fifth in two-point percentage (54.7%). Still, in the Big East, which has a lot of big offenses, the Hoyas were seventh in average points scored with 73.5 PPG.
The team’s defense was good too. Opponents hit 46.0% of their two-point shots, while the Hoyas blocked 12.6% (29th) of their opponent’s attempts. The team’s defensive efficiency was ranked 47th, earning a 92.6 mark. The question is how much will it suffer, if at all, with Monroe now playing in the NBA?
Head coach John Thompson III (207-104 in 10 years, 139-62 in six years with Georgetown) has a strong team that offers a huge amount of potential. The guards are simply some of the best in the country. For Thompson it is about finding the right combination in the frontcourt. In six seasons with the Hoyas, Thompson has guided the team to two first place finishes in the conference and four NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Final Four and Sweet 16 showing.
There’s a solid foundation, fine bench and some talented new players on the roster. Although there’s concern about the frontcourt, there’s a whole lot of talent from which to choose. This is a team on the upswing that will finish either fourth or third in the Big East. They start the season ranked 16th in the nation. Big matchups this season include Temple and Memphis, which look to be proving grounds for this team. A trip to the NCAA Tournament is just about certain. How far they go will depend upon how well this club adjusts to playing without Monroe.
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