"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Friday, October 18, 2019

Georgetown Preview

Georgetown Hoyas
January 18, Capitol One Center, Washington, D.C.; February 26, fiserv.forum

Coach: Patrick Ewing (34-29)
3-Year NCAA Rank Average: 118.0
3-Year kenpom Average: 87.7
2019-20 T-Rank Projection: 42

Projected Starters: PG James Akinjo (6'0" So), SG Mac McClung (6'2" So), SF Jamorko Pickett (6'8" Jr), PF Josh LeBlanc (6'7" So), C Omer Yurtseven (7'0" Jr)

Georgetown had about as mediocre a year as one could have last year. Non-con losses to Loyola-Marymount and SMU were head-scratchers and did damage to what was a very favorable schedule. In conference play, they split with 7 of their 9 opponents, sweeping only Providence and being swept by Creighton. So while they won some big games, they lost some bad ones as well. In Ewing's second season, they fell in the kenpom rankings for the second straight year, from 69 under Thompson III to 94 in Ewing's first year and 100 last year. They also lose leading scorer and rebounder Jessie Govan.

So where's the optimism? A great freshman class, buoyed by the Big East Rookie of the Year, James Akinjo. Both of their backcourt debutants averaged over 13 ppg, though multi-talented Josh LeBlanc was the most efficient offensively while providing boards on both ends. In addition, Yurtseven provides a big, experienced presence to be a like-for-like replacement for Govan and immediately is a contender with Theo John for best big man in the Big East. Pickett, the first big recruiting win for Ewing, has been terrible offensively (sub-90 ORtg his first two years) but provides needed length on defense. The bench is thin. Jagan Mosely, Jahvon Blair, and grad transfer Terrell Allen are competent backups, but are 6'3". Galen Alexander is the only real front court relief, aside from a bundle of expected freshmen projects.

On offense, Georgetown plays ultra-fast, a sharp contrast from the Thompson years. Despite finishing in the top two in the league in pace every year under Ewing, they also finished in the bottom four in efficiency. The reason is twofold. First, because players like Blair, Pickett, and Akinjo have been indisputably terrible inside the arc and because Jessie Govan, who had the highest interior usage, was mediocre (52.8 2PFG% the last two years) in that regard. Further, while they're a more efficient team from three, they don't take a ton of shots outside the arc. They will hope another year of experience will improve upon that, but it's the same poor finishers and Omer Yurtseven's 54.8 2PFG% in two years at NC State is only a slight upgrade from Govan. Defensively, there's no real identity. Despite Ewing being a staunch defender as a player (like Wojo) he hasn't been able to convey that to his team.  They don't have enough depth and length to stick with a zone and usually seem overmatched in man. I've seen Hoyas fans indicating that was largely Govan's fault as an immobile tree that only blocked shots, but if the answer to that is Yurtseven, I don't think expectations should change much.

On paper, Georgetown looks like a clear #7 in the Big East. They have some talent, but the ball will likely spend too much time in the hands of less efficient players like Akinjo and McClung. If Yurtseven fits in immediately and they run the offense through him and LeBlanc while finding a defensive identity, maybe they can move up in the pecking order, but they just seem to have too many holes in the starting lineup and especially bench to be a top-half team. The ability to get Ewing's first NCAA berth is there, but it's worth noting that despite the optimism around the program, they have regressed in overall efficiency rankings per Pomeroy in each of his first two seasons.

Marquette Memory: After narrow wins over St. John's and Villanova, Marquette was one win away from reaching the 2010 Big East Tournament final. The only thing standing in their way was a Georgetown team they had beaten 3 straight times, including a 62-59 win in D.C. earlier that year. From the outset, it wasn't meant to be. Georgetown started on a 15-4 run and every time Marquette surged back, the Hoyas had an answer. Maurice Acker's layup pulled Marquette to a manageable 56-51 deficit before a decisive 14-1 Georgetown run put the game away. Greg Monroe led the Hoyas with 23 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 assists as they ran Marquette out of MSG with a 23-point defeat.

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