Most sports fans are buried face first in the NFL, and have been deaf to the fact that the Georgetown Hoyas are legit. The Hoyas seem to be dog years ahead of the competition this season and sit at 7-0.
But it is early, and most understand that it is not time to pencil the Hoyas into the Final Four. And besides five of their wins have come against lowly opponents: Old Dominion, Tulane, Coastal Carolina, Wofford, and UNC Ashville. But answer this question, in the current state of college basketball what is a lowly opponent? Is a mid-major team considered dog food for the Hoyas? Is Georgetown’s win over Missouri more impressive than their win over Old Dominion?
When we quickly glance at the headline such as: Georgetown 87 Ashville 72, most of us quickly move on to reading about the Redskins. We don’t give much interest when Georgetown defeats an opponent that they “should” beat. But the truth of the matter is, there is no such thing as a lowly opponent anymore. Georgetown had to dig down deep to beat Old Dominion, just like they did against Missouri.
The days where mid-major teams resemble high school ball clubs is over. Physically, the Georgetown Hoyas have not dwarfed their opponents at all this season. We tend to think of players from Michigan State or Georgetown as the premier athletes. While our mental picture of mid-major schools is of slow white kids. Well those mental pictures need a stern dose of amnesia, because a change has come.
Georgetown starts three guards all under 6-4, meaning the Hoyas have actually been the smaller team in many of their matchups this season. They have not been men amongst boys, and their opponents haven’t come close to being intimidated. Meaning their 7-0 start is a true 7-0. They have beat teams because they play harder, smarter, and are better coached. And it does help that they are shooting lights out, Shawne Merriman style.
And did I mention that Georgetown is doing all of this without Greg Monroe. Everyone has been curious to how the Hoyas would fair without last season’s best player. Well those questions have been emphatically answered, and believe it or not, the Hoyas play better on offense without Monroe.
When Greg Monroe was a Hoya, he gave his teammates an easy out on many occasions. If the shot clock was running out, they could feed the ball to Monroe on the high or low-post and clear out. Greg could beat any big man off of the dribble, and score at will around the paint. Without Monroe, the Hoyas must continue to run their offensive sets for the entire shot clock. There is no one player that can bail them out.
Their best player this year Austin Freeman, is not a player who creates his own shot. Freeman scores within the confines of the offense. Which means Georgetown is playing a more rounded team game this year, because it takes more effort to get their star player the ball. They can’t just feed Freeman in the post. They have to run specific sets, move the ball constantly, and execute in order to get Freeman involved. This year instead of only having Wright and Monroe touch the ball, the whole team is involved on each possession.
And when the whole team is involved the defense tires a little quicker because all five of those defenders are constantly moving. Last season it was easy to double down on Monroe in the post. But it is not easy to double down on Freeman as he runs around screens. And that’s why the Hoyas play better without Monroe. They play a team game, and the defense cannot single out one player to stop.
It sounds a bit odd to say that a team is better without a dominant big man, but in college basketball you don’t need a big man to win championships. Can anyone name Duke’s starting center from last year’s championship team? I didn’t think so.