Game #30: Georgetown Hoyas at St John's

;While piecing together pregame notes and information on tonight's Georgetown Hoyas / St. John's game at Madison Square Garden, I looked at various stats sites and I came out more confused than ever.

So for the pregame I asked the fine folks at Hoya Hoops for a breakdown of the Hoyas. They gave me the skinny, below the fold.

Georgetown Hoyas logoFrom Hoya Hoops:

The Georgetown Hoyas had a miserable six week stretch dating back to the middle of January. During that time, the team went 2-9, including five losses in a row. The only two wins the Hoyas managed during that period were against Rutgers and South Florida. A team that was once ranked in the Top 10 nationally became an NCAA tournament afterthought.

Pretty much everything was going wrong for the Hoyas: bad shooting, average defending, careless turnovers, and poor execution. Just as the season appeared to be destined to end in the N.I.T., there was a sudden transformation for Georgetown this past Saturday in Philadelphia against #10 Villanova that reignited a spark for a strong finish to the season.

Against the Wildcats, the Hoyas looked like the team they were back in December when they won games in overtime against Memphis (now #4) and on the road against Connecticut (now #2). In their last game, the defense was as good as it had been all season, with one of the top offensive teams in the conference struggling to score anywhere on the floor. It was the first time all season that Georgetown closed out a tight game. With a one-point lead in the final minute, Chris Wright broke down his defender and scored on a finger roll at the rim. After another defensive stop, Wright sealed the game at the line with 10 seconds to play. Now the Hoyas have an outside chance to earn an at-large bid, but they know there is no room for error.

Chris Wright is the Hoyas most aggressive scorer, DaJuan Summers is Georgetown's leading scorer, and Greg Monroe is their most important player. Monroe's season stats don't tell the story; he is the key to everything. For people who haven't seen Monroe yet, you can't understand how integral he is to the Hoyas until you watch a game. Everything flows through him, whether he's scoring, assisting, or not. Monroe hasn't had a bad game all season, but the team's success really depends on everybody besides Monroe.

Georgetown has a handful of players who have made major contributions at times, but the lack of consistency from any one player has been striking. Austin Freeman, Jessie Sapp, Nikita Meshariakov, and Jason Clark could all have big nights against the Red Storm, but it's much more likely that only one of them will, and it's very possible that none of them will.

Check out the Hoya Saxa pregame report, and the Hoya Hoops game preview.

 

The 5 Points -or Keys to the Game:

St John's logoDefend Monroe Without Fouling. Greg Monroe has skill, vision, shooting range, shot-altering ability, a little mobility, and the ability to force a steal or three. He has to be disrupted; but who on St. John's has the size and length to bother him without fouling? I imagine that Sean Evans will defend DeJuan Summers (note: he indicated he would in the pregame video on Red Storm Sports), so that would leave Burrell to do the job on the Hoya center. Perhaps the defense here is a team job, covering the other players tightly and making Monroe make plays - he is sometimes "too unselfish" as announcers will say.

St John's logoRebound. It's the one thing St. John's is very good at. Box out, and go get that ball, especially on the offensive end. But make sure the Hoyas also don't have easy putbacks; they are athletic enough to make those noisy, demoralizing putbacks.

St John's logoEyes On Your Man. St. John's has to make sure the Hoya players are covered; make them take outside jump shots, not backdoor cuts that lead to dunks. This is a team effort; the defense has to be vocal and make sure no one is ducking inside to receive a pass for an easy score.

St John's logoEyes On Your Balls. I don't mean look down, I mean look up and look out. St. John's has a tendency to have a streak where they essentially defeat themselves, coughing up the ball in tired or unfocused stretches, passing it into the stands or to the opposing player most likely to dunk it on the other end. Take care of the ball, especially in a slow-paced game; it's harder to come back when neither team is running up and down the court. And if there is going to be running, let it be because of Malik Boothe's speed and aggression, not because the team is watching Chris Wright race downcourt with the ball, ready to style on the Johnnies in the Garden.

St John's logoNothing to Lose. It's the end of the season, and coaches are using their best "spoiler role" speeches. The Red Storm have nothing to lose, no reason to play tight. Let it loose, take confident jump shots, make confident drives, get to the free throw line. Try to recapture that crispness in the arena air that was palpable in Chicago. And remember that awful taste when Syracuse's players treated the Red Storm like the Washington Generals to their Globetrotters.

On St. John's/ Team Scouting Report:

St. John's relative strength is in the guard/ SF positions, where Paris Horne and DJ Kennedy provide solid defense and decent athleticism while leading the team in scoring. Paris Horne has a decent outside jumper, is fast in transition and can get above the rim. Kennedy is a strong fundamental player with an inconsistent shot; he can handle the ball a little, make drive-and-kick plays, and draw fouls. The backup guard is Quincy Roberts, who sometimes handles the ball as a backup point guard.

At point is Malik Boothe. He is a bulldog defender, a solid ballhandler, but a poor shooter, and has struggled with his ballhanding and defense since returning from a hand injury. He is sometimes backed up by TyShwan Edmondson, a lanky defender who needs to gain some weight.

At forward, Sean Evans is the most reliable player. The agile former defensive end willingly muscles up other players and bangs on the offensive glass. Justin Burrell is the most athletic and talented, but has struggled since returning from broken bones in his face (courtesy of Evans) with a mask on his face. He has range and ability but often fades in the offense. Rob Thomas gets a number of minutes; he is a very willing banger and has a nose for the ball on oeffensive rebounds.

There is also Tomas Jasiulionis, who is 6'11" and willing to throw his body around. Phil Wait is deep on the bench. The Manchester, UK, native hasn't gotten to show much this year, but was known to be a project when he came to St. John's. Shot-blocking role player Dele Coker has been suspended for not meeting his academic responsibilities.

Pregame Media

 

Now for some delusion, on both teams' parts - the Hoyas thinking they'll reach the NCAAs and the Johnnies thinking they will reach the NIT:

NY Post: Storm watch intensifies

"I think whenever you get off the schneid it's a big win," said Roberts. "The fact is we haven't won on the road in a while. Now some people want to say, 'Well, it was DePaul.' First of all, DePaul is playing hard. And no one feels sorry for us when we get beat at home.

"So every time you do something you haven't done, it allows the kids to just think about playing basketball," continued Roberts. "In that sense, there's less pressure. But I personally haven't felt any pressure."

Yep, and the economy is just swell.

NY Daily News: St. John's coach Norm Roberts won't rule out unlikely spot in NIT

"We have a lot to play for," Roberts said Monday. "We have two games left. We have the Big East Tournament. I'm not saying we should get into the NIT, but if we could put together three or four or five wins, we could."

With a 14-15 record (5-11 Big East) and an RPI of 147 according to CollegeRPI.com, Roberts sounds like a man in need of medication. Still, stranger things have happened. Three years ago, Syracuse was given no shot to reach the NCAA Tournament, but made it by winning four straight in the conference championships.

"If we win our last two games that would be wins over Georgetown and Notre Dame," Roberts explained. "You do that, you win a couple in the (Big East) tournament and you're coming out of the best conference in America. There's a chance."

Washington Times: Final stretch gives Hoyas some hope

"It's human nature [to have a shift in attitude after you win]," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said Monday. "You feel better about yourself. You feel better after winning than losing, but how we go about preparing for St. John's is the same as we have all year."

The Hoyas (15-12, 6-10 Big East) wouldn't seem a likely at-large candidate at first blush, but their win total, league record and recent trend are likely to look a bit better after this final week of the regular season. The Hoyas close their Big East slate at St. John's on Tuesday and vs. DePaul on Saturday.

HoyaHoops: Scoring Storm (Pregame predictions)

Washington Post: When Foul Trouble Isn't a Problem

For Thompson and the Hoyas, it has been a season of maddening inconsistency, in which a young squad has flailed about in search of an offensive identity, a defensive presence and a lineup capable of delivering both.

In Thompson's quest for a solution, no move was more shocking than his decision to replace the team's only senior in the starting lineup, Jessie Sapp, with Mescheriakov.

Nonetheless, Mescheriakov has earned his starting spot on grit -- diving for loose balls during practice and games, flinging himself into scrums over rebounds and contesting bigger opponents' shots. He's also a dangerous three-point shooter, although his range and accuracy haven't yet translated from practice to games.

Thompson seems willing to wait, confident that the effort Mescheriakov exerts will pay off on both ends of the court.

"That will come with his comfort level," Thompson said. "But he sees the open man. And he can make passes, too."

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