So, like we often do, a five question exchange was done, but the questions ballooned to seven, and then the answers were interesting, complex, and too much to expect y'all to read (at 2500 words, it's time to cut some things down.
So, using the answers from our friends at Casual Hoya and Hoya Prospectus - who have published the Rumble's answers to their burning questions about Moe Harkless, Steve Lavin, and your St. John's Red Storm - I've culled some of the answers from our exchange to drop a little more knowledge about the Hoyas before the tip off.
Check out answers to their questions in Casual Hoya's Sleeping with the Enemy: The Red Storm of St. John's, and Hoya Prospectus' We'd have a clever title if this were a regular feature, which it's not
Learn about the Hoyas, below the fold.
1/ The Hoyas lost a lot of offense from a team that tanked down the stretch (losing their last 5 games, going just over .500 from January 1st on). Who or what has filled the gaps from last year?
Casual Hoya: That is an interesting perspective on last year’s Hoyas. I saw a team that started out slow in the Big East, then won 9 out of 10 game, lost their starting senior point guard to a hand injury, and struggled to find a replacement to run a highly complicated and pass-oriented offense at the end of the season.
This year, Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims have stepped up to replace Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Julian Vaughn. This year’s team is much younger, with 10 underclassmen on the roster, and much longer. Scoring can come from anywhere, although some players have hit a dry spell during the two game losing streak.
Hoya Prospectus: Well, the losing streak at the end of last season is easily explainable. Chris Wright got hurt, missing all or part of four of those last five games. The rest of the team didn't play well without him, but that's a huge loss to overcome.
What made the situation worse was that the Hoyas were not a deep team last year. They weren't deep in the sense of not having a lot of good players, especially down low. But more importantly, they weren't deep in the sense that they simply couldn't win in a lot of ways. The team was not strong defensively on a consistent basis, due both to weak interior defense (there was no real rim-defender on the floor) and no post offense. Julian Vaughn did the most with what he had, but he simply wasn't talented enough to consistently be a threat in the Big East.
There are two big changes to the team that have allowed it to overcome the loss of Wright and Freeman. The first truly big difference is Henry Sims. He maintains some of Julian's inconsistency, but he's simply better across the board. He can be a defensive force in the paint and is more of a post threat (and obviously a superior passer).
The second big difference is defense. If you look position by position, the player getting time is simply a better defender than the same minutes last year, almost without question. There's Henry, of course, and a slew of younger players simply having one more year to get better (Jason Clark, Nate Lubick, Markel Starks).
But there's also 6'8" Hollis Thompson getting most of the SF minutes instead of 6'4" Austin Freeman.
And the freshmen who are getting PT all are or are becoming very strong defenders: 6'8" PF/SF Otto Porter; 6'8" SF/SG Greg Whittingon; 6'5" SG/PG Jabril Trawick and 6'9" C Mikael Hopkins all play hard and have a natural inclination to play strong D. Porter plays the passing lanes well, Hopkins has nice shotblocking timing and Whittington and Trawick seems to take more pride in defense than scoring.
The result is that a team that was 58th last year in adjusted defensive efficiency is now 22nd. The offensive collapse last year without Wright was understandable. The defense was not good most of the year and so the team couldn't grind out a win when it wasn't scoring.
3/ "Henry Sims is a competent basketball player". A few years ago, that would have seemed like a wildly... optimistic statement. Explain how this happened, the impact of a good Sims, how important he is to the team, and what he does to influence the game on offense and defense.
Casual Hoya: I have no freaking idea. There are reports that Sims’ mom got on him because he was having too much "fun" in college. Others think that Sims’ realized he likely wasn’t going to receive an offer to play in the Syracuse Professional League (Europe) if he didn’t up his game. Sims is the most critical component to this team. Scoring can come from Thompson and Clark but Sims is the center of the offense. He is the best passing big man in the conference, possibly the country, and currently leads the Hoyas in assists with nearly 4 dimes a game.
Hoya Prospectus: I think also being the man by default has helped. Nate Lubick would be wildly undersized as a full-time center; Moses Ayegba blew out his ACL over the summer and the only other centers on the roster are freshmen. He has the job and knows it, and for a player that's struggled with confidence, it allowed him time to make enough plays to start to believe in himself. All of his skills are a little bit better than before, but it's his court awareness and assertiveness that are off the charts versus prior years.
6/ Should Otto Porter get more notice for freshman of the year honors?
Casual Hoya: That will be contingent on the Hoyas continuing to win. Because of the way the offense is predicated on teamwork and passing, it is hard to stand out individually as a scorer. Porter has shown an unbelievable nose for the ball on rebounds, and has come up pretty clutch in most of Georgetown's games this year. Aside from his last two outings, he is the player I feel most comfortable with the ball in crucial moments. But, again, he will get more notice if we continue to win, because he isn't putting up the eye popping stats that other freshmen are.
Hoya Prospectus: Of course! He's in a bit of a slump offensively at the moment, but there have been games where he's been the best player on the floor. He plays strong defense, grabs steals and can alter some shots. He's the best rebounder on the team and has a really nice mid-range shot. There's a lot of surprise freshmen in the league this year, but Otto's in the camp of his numbers not being fully representative of how good he is. He isn't forced to be the offensive focus (like the two frosh guards at Rutgers) and he plays on a slower paced team that shares the ball. The result is a very good, very efficient all-around player who won't get as much notice as he deserves because he doesn't put up crooked numbers.
Of course, we've got the "Otto Porter is the most prepared freshman JTIII has had" story to keep him in the news. We've heard that quote a few times. You probably will on Sunday. Oh, and did you know that his uncle was a big time junior college player? And that he didn't play AAU ball? Now you can mute the TV.
7/ What do you worry about with respect to the chance of losing to the Johnnies?
Casual Hoya: Losing three straight games to teams we should have been 3-0 against. We navigated the first three games in the conference very well, with wins over Louisville, Marquette, and Providence. To go 0-3 against West Virginia, St. John's and Cincinnati really will hurt come February.
Hoya Prospectus: It's on the road, and it's a Big East game, so I'm worried. We're coming off a rather ugly loss and are on a two game losing streak. We've tended to have problems with physical teams and the Johnnies always play us that way. But aside from the general random "one team can't hit/one team can't miss" type of scenarios, my biggest concern is the Johnnies' ability to force turnovers. The Hoyas started this season keeping the giveaways down and the offense was very good. Recently, that trend has reversed and we've struggled. Seventeen turnovers combined with hot shooting by Cincinnati beat us at home; the same combo will work for the Johnnies if they can pull it off.