Category Archives: Basketball

Hoyas go down early in yet another March Madness

This one really hurts for the Hoyas.

Run out of the gym by a Florida Gulf Coast team that had absolutely nothing to lose and clearly wanted it more, Georgetown was handed its most embarrassing NCAA tourney loss yet in a long line of pathetic performances. FGCU had the perfect game plan: run the floor quickly, attack the rim, don’t let Georgetown get set on defense, and harass the Hoyas into tough shots when they have the ball. Georgetown seemed completely unprepared for the athleticism of its opponent, who beat the Hoyas with hard cuts, pinpoint passes, and of course, highlight reel alley-oops.

For some reason, Otto Porter Jr. chose last night to have his worst game of the year. He shot 5-17 from the floor and repeatedly missed shots in the paint – contested lay ups, sure, but shots you would expect a national player of the year candidate to nail. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who had such a solid freshman campaign, put in another nightmare shooting performance. Including the Big East tournament game against Syracuse, Smith-Rivera closed out the year 0-10 from three point range.

Starters Nate Lubick and Mikael Hopkins were overwhelmed by FGCU’s tough defense, and their lack of ball skills showed. Jabril Trawick, playing in front of a hometown Philly crowd, at least seemed to want it for Georgetown, but ultimately is not the type of big-time scorer the Hoyas needed last night. Markel Starks and Aaron Bowen are really the only Hoyas who can be proud of their effort, if not the result. Bowen provided some energy off the bench when nothing was working for the team in gray, while Starks hit a few threes that kept the game alive late, and was the only Hoya able to score for long stretches of the game.

Georgetown had a tough time getting the ball in the bucket, but that’s nothing new for the Hoyas. Usually they find a way with a patient offense and stingy defense. Before last night, Georgetown had given up 54 points or more in only 16 of 31 games this season. The Hoyas allowed FGCU to put up 54 in the second half alone. Before last night, Georgetown had only given up 78 points twice all year, in overtime to Indiana and double overtime to UConn. So the question is then, how could a team built to play tough, aggressive defense simply not show up in the most important game of the year?

Perhaps it really is time to start questioning the leadership. If John Thompson III was named Tom Johnson I, he would’ve been gone two years ago. JTIII and Porter winning Big East coach and player of the year just seems like a sick joke at this point. The Final Four run with Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert was magical, but in the six seasons that have followed, the Hoyas best tournament performances are second round losses to double digit seeds. That is simply unacceptable for a program like Georgetown. In a previous column, I suggested there may be some psychological barrier causing these early exits, and there’s certainly no doubt that there is one now.

It’s difficult to say whether it really is time for JTIII to go, considering that he’s brought the school back to national relevance in basketball over the past 8 years. Furthermore, his father John Thompson Jr. is a Hoya legend, and is still very involved with the program. The Georgetown brass may be hesitant to do away with the younger Thompson for fear of creating a rift with the older.

Whether it would be for the good of the program or not, I just can’t see JTIII getting fired. So the big question going forward, then, is what will Otto Porter decide to do? Basically a lock for the lottery all year, Porter was inexplicably absent when Georgetown needed him most. Many fans, myself included, will feel he owes the Hoyas another year. Unfortunately, the NBA drafts on potential, and while this game may hurt his stock a bit, it doesn’t change the fact that he can play at the next level. For now, we must hold out hope that Porter does not want to leave Georgetown with the memory of this as his last game.

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Sizing up the new Big East

The Big East announced yesterday the long anticipated additions of Butler, Xavier, and Creighton for the 2013-2014 season. Along with the “Catholic 7”, this brings the Big East to 10 schools, allowing for a traditional home and home round robin conference season, at least for the upcoming year. The Big East is reportedly looking to add 2 more schools in the future to reach 12 teams total.

The aforementioned 7, consisting of Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, St. John’s, Providence, Seton Hall, and DePaul, have done very well to add schools that are similar in size and athletic focus, along with adding three new media markets, which was very important to the new television deal signed with Fox. Below, I’ve evaluated the make-up of the new conference, separating the schools into 3 categories: old Big East strong programs, old Big East weaker programs, and the newcomers.

The Strong (Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, St. John’s)

Let’s get this out of the way first: Some may argue that St. John’s is not a strong program. It is true that the Red Storm hasn’t reached an Elite Eight in 14 years, and has not been a force in the Big East for quite a while. But this is still a school ranked #7 on the list of teams with the most victories in college basketball history. The Johnnies play their home games at Madison Square Garden, the undisputed mecca of basketball. New York City is a recruiting hotbed, and St. John’s is on the upswing under new coach Steve Lavin. In this new iteration of the Big East, there is no reason why the Red Storm cannot compete for a title every year.

The other three are without a doubt some of the best basketball schools in the country. Georgetown, Marquette, and Villanova have all won national championships, have all reached multiple Final Fours, and all sport some of the top coaches in the nation. With some very good schools leaving for the ACC, these three programs should be consistently challenging for top 25 rankings, Big East titles, and top seeds in the NCAA tournament.

The Weak (Providence, Seton Hall, DePaul)

It’s clearly evident that this group has not been good for a while. However, it must be noted that for the past decade the Big East has been undoubtedly the best conference in college basketball, at least during the regular season, and it’s been difficult for these three to compete with the bigger, richer, more desirable programs. They should all benefit from being in a smaller, watered down conference that nevertheless has national exposure, a proud history, and a lucrative television contract. DePaul has probably been the worst of the group over the years, but if it can figure out how to tap into the gold mine of talent in the Chicago area, the program could rise up and challenge for Big East titles going forward.

The New (Butler, Xavier, Creighton)

One paper, these appear to be much more solid programs than the three discussed above. Butler is just two years removed from its second straight national championship game appearance. Xavier has been one of the most consistently good basketball programs in the country over the past decade, and is the only member of the new Big East ranked in the Forbes Top 20 most valuable college basketball programs. Creighton might not have the quality or appeal of Butler and Xavier, but it’s had good years recently and is among the top 10 in the country in attendance. All three schools are in the midwest and will expand the Big East’s footprint.

Conclusion

This group is certainly worse as a whole than the old Big East, but still can stake a claim as the third best basketball conference in the country, after the ACC and the Big Ten. It’s a shame to lose great programs like Louisville, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and UConn, but in reality, the “Catholic 7” had little choice after football completely reshaped the college landscape. The conference has made excellent moves in a short period of time, adding like-minded schools, retaining the Big East name, and most importantly, keeping MSG as the home of the conference tournament. The new Big East should send at least half of its teams to the NCAA tournament every year and regularly contend for national titles.

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A Hoya-centric NCAA Tourney preview

The Georgetown Hoyas have to be pleased with their situation after the NCAA tournament bracket was released last night. Georgetown will play its opening round games in Philadelphia, starting against Florida Gulf Coast on Friday. Should they advance, the Hoyas will take on the winner of Oklahoma and San Diego State on Sunday. Perhaps best of all for Hoya fans is the advantage they have over their counterparts in terms of proximity to home. Unlike the Syracuse game at MSG on Friday, the crowd should be decidedly pro-Georgetown this weekend, which hopefully will propel the Hoyas to their first Sweet Sixteen since they reached the Final Four in 2007.

Georgetown has followed that stellar season with a series of first and second round exits, even missing the tournament completely one year. It’s getting to the point where the team might have a psychological barrier to overcome in making it past the second round. John Thompson III and Otto Porter Jr. were the Big East coach and player of the year, respectively, but it will all be for naught if the Hoyas don’t put in a strong tournament performance.

On the bright side, this bracket might be the most favorable that Georgetown has seen since the magical run of 2007. FGCU is a trendy upset pick this year as a 15 seed, and San Diego State and Oklahoma are no pushovers, but there doesn’t appear to be a Stephen Curry-like star or a Final Four contender like VCU among the group to foil the Hoyas. In addition, Georgetown has not had this complete a squad since Jeff Green suited up in blue and gray, and Porter might be an even better college player than Green was. If they can make it to Dallas, the Hoyas will likely see Florida again, in a replay of the season opener that was cancelled at halftime due to a soaking wet outdoor court. This time there will be no doubt about a second half, with an Elite Eight berth at stake.

Funnily enough, Georgetown has been seeded in the same region as Kansas each year it has made the tournament since that Final Four, but the two schools have yet to play each other. There’s certainly no guarantee again this year, as the Jayhawks appear to have a tougher road to the regional finals than the Hoyas do. Unless it becomes the first ever one seed to lose its opening game, Kansas will move on to play the winner of UNC – Villanova, two proud programs playing their best basketball of the year at the moment. If they make it to the Sweet Sixteen, the Jayhawks could face a familiar tournament foe in VCU or talented but inconsistent Michigan.

Looking around the rest of the bracket, there are several other interesting potential match ups. Indiana and Syracuse, two college basketball heavyweights, could meet at the Verizon Center in the East regional semi finals. Butler has been picked to go down in the first round by many experts so far, but if they advance past Bucknell the Bulldogs will likely face Marquette in what could be a preview of the new Big East. And finally, Gonzaga may have to prove it deserved that number one seed quite early, with a possible second round face off with Pittsburgh looming.

Georgetown can’t afford a poor performance this weekend, but the Hoyas are well placed to reach their first Sweet Sixteen in six years. If it’s not Florida, a rematch with UCLA could be in the cards, and Minnesota cannot be ruled out either. There will surely be plenty of upsets and unexpected moments to come, and that is why this tournament is the most exciting competition in the world. Reaching the Elite Eight would solidify what so far has been an excellent season, but Hoya fans, like all others, won’t let their dreams stop there.

Final Four picks: Louisville, Wisconsin, Georgetown, Indiana

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Knicks look to overcome Amar’e injury blow

Shortly before tip-off against the Utah Jazz on Saturday, the New York Knicks received word that PF Amar’e Stoudemire will miss 6 weeks due to problems with his infamously uninsurable knees. Stoudemire, who missed the first 30 games of the season while recovering from a left knee debridement, will now undergo the same procedure in his right knee. It’s devastating news for the Knicks big man, who had been playing well and exhibiting signs of his former explosive self lately, averaging over 14 points in limited minutes off the bench.

If the injury announcement affected the rest of the Knicks players, it didn’t show in a blowout win at home to the Jazz that night, despite also playing without the team’s MVP, Carmelo Anthony. But the road gets much tougher for New York from here on out, as they begin a five game West Coast road trip against the Golden State Warriors tonight. The good news for the Knicks is that Anthony has announced he will return to face the Warriors, after missing the past three and a half games with his own knee issues. The bad news is that New York will now play 5 games in 8 days, and none of them will be easy.

Tonight’s game against Golden State will feature point guard Stephen Curry, who lit up the Knicks for 54 points at Madison Square Garden on February 27th. New York came out a winner in that one as Curry cooled off towards the end, but he will surely look to rewrite the narrative on his home turf tonight. The Knicks then have a day off before their game in Denver, where the Nuggets are 28-3 at the Pepsi Center, and will play the following night against the Portland Trail Blazers, always difficult to beat at the Rose Garden. New York finishes up with another back-to-back, in Los Angeles to face Chris Paul and the Clippers, who won by double digits last month in New York, before finally closing out the trip next Monday in Utah. The last game in Salt Lake City looks to be the easiest of the five, but by then Knicks should be feeling the effects of extended travel and will face a Jazz team looking to avenge Saturday’s lopsided loss.

With this tough slate of games on tap, a 3-2 finish for the trip should be considered a success. It will continue to be difficult until the finish, as the Knicks will play 13 of their final 22 games away from home, including the aforementioned West Coast swing. New York still has to make crucial trips to Boston, Miami, Oklahoma City, and Chicago, and will also have tough games at home against Memphis, the Celtics, and Indiana. The focus will be on avoiding a drop down to the four seed, which means having to face the Heat in the second round of the playoffs. With the way Miami is playing, New York fans will hope to delay seeing them for as long as possible, and will certainly root for the lower seeded teams to eliminate them before any potential match up. That possibility seems remote, however, and the Knicks must expect to see the Heat at some point, although they will likely have to battle past the Pacers first.

If Stoudemire is out for the reported 6 weeks, that should set his return date right around April 20th. The Knicks last regular season game is April 17th at home to the Atlanta Hawks, which means the best case scenario is a comeback for game 1 of the playoffs. In the meantime, role players Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby, and Kurt Thomas will have to step up and provide quality minutes to ensure that center Tyson Chandler doesn’t get overworked and stays out of foul trouble. On the other hand, the injury to Amar’e should solidify New York’s crunch team line up, with Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, J.R. Smith, Anthony, and Chandler expected to close out games. Iman Shumpert could also see minutes for his defensive presence, and Steve Novak may be called upon to hit some big fourth quarter shots. The news on Saturday was a blow, but the Knicks have the pieces to hang tough until playoff time, and will hope to start off the road trip with a W in the Bay Area tonight.

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G’town sends Cuse packing, claims share of Big East

The last game in Big East regular season history for Syracuse was a 61-39 loss to the archrival Hoyas at the Verizon Center. Jim Boeheim’s squad has rarely looked as inept as it did today, as Georgetown stamped its authority on the last regular season under the Big East’s current configuration. The Hoyas played solid D and the Orange couldn’t buy a bucket when they needed it, shooting 31%, including 1-11 from three point land.

The crowd of 20,972 was the largest for college basketball in the DC metro area’s history, and included former legends of the rivalry like Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, and Gerry McNamara. The Hoyas proved they are much more than just national player of the year candidate Otto Porter, shooting lights out from downtown in a dominant performance. Guards Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera combined to hit 8 three pointers, repeatedly firing up the record crowd. The student section was lively throughout, waving flags, witty signs, and a giant Porter head. It was an unforgettable day for the Georgetown faithful as one of the best rivalries in college basketball came to an – at least temporary – end.

Syracuse departs with others to the ACC next season, but Georgetown will live on with the new Big East and headline a group that includes historically strong basketball programs like Marquette, Villanova, St. John’s, and possible new additions Butler and Xavier. Porter is all but gone as he figures to be an NBA lottery pick, but assuming the rest of the squad stays, Georgetown should certainly be able to compete for another Big East title next year. Starks, Smith-Rivera, and senior-to-be Nate Lubick will form the core of next season’s Hoyas, along with big men Mikael Hopkins, Moses Ayegba, and new recruit Reggie Cameron. Forward Greg Whittington will hopefully return from this year’s full-season suspension to round out the squad.

Marquette and Louisville grabbed a share of the regular season title with wins today, but Georgetown locked up the top seed for the Big East tournament, and could still be in line for a NCAA tourney number one seed, depending on how things play out next week. Despite the ceremony surrounding the end of an era game, these two teams could see each other again as early as next Friday if the seeding works out. To add a Big East Tournament title to the regular season banner, Georgetown will need to bring its game from today and not the form they showed in a loss at Villanova earlier in the week.

It won’t be easy though, not with a group that has been the best basketball conference in the country for the better part of the last decade. A tourney loss for the the Hoyas to Syracuse would surely sweeten the bitter taste in Orange fans’ mouths from the last two meetings. Additionally, Georgetown must be wary of Pittsburgh, who beat the Hoyas by almost 30 points earlier in the year, and Louisville, who fell just short at the Verizon Center in January and will be out for revenge. It looks to be an excellent tournament at Madison Square Garden next week to close out the current Big East era.

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No salsa for Nueva York on Noche Latina

Sporting “Nueva York” jerseys but lacking Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks took on the Oklahoma City Thunder last night at the Garden. Despite the absence of their superstar, the Knicks fought hard against one of the best teams in the NBA but ultimately fell short. J.R. Smith did his best Carmelo impression and scored 36 points, but went cold late as the Knicks lost by one. Smith has come up big with last second shots for New York this season, borrowing Victor Cruz’ salsa dance celebration along the way, but the Thunder surely knew that he would look to take the last shot, and defended him well on the final play. Smith was unable to get a good look and his would-be game winner clanked off of the rim, dropping the Knicks to 8 games back of the East leading Heat, and only ahead of third placed Indiana by a game in the loss column. There was to be no salsa for J.R. and the MSG crowd last night.

A big game at Madison Square Garden usually brings out the best in opposing star players, and Kevin Durant did not let the Thunder faithful down, pouring in 34 points and knocking down some huge free throws in the final minutes of the fourth quarter that kept the Thunder in front. With the regular season winding down, it looks almost impossible that the Knicks will catch Miami for the top seed in the conference, but there are still some positives to take away from last night’s game. J.R. Smith showed he can deliver points when Carmelo Anthony is not running the show for New York, and Amar’e Stoudemire had another strong performance, with 16 points and 8 boards in 29 minutes. New Knick signing Kenyon Martin also contributed off the bench, and coach Mike Woodson will hope he can keep it going and help the team stay fresh for the postseason. Raymond Felton was woeful from downtown (1 for 8) but was much more successful when he drove to the basket, finishing above 50% shooting from two-point land.

Despite these positives, it was still a tough blow for the Knicks, who will need all the wins they can get to hold off the charging Pacers for the number two seed. Important players stepped up without Anthony, but success or failure this season for New York will ultimately hinge on him. The team has now hung almost the whole way with the Heat and Thunder in their last two losses, only to fall flat in the fourth quarter. If the Knicks want to turn their championship dream into reality this June, they will need to find a way to come up with those crucial buckets at the end of tight games.

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Good loss for Hoyas

The Georgetown Hoyas had their 11 game winning streak snapped in a 67-57 loss to the Villanova Wildcats tonight.  After running through the better part of the Big East, Georgetown has looked a little tired since the win against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, the highlight of the season thus far. Otto Porter rescued the Hoyas against UConn but was unable to do so again tonight, missing a few late threes that could’ve kept the game alive for the Hoyas late. Give all the credit to Villanova, who played more aggressive on both end of the floor, harassing Porter into a poor shooting night by his standards and not allowing any easy buckets. On offense, the Wildcats continuously attacked the rim, putting some key Hoyas in foul trouble en route to a 42 to 8 FTs attempted advantage. Villanova is surely an NCAA tournament team, having now beaten Georgetown, Louisville, Syracuse, and Marquette, while falling in tight games to Pitt and Notre Dame. Incidentally, those are the current top 6 teams in the Big East, and none of them will want to see the Wildcats next week at Madison Square Garden.

While it is always disappointing to see a long winning streak come to an end, in reality this was as good a loss as any could be for the Hoyas. Remaining on the schedule is a showdown with Syracuse at the Verizon Center, the final Big East regular season matchup between the two historic rivals, and then it’s off to postseason play. Instead of worrying about national polls and number one seeds, Georgetown can now focus on playing good basketball and making a deep tournament run. The Hoyas haven’t made a Sweet Sixteen since the Final Four run in 2007 and anything less this year would ultimately be a failure. The added pressure of a long winning streak would do nothing to make things easier. As a bonus, Villanova will stay in the new Big East with Georgetown and it only helps in the long run that they remain a quality basketball program. No fan wants to see their team lose, but this may turn out to be a good loss for the Hoyas.

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