ATB: Georgetown Lights Up The Heartland

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2010

The Lede.  Tonight had a bit of a March feel to it, with so many big-time programs taking on other big-time programs and culminating in a thrilling back-and-forth shootout in Kansas City with Georgetown taking on Missouri.

Your Watercooler Moment.  The ACC is horrible right now.  Already down 4-2 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge after tonight’s thrashing (only moribund Wake Forest managed to get a W), we’re having trouble seeing anybody other than Duke getting to the second weekend of the NCAAs once again.  We’re on record in this space that the ACC, the traditional standard-bearer of basketball conferences, has for at least five years been living off two things: that gilded reputation built through several decades of across-the-board excellence; and, the ability of two teams — Duke and UNC — to make runs to the Final Four and win championships.  In the last five seasons, the ACC has only put seven teams into the Sweet Sixteen, and only one of those seven (Boston College in 2006) was located on a highway other than US 15-501.  The  2010 ACC/Big Ten Challenge only crystallizes how far the rest of this league has fallen behind Duke.  Tonight Georgia Tech walked into Northwestern and got destroyed, giving up 55 first-half points; Florida State, possibly the second or third best team in the league, ‘defended’ its home court for the second time in a week with another pitiful offensive performance; Clemson allowed a weak Michigan team to enter Littlejohn and defile its building; and, old reliable UNC with its stable of McDonald’s All-Americans still couldn’t figure out how to properly run an offense or make a free throw.  It’s ugly out there in ACC-land, and tomorrow promises to only be marginally better.  The ACC has three home games (and three Vegas favorites), but do you honestly believe in anybody other than Duke at home?  Are you willing to trust Boston College, Virginia Tech, Maryland or NC State based on what you’ve seen out of this league so far?  Look, it could turn out that Duke wallops MSU (a likely scenario) and BC, VT and the Terps all get wins (less likely but possible) so that the ACC notches yet another victory in the Challenge, but such a result still doesn’t change the reality that this league is light years from where it once was in terms of quality and depth of talent.  The Big Ten has at least four teams that are Sweet Sixteen-worthy and the Big East and Big 12 aren’t far behind; even the lowly SEC has two or three teams at that level this year.  How many do you see out of the ACC, realistically — Duke and who else?

Game of the Season (So Far)RTC Live was in the house in KC tonight for this instant classic, and our correspondent Brian Goodman reported from the scene.

Georgetown 111, Missouri 102 (OT).  Georgetown and Missouri spun a November tale from which March memories are made: a big comeback, a missed free throw that proved vital, career nights by players on both sides, a buzzer-beating three, and ultimately for the Hoyas, a highlight win to remember. Georgetown used a scorching perimeter attack from Austin Freeman (31 points, including 19 in the first half) and Jason Clark to race out to an 18-point lead in the first half, but from then on, Mike Anderson’s Tigers systematically wore Georgetown down. Gradually chipping away at the deficit, Missouri guard Marcus Denmon sent the frenzied semi-home crowd into hysterics with a three to pull ahead in the second half. The Hoyas, noticeably fatigued by the Tigers’ trademark press, still had enough in the tank to battle back and took advantage of a window cracked by MU guard Michael Dixon (who came into the game shooting 85% from the line). After the sophomore missed a free throw in the waning seconds, the Hoyas corralled the rebound, and when a loose ball swung out to Chris Wright on the perimeter, the guard cooly sank a three just before the buzzer to send the game into an extra frame. Wright, who was 1-6 from three before that crucial moment, then passed the baton to Clark. The junior from Arlington, Virginia, made three consecutive threes in overtime to seal the 111-102 victory, and Missouri went from having a huge win in their back pocket, to sitting in the interview room talking about missed opportunities in the span of 15 short minutes. Georgetown, with a big non-conference win to add to their already-impressive Tournament resume, returns to DC flying high on their continued consistency beyond the arc and a perfect 18-18 night from the stripe. Both teams still have work to do — the Hoyas are looking for answers down low and Missouri needs rebounding help outside of Ricardo Ratliffe — but each now knows what they need to improve upon in the next several months.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • The VS Fashion Show.  If there’s one thing that can distract all of our tweeple (99% of whom are American males between the ages of 18-35) from the Game of the Season (So Far) in college basketball, it’s a Victoria’s Secret television special.  It was actually fairly hilarious — one tweet would be about Jason Clark dropping another trey on Missouri while the next one would be about Katy Perry’s husband cavorting with the models backstage.
  • Kemba Walker’s 30 for 30.  After six games, Walker is averaging exactly 30 PPG, and he’s doing it in the coveted 50/40/80 zone, hitting 51.4% of his shots, 40.5% of his treys, and 88.5% of his foul shots.  Furthermore, as he did last night when he shot 16 FTs, he’s getting to the line at a prolific pace for a guard, averaging ten trips per game.  All great scorers know that the foul line is where the points are, and Walker is getting nine of his from there each night out.  Can he average thirty for the entire year?  It’s doubtful, but at this rate, who knows?  For a little context, only two players in the last twenty years have reached the prestigious 30 PPG threshold — Purdue’s Glenn Robinson in 1993-94 (30.3 PPG) and LIU’s Charles Jones in 1996-97 (30.1 PPG).
  • Georgetown’s Backcourt.  There may not be a better guard trio anywhere in America than the Hoyas’ Austin Freeman, Jason Clark and Chris Wright.  Experienced, athletic and physical, the three are combining for 42 PPG, 11 RPG and 12 APG while shooting the ball exceptionally well (15-32 from deep last night and 48.4% on the season).  Somewhat reminiscent of the Villanova teams of Foye, Allen and Nardi a few years ago, if the Hoyas can keep their big men on the floor to play defense and producing where needed, they should be very good again.
  • JT Terrell, Jared Sullinger, Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight, Tobias Harris.  Tonight’s freshman corps showed what they were capable of in varying degrees — Terrell hit seven threes including the game-winner for Wake en route to 32 points; Sullinger dropped his third dub-dub of the season with 11/13 in 36 physical minutes against FSU; Jones did likewise with 18/10 while his teammate Knight added 23/6/6 assts; Harris continues to impress with another solid 21/6 outing for UT;
  • Syracuse’s CJ Fair With the Sicknasty.  His only bucket of the game was, needless to say, rousing.

… and Misses.

  • Jason Clark Trying to Foul.  If you watch the video above of Chris Wright nailing the long three to send the Georgetown-Mizzou game into overtime, you should have also noticed that Jason Clark didn’t realize time/score and tried to foul a Missouri player after the subsequent inbounds.  Luckily for him, he avoided Jamelle Horne infamy by whiffing on the foul and the referee let it go.  He made up for the near-boneheaded move in the OT by drilling three consecutive treys to put the game out of reach.
  • Carolina’s Seven Burger Boys.  So how many McDonald’s All-Americans does it take to make a free throw?  UNC continues to search for answers as it’s becoming painfully apparent that this group is fundamentally flawed.  The offense lacks direction, the presumed go-to guy is playing like a timid freshman, the real go-to guy can’t avoid silly third fouls, and point guard remains an incomprehensible disaster.  Other than that, everything is great in Chapel Hill.
  • Notre Dame’s Bench.  Holy Starting Five, Batman!  The Irish won tonight against Indiana State, 81-72, but all but two of the total ND points came from the five starters, each of whom reached double figures.  The starters played 82.5% of the available minutes, and given the grueling nature of the Big East, you have to worry if they’ll wear down later this year — the starters all average at or near 30 MPG.
  • The SEC West.  Well, at least LSU beat Houston tonight.  That didn’t make up for what is becoming a nasty habit in this corner of the hoops world — Ole Miss got obliterated by Miami (FL) in a game not nearly as close as the 13-point final margin, while rival Mississippi State lost to Florida Atlantic 61-59 at home.  The Bulldogs are still without Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney, but again, SEC teams shouldn’t be losing these kinds of games at home.  The division is now 20-13 on the season, a record that leagues like the MAC might be accustomed to at this point in the year, but not a power conference division.  Whew.

Tweet of the Night.  We are absolutely convinced that Raphielle Johnson watches more college basketball than anyone else on this planet.  Follow him on Twitter @raphiellej — he’s funny too.

RTC Live. Two games tonight, including quite possibly the game of the year in Kansas City (see Mizzou-Georgetown above).

Northwestern 91, Georgia Tech 71.  Northwestern capitalized on an extremely hot shooting night to open up a big halftime lead and cruised to a 91-71 victory over Georgia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Wildcats scored 55 points in the first half. They ended up shooting 31-of-48 from the field (64.6%) for the game after shooting a blistering 22-of-29 (75.9%), including 10-of-12 (83.3%) from the three-point line in the first half. Six players scored in double figures, but John Shurna scored a game-high 21 points. Freshman JerShon Cobb, who is originally from Georgia, scored 10 points on his 19th birthday for the Wildcats. Glen Rice, Jr., led Georgia Tech (4-3) with 16 points. The Yellow Jackets tried to get back into the game with an aggressive press in the second half but, while Northwestern shot 12-of-19 from the free throw line, Georgia Tech was never able to gain the momentum. The win pushes Northwestern’s record to 5-0 and leaves the Wildcats with one more difficult non-conference game, a possible match up with St. John’s, to bolster their NCAA Tournament resume before Big Ten play begins.

rtmsf (3954 Posts)

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3 responses to “ATB: Georgetown Lights Up The Heartland”

  1. garik16 says:

    FWIW, I’d disagree with your evaluation of the ACC “over the last 5 years.” As you could see if you looked at say, the pomeroy rankings over the last few years, the league has in fact been one of the, if not the BEST conference. This is because from top to bottom, there were no BAD teams in the ACC (UNC, one of the worst ACC teams last year, came in 2nd in the NIT, for example).

    The league has seen its share of non-Duke non-UNC elite teams fall off, but the teams across the board have been all good and all a challenge….no team could take an ACC game really for granted, especially on the road.

    This year, that’s clearly not the case…Wake and Georgia Tech are seriously bad teams. But the last 5 years, the conference has been pretty good overall due to depth.

    (No offense to the big east, but having Depaul, Rutgers, et al in the league kind of hurts your status. You can’t pretend they don’t exist.)

  2. Matt B. says:

    I’m going to agree with garik in that the “common” barometers for conference success work against the ACC. Over the last five years, the ACC has not been as good as it was in the previous 15, but if you compare it to the work of the rest of the basketball world and not the shadows of ACCs past, it’s still very good. It seems that most people consider two factors above all others when comparing conferences. First, how many teams does it have in the top-15-20 who are legit contenders, or as you put it “Sweet 16 worthy.” The second is often how many teams are competing for (and earning) NCAA bids. These factors tend to narrow the focus of “conference strength” to teams 3-7 in an average 12 team league. You’re absolutely right that the ACC’s top level accomplishments have been by Duke and UNC, but only the Big East has sent more than two different teams to the Final Four in the last 5 years. But the fact is that Duke and UNC count just as much as everyone else.

    Here’s a fact conveniently omitted. Over the five year window which you talk about, the ACC is the ONLY conference to have sent every single one of its teams to the tournament, which is no small feat. The Big Ten hasn’t even sent every one of its teams to the tournament in its entire history. If that’s not a sign of top to bottom (not top to somewhere in the middle) strength, than I don’t know what is.

    The ACC absolutely deserves to be bashed for it’s performance so far this year, but you can’t be so arbitrary in your standards. How are Tuesdays challenge results telling of how bad the league is, but Monday and Wednesday are completely irrelevant?

    Make no mistake, the ACC will likely only be the 5th best conference this year, and it is no longer to basketball what the SEC has been to football in recent years, but the characterization of how far they have fallen is overstated.

  3. rtmsf says:

    Look, I know about the Pomeroy ratings. No bad teams, just a bunch of mediocre ones. And frankly, fair or not, NCAA Tournament success is not only how individual programs but entire conferences are evaluated in this sport. Nobody hangs banners for finishing in the top 30 of the Pomeroy ratings. They put up banners for going to the Sweet Sixteen. I guarantee if you read the ACC Media Guide, you’ll find page after page talking about the history and tradition of the conference (i.e., NCAA Tournament success), and not one time will you see a mention of a Pomeroy/Sagarin computer ranking of the league. It’s simply not how leagues like the ACC measure themselves. To go there almost proves my point in how far this league has fallen — the old ACC wouldn’t have had to point to computer numbers — they could point to a quarter of the Sweet Sixteen, and smugly walk away.

    And this is in STARK contrast to how it was in the 80s and the 90s when the ACC not only talked the talk, but walked it. ACC fans were largely insufferable not only b/c they were obnoxious about the league, but also b/c they were right. I’ve noted here before that the league getting four teams into the Sweet Sixteen was a relatively common occurrence in those days; it’s an absurd proposition now, even though the ACC has expanded to 12 teams.

    And Matt, I used Tuesday’s results to hammer the point home that the ACC has fallen way off, but I thought I was clear that even if the ACC had gone 11-0 in this challenge, I still don’t think it’s a very strong league. And it’s not — even you admit it is probably the 5th best league in America. Again, the league didn’t build it’s sterling hoops reputation on having a bunch of bubble teams — it built its rep on having really good teams every year that did damage in the postseason. I will back off this stance if I’m wrong, but I don’t think there’s any way possible that the league gets more than two teams into the Sweet Sixteen this year — Duke is the obvious one and I’ll allow for a flukish team that ends up playing a Cinderella in the second round. That’s it.

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