Georgetown Has Reason For Optimism

Posted by Justin Kundrat on December 15th, 2014

Last week Georgetown failed to close on yet another tremendous opportunity to tally a signature win, this time on its home floor against #10 Kansas. Despite not having watched a single college basketball game all year, my girlfriend made an astute observation in the closing minutes: “He shoots too much.” The “he” she was referring to was D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, the Hoyas’ leading scorer at 13.3 PPG and the coaches’ nomination for preseason Big East Player of the Year. It confirmed something many Hoyas’ fans have been wondering as well: How is this the same player who finished sixth in scoring in the Big East last season? Against Kansas, in the midst a miserable 3-of-15 shooting performance, it became apparent that Smith-Rivera’s overwhelming desire to shoot took the team’s offense out of rhythm.

Despite some recent struggles, John Thompson III and Georgetown still have a lot going for them. (Washington Post)

Despite some recent struggles, John Thompson III and Georgetown still have a lot going for them. (Washington Post)

Thus far, the Hoyas have played four teams in KenPom‘s top 30 and have emerged with a relatively unimpressive 1-3 result. Those losses — to Wisconsin, Butler and Kansas — were by a cumulative of 14 points. So what gives? For one, turnovers. The Hoyas have coughed it up on 21.8 percent of their possessions, resulting in missed key scoring opportunities and failed late game offensive execution. However, the problem seems to extend beyond that. A big theme for Georgetown this season has involved Smith-Rivera shooting more and making less. The junior has yielded some of the scoring responsibilities to Joshua Smith, but he still accounts for 26.2 percent of the team’s shots and has converted at a rate lower than both his freshman and sophomore year campaigns. Even more troubling is his three-point shooting. Without backcourt mate Markel Starks to remove some of the defensive focus on the perimeter, it appears that defenses have honed in on him, or he has felt an increased pressure to pick up the offensive slack, resulting in poorer shot selection. Regardless of the reason, Smith-Rivera is shooting just 27.5 percent from deep, in stark contrast to his 39.3 percent mark last season.

The other issue has been inconsistent play on the wings, both offensively and defensively. Given the arrival of four new faces to fill out the two, three and four spots, the onus falls on the seniors, specifically Jabril Trawick. Trawick has never been a big-time scorer, but his lack of offensive aggression this season has been appalling. At the end of his junior campaign, he tallied double figures in nine of his last 12 outings through a combination of three-point shooting and penetration. Yet this season, he has crossed that threshold only three times and frankly looks hesitant with the ball.

But in spite of scoring inconsistencies, defensive lapses on the perimeter and an abundance of turnovers, there still are reasons for optimism. For example, the Hoyas’ freshmen have shown unusual signs of maturity. Freshman L.J. Peak is averaging 9.3 PPG and is developing quickly, as evidenced by his 18-point outburst against Kansas. Additionally, Paul White and Isaac Copeland, a pair of heralded recruits, have helped to steady the Hoyas’ offensive output when Smith-Rivera has gone cold. Above all, the contributions of Smith on the interior have been monumental. No defender, no matter how tall or athletic, has found a way to stop him once he catches the ball on the blocks. Averaging 12.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, the 6’10” senior has formed a formidable defensive front line alongside Mikael Hopkins, a 6’9″ shot-blocking, rebounding extraordinaire.

For Georgetown, the good has been overshadowed by the bad, but the bad appears to be both temporary and fixable. We know Smith-Rivera can shoot and score in bunches; we know Trawick can play more aggressively; and we know that freshmen generally get better with time. As it stands, all signs point to improvement as the season progresses, but the overwhelming question is when? The answer to that will decide the Hoyas’ fate. For now, Hoya fans should remain optimistic and trust that John Thompson III will have his squad, the most talented he has had in several years, in form by March.

Justin Kundrat (175 Posts)

Villanova grad, patiently waiting another 10 years for season tickets. Follow Justin on twitter @JustinKundrat or email him at

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