Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
Tonight’s Lede. Pyrrhic Victories For Missouri and Duke. There is nothing surprising about the outcomes of Duke and Missouri’s Tuesday night conference match-ups. The Blue Devils predictably smothered a marginally-skilled Clemson team at Cameron Indoor while the Tigers dropped 84 points on Alabama’s unusually forgiving defense. Both teams will finish the year near the top of their respective leagues, and both should secure top-three seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Duke and Missouri are rolling right now. They share another commonality: a dearth of quality frontcourt depth. And by virtue of sharing that personnel characteristic, Duke and Missouri must now weather a very real problem: injuries. With Ryan Kelly and Laurence Bowers both exiting their games with specific ailments, Duke and Missouri could be without two hugely important interior pieces for the foreseeable future (each player will undergo further testing Wednesday to determine the severity of the injuries). It’s not a crushing blow for either team – remember, we’re talking about NCAA Tournament locks. Life could be worse. But with both teams coming upon tricky Saturday road games – Duke at NC State, and Missouri at Ole Miss – playing without Kelly and Bowers, respectively, is going to require substantial adjustments. These teams are versatile and adaptable enough to make it work, but the difficulty level of an already hazardous road test could now be that much higher. Not having Kelly and Bowers is going to affect those games — whether their absences are enough to flip the outcome in the home teams’ favor is an open question.
Your Watercooler Moment. Georgetown Has Problems.
You don’t need to have the world’s most efficient offense to chase conference championships and NCAA Tournament berths. You do need to be at the very least competent on that end of the floor. Georgetown qualifies, but only barely. They masked their offensive deficiencies throughout the non-conference season with a handful of ugly wins – including a 37-36 line against Tennessee and a 46-point output against Towson at home. Big East teams know better; they know the limitations of John Thompson III’s Princeton offense, and so far, Marquette and Pittsburgh have exploited those weaknesses by handing the Hoyas two straight losses to open Big East play. Georgetown scored a combined 93 points in those two games. The first loss is not a huge injustice by any stretch; Marquette is a tough out at the Bradley Center. The latter is worrisome, if only because the Hoyas compounded their poor offense by allowing Pittsburgh to shoot 55 percent from the floor and 62 percent from three. Georgetown doesn’t have the offensive firepower to keep up, much less contend, when opponents shoot that well from the floor. The Hoyas grounded their early success on stingy defense, and that formula worked for the first two months of the season. The Big East is a quite simply a different beast. Georgetown needs its typically stifling defense as a baseline for success. It can’t expect to get caught up in high-scoring fixtures. The Hoyas don’t play that game. They force turnovers, block shots, protect the rim and do just enough offensively. That formula only works with seamless defensive execution intact. Against Pittsburgh, the defense wasn’t there. Georgetown has fought this trend in recent years – winning in November and December, only to fall flat in Big East play. Avoiding another conference slide will necessitate some measure of offensive capability. Failing that, the Hoyas can’t afford any defensive lapses from here on out.
Tonight’s Quick Hits…