Night Line: Another Year, Another Underrated Georgetown TeamPosted by EJacoby on November 21st, 2012
Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.
It didn’t earn the victory in Tuesday night’s Progressive Legends Classic final against #1 Indiana, but Georgetown proved once again that it’s a painfully underrated team this season. The unranked Hoyas took the nation’s top-ranked team to overtime in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center after hanging around all night in an entertaining back-and-forth game that didn’t make John Thompson III’s team seem like the underdog. Riding the clutch performance of do-it-all sophomore star Otto Porter and the hot hand of junior Markel Starks, Georgetown competed with the Hoosiers and nearly converted back-to-back upset victories after defeating #7 UCLA on Monday. In the end it was Indiana with the 82-72 win in a solid performance that saw every Hoosier starter score in double figures, but it took an extra session to put away JTIII’s team. This season’s Hoyas flew under the preseason radar yet again, but they’ll be ranked in the top-25 come next week after an impressive showing in the Legends Classic.
Last season, the Hoyas were picked to finish tenth in the Big East’s preseason coaches’ poll before riding a consistent fringe top-10 overall ranking and finishing as an NCAA Tournament #3 overall seed. They at least earned a bit more respect from fellow conference coaches by being selected fifth in the 2012-13 Big East preseason poll, but G’Town once again looks like it has the talent, strategy, and toughness to compete with nearly anyone in the nation after taking top-ranked Indiana to the brink on Tuesday. It’s as if we had all forgotten about last season already, when the Hoyas lost leading scorers Austin Freeman and Chris Wright but didn’t miss a beat as fresh stars emerged with newfound roles. Despite three top dogs Jason Clark, Henry Sims, and Hollis Thompson all now gone this year, these 2012-13 Hoyas have again found former reserves to fill bigger roles and continue the consistent success of the Georgetown zone-heavy defense, Princeton-style offense, and overall winning program.
Georgetown’s consistent success isn’t just a product of its unique game-planning, as there are top athletes on this squad starting with the emerging star Porter. A preseason all-conference selection, Porter proved a versatile contributor on both ends last season who now looks comfortable in the first-option role. The 6’8” forward was quiet for the first 32 minutes of Tuesday’s ballgame yet still ended up with his typical stat sheet-stuffing effort of 15 points, five rebounds, four assists, three blocks, and two steals; going 3-5 from downtown and 6-14 from the field overall. He scored the final five points of regulation with a deep three-pointer followed by a driving layup to tie the game with six seconds left. Joining Porter in double-figure scoring on this night were the point guard Starks (20 points) and fellow sophomore forwards Greg Whittington (12 points) and Mikael Hopkins (11 points). Throw in solid contributions from touted freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, reserve guard Jabril Trawick, and glue guy Nate Lubick, and coach Thompson III has plenty of talent to work with as his players adjust to new roles in the familiar system.
Replacing 55.6% of your scoring and 45% of your overall player minutes from a season ago is never an easy task, but few programs in the country have become accustomed to doing such like Georgetown does. The Hoyas proved in this early-season Legends Classic tournament that they’re capable of playing against elite teams with differing styles, after the back-to-back performances against UCLA and Indiana. Come Monday, Georgetown will no longer sit outside of any Top 25 poll, and the extended period of flying under the radar should end. The Hoyas are back as a top Big East contender once again in 2012-13; just ask Indiana coach Tom Crean.