Saturday, March 24, 2007

For the First Time Since 1996!

For the first time since 1996, Georgetown is going to the Elite Eight. Here are a few thoughts on the game.

1) A travel, really? Seth Davis and Clark Kellogg cannot imagine a flagrant foul being called at the end of the Ohio St. game, but they expected a sliding pivot foot to be detected in the final seconds. Admitting for a moment my Georgetown bias, my college basketball fan bias thinks this is ridiculous. Just as I was thrilled to see Eric Maynor hit a jumper in the lane and Ron Lewis hit a tying three-pointer, I was amazed to see a double-teamed Jeff Green bank in a two-pointer for the win. But, you sensed no joy from the studio announce team. Jim Nance and Billy Packer are always negative, so Nance’s call of “No Foul” didn’t bother me. In fact, in the post game interview Nance and Packer seemed outright giddy. But, for the studio crew to focus on the travel call seemed somewhat absurd to me.

On the other hand, in the rare chance you went to Vanderbilt or live in Tennessee, you have a constitutional duty to drive the “travel” theme into the ground on your talk radio shows.

2) For the first time ever, I saw the turnover jinx. As soon as CBS put up a stat that said that Vanderbilt had not turned the ball over in 23 minutes, Vanderbilt turned it over on 2 of the next 3 possessions. (It may be hard to imagine, but earlier this year Georgetown won at Louisville in a game where Louisville only turned the ball over 1 time.)

3) Give Vanderbilt Coach Stallings some serious credit for his game plan. To fully understand what happened you have to go back to the Georgetown vs West Virginia Big East game. Like Vanderbilt, West Virginia is a perimeter-oriented-team with a number of interchangeable players. Because there was no real advantage to having Hibbert guard any West Virginia player, Georgetown employed a defense where they switched defenders on every screen. West Virginia was unprepared for this defense and turned in one of its worst offensive performances of the year.

John Thompson the 3rd knew that Vanderbilt was similar to West Virginia and decided to come out with the screen-switching defense again. But Stallings was ready. Unlike West Virginia which kept at least one player in the post so that Hibbert was able to switch to the post player in all instances, Vanderbilt completely cleared out the post and forced Hibbert to switch between perimeter players. Georgetown players were completely out of position for rebounds in the first half, and they used screens on the non-Hibbert side of the floor to cut various players to the basket. By the time Georgetown figured out what was happening, Vanderbilt had built a 13-point lead.

Georgetown eventually played more straight man-to-man, but fearing Vanderbilt getting in a groove switched to the occasional 2-3 zone with Hibbert staying in the middle. They tried to limit the use of the zone however, fearing Vanderbilt’s 3 point shooters.

Honestly, if you are trying to teach and learn about the Princeton offense you should make a copy of this game tape and study the various principles employed by the two teams. This was one of the most strategic basketball games I have seen in a long time and I have a lot more respect for both coaches after this game.

4) Once again John Thompson rolled the dice on a player with foul trouble, but for the first time in awhile, he got caught. Hibbert fouled out with just under four minutes to go in the game. Still, I appreciate Thompson being willing to take a risk and play his foul-plagued players.

I think most coaches leave their star players on the bench too long. Instead of crumbling when Hibbert fouled out, the Hoya players rallied around their missing teammate. This effect cannot be overlooked and is one more reason I advocate trusting players to play with multiple fouls.

5) The following space is now reserved for personal fandom:
Hibbert with the follow!
Summers with the big three pointer!
Green with the amazing tip in for the three-point play!
Sapp drives the lane, no carry here! And one!
Wallace shakes his defender, picks the ball up off the floor and hits for two!
Green banks in the game winner!
Hoyas win, Hoyas win, Hoyas win!