Arts & Entertainment, Sports

Picking Splinters: New Year, New Mail

Sports Editor Mike Hume takes his monthly dive into his magical mail bag.

Dude,

Did you ever think the Redskins would make the playoffs this year?

Signed,

Everyone Outside of the Beltway

No. Unequivocally, no. There was no reason for the Redskins to start playing this well, particularly after the letdown against the Bills. Yet here they are.

I do think a lot of it has to do with the way the team's approach changed after Sean Taylor's death. Since that sad day, Washington has almost been forced to face each game one week at a time and the focus was always on the present. Contracts, draft picks, future coaching jobs — all of those little sub plots that had a habit of derailing past seasons for the Skins took a back seat.

Nowhere is this more apparent than at quarterback. When Jason Campbell was at quarterback, there was always this secondary priority of his development. Now, with Todd Collins at the helm, it's only about wins and losses. The coaches don't have to worry about what Campbell can and can't handle and how certain play calls will affect his psyche down the line. Now they can just send in the best plays for the situation and the thought process ends there. The results speak for themselves.

 

Hume,

As Georgetown enters Big East play this weekend, any concerns following that bad loss to Memphis?

Rob D.

Lubbock, Texas

The Hoyas will be fine, though they may have lost their shot at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament after falling to Memphis. Not only is Georgetown a team that improves over the course of the season, as new players get used to John Thompson III's offensive and defensive schemes, but the Hoyas' top competition in the Big East has sustained some severe losses. Heading into the season, Pittsburgh and Louisville figured to be among the toughest teams in the conference, but both the Panthers and Cardinals have been bitten by the injury bug.

Georgetown still has some kinks to work out, starting with its presence down low. Roy Hibbert has been good, but was a non-factor in the Memphis loss. He needs to make faster decisions and wield the ball with authority, something he did late last year in a very good performance (19 points, 6 rebounds) against Greg Oden and Ohio State in the Final Four.

Hibbert's sub, Vernon Macklin, could use some refinement as well, particularly on the free throw line where he's shooting an abysmal 16 percent. When he's not laying enough bricks for a stretch of London row houses from the foul line, Macklin needs to find his comfort zone on the floor. He's not the bruising center that Hibbert is and the coaching staff ought to examine ways to utilize his length, quickness and athleticism rather than trying to post him up down low where stronger centers can push him around. Shifting Patrick Ewing Jr. to the five spot might be another solution when it comes time to give Hibbert a breather, as he has played a little more physically than Macklin to this point.

The biggest hiccup I've noticed thus far is that look of “What do we do now?” that seems to creep over the team when the Hoyas can't get the ball down low. Last year it paralyzed Georgetown in their first game against Villanova (a home loss) and again surfaced against Memphis this season. Last year the Hoyas overcame that obstacle by getting the ball to Jeff Green, who could create options in the high post and away from the blocks. While Georgetown's guards have done well to set up their teammates this year, the Hoyas have lacked a high post presence to give them playmaking options. Without it, it feels like the only two choices Georgetown has utilized to this point are “Get it to Hibbert” and “Hoist up a three.” DaJuan Summers has played extremely well (12.2 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game), but his 13 assists thus far do not replace Green's average of 3.2 a game last year.

Georgetown may have replaced the points lost after Green's departure to the NBA, but they are still lacking that mid-range passing presence that aided them so much in their run to the Final Four. If no one emerges to fill that role, the Hoyas may have to hope that hot shooting guards — Jonathan Wallace and Austin Freeman — and a slashing attack — Summers, Chris Wright and Jesse Sapp — can compensate when Hibbert gets shut down. Can it work? Absolutely. But it didn't against Memphis.

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