Picking Splinters: Hoyas Need Focus For the Win

One game remains in the Georgetown Hoyas’ regular season. That means John Thompson III has one game to cure what ails, make that plagues, his team.

The Hoyas have dropped four of their last five and run the risk of swooning right out of the top eight spots in the Big East Tournament if they don’t prevail Saturday against Cincinnati. After that comes said Big East Tournament, followed by the NCAA Tournament for all the marbles. Time is of the essence. So here’s a multi-step plan to get the Hoyas out of their funk.

1.) You’re not in a funk

Despite the recent loss to Rutgers and the completely listless performance against Notre Dame – both of which would indicate the Hoyas are rolling down Main Street in Funkytown, heading south -JTIII needs his team thinking that they’re the team that knocked off Duke and Villanova. You need confidence to succeed and Georgetown needs to believe in their talent that knocked off two of the best teams in the nation and the system that brought this program to the Final Four in 2007.

When they stop running the offense, when their confidence is shaken, that’s when players fall back and try to win the game on their own. That’s when Chris Wright charges headlong into traffic in the paint and Greg Monroe pursues point guards to the half-court line, trying to pick their pockets, but picking up a bad foul instead.

The absence of Austin Freeman has hurt this team, but they should have been able to beat a Notre Dame team that was also down its best player, Luke Harangody. However, I’m fine with the Hoyas believing they’ve played poorly without Freeman because they’ll see his return as a big boon and buy into the guard’s stoic confidence.

Cue up George Michael in the locker room if you have to, but this team needs to have faith in its core values and its abilities if it’s going to do any damage in March.

2.) Value the basketball

According to stat wizard Ken Pomeroy’s metrics, the Hoyas turn the ball over on 21.7 percent of their possessions. So a little more than once every five times down the court, Georgetown gives away the ball. That ranks 237th in the nation. What’s more: 11.4 percent of the time, the ball is stolen, which often leads to the kind of transition baskets that eviscerated them in the first half of Monday’s loss to West Virginia. That needs to stop.

The biggest culprit is lazy passes at the top of the key. Sometimes I think the Hoyas get so caught up in focusing on making the entry pass to Monroe in the post, or a back-door bouncer to a cutting guard that they go slack on passes around the perimeter. The defender cheats out to pick off the weak pass and it’s off to the races for an easy layup for the opposition.

What’s worse is that Georgetown’s offense should be burning those over-eager defenders. When they cheat out and overplay on the perimeter, that’s when you fake the tantalizing lazy pass and the guard slips through the backdoor to the hoop. Right now, however, I’d settle for not passing it directly to a guy in a non-blue and gray jersey.

3.) Defense, defense, defense

Georgetown’s defense has been horrible lately. And I mean that in the bluntest way possible. Notre Dame shot 71.4 percent in the second half against the Hoyas last Saturday.  The Irish missed only six shots the entire half.

Part of the reason for those open looks was great ball movement, but the Hoyas’ defense looked confused as they chased the basketball. Off-the-ball defenders would sag off their men to help, then give up an open 3-pointer to the man they just left. Primary defenders need to focus on staying in front of their man and not relying on their teammates to pick them up when they get beat.

I firmly believe that the key to a team win is these one-on-one battles. Georgetown’s got to adopt a tough mindset that their man isn’t going to get behind them. Start there, stop the ball, and with improvement in these three areas the Hoyas are as good as anyone else in the Big East or NCAA Tournaments. Fail to recapture the mojo of the team that toppled Duke and Villanova and the questions of inconsistency will plague Georgetown for another long offseason.