Picking Splinters: Hoyas Can’t Fill Void

The Georgetown Hoyas may want to file assault charges against the Big East after the past three losses to end their schedule and another beat down to bow out of their first game in the conference tournament.

Of course the really criminal element to their game is their offense. It’s not exactly difficult to pinpoint the problem for the Hoyas: The right hand of Chris Wright.

Prior to their senior point guard’s broken hand sending the Hoyas into a downward spiral of broken offensive sets and contested shots, Georgetown looked like a serious contender for the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. And Final Four aspirations weren’t out of the question either.

Then came the bad break and – Poof! – there’s a new reality in which the Hoyas don’t even resemble a team worthy of a bid to the Big Dance.

Wright’s absence has hurt the Hoyas in three big ways.

First there’s simply bringing the ball up the court. Even with the ball in Wright’s healthy hands the Hoyas sometimes suffered turnover problems. But without him they’ve had to rely on junior Jason Clark and senior Austin Freeman to bring the ball up court. The former has posted a .41 assist to turnover ratio since the Feb. 23 Cincinnati game. The latter has had to expend more energy than usual, perhaps contributing to a 6-of-28 performance from behind the arc in those four games. That’s a 21.4 percent average from a guy that shot 44.4 percent from deep last season.

Getting the ball over half court is only, ahem, half the battle though. The once precise and formidable Prince-Town offense has been, well, offensive since Wright went down.

According to metrics guru and Basketball Prospectus/ESPN Insider writer John Gasaway, the Hoya offense clicked to the tune of 1.08 points per possession in 15 Big East with Wright. In two regular season games without him, that number plummeted to .83. No shocker then that the Hoyas averaged 49 points in those two games.

Simply put, no one is stepping up to fill the void. And frankly, despite the talent level on the Hoyas bench – which belies their current lousy performances – that shouldn’t be that surprising.

Wright played the most important role in a complex offensive scheme that some seniors have never fully grasped, more or less a freshman like Markel Starks or a sophomore like Vee Sanford who has averaged 6.6 minutes of playing time this season. There’s skill on the Hoyas depth charts, but there isn’t the skill John Thompson III needs.

Hollis Thompson is a tremendous offensive threat – as a spot-up shooter. Nate Lubick is a good passer and plays with an energy that soft drink companies would love to bottle. Julian Vaughn is a great rebounder and sets a heckuva screen at the top of the key. Ask any of these guys to do more than that – which is precisely what the Hoyas have had to do sans their Senior PG – and you’re probably asking too much right now.

It’s pretty clear to me that the Hoyas have one, and only one, hope for any kind of NCAA Tournament success.

Wright needs to be dressed, and be healthy. JTIII has said he’ll be back, but until he’s on the floor, I don’t know how much stock you can put in the optimism.

And that doesn’t even consider any gamesmanship to try to keep the Hoyas’ seed from slipping too low, as it likely would if the Selection Committee knew Georgetown would be light one Chris Wright.

I’m sure some fans remember Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim’s proclamation last season that Arinze Onuaku would return in time for the Big Dance in order to preserve the ‘Cuse’s No. 1 seed. Onuaku never made it back to the court despite a Sweet 16 run by the Orange.

Hopefully that’s not the case with Wright. Otherwise the Hoyas’ time at the Dance will likely consist of a short waltz to a monster ballad.