Posted on: February 17, 2011 12:11 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2011 12:48 pm
Posted by Matt Norlander
I wish I'd thought to track down Henry Sims at last night's Georgetown-UConn game. I certainly would have had to ask him about this.
The player who actually prompted Kemba Walker to give us one of the more memorable highlights of the college basketball season is running for vice president of the Georgetown student body. His partner, Jed Feiman, is the alpha of the pair, leading the charge toward presidency. The junior Georgetown center and Feiman first made their candidacy public one week ago today.
The two's campaign page could use a bit of work, but they're full of gusto in other areas. By the way, Sims, who needs to boost his Twitter following well above 1,000 if he's hoping to have any kind of social media traction, averages 2.4 points and 18 minutes per game.
Speaking of social media, that's the theme to the duo's latest campaign push. With the Golden Globes seeing "The Social Network" win four awards, including best picture, the two stayed current (Oscars are just around the corner!) and decided to parody the movie's opening and closing scenes. The two also sample The Beatles' "Baby You're a Rich Man," which is exactly what plays out as the final scene of "The Social Network" goes to credits. It's all so meta.
What's a Hoya? A student-body vice presidential candidate, apparently.
(H/T, Sports Bog)
Posted on: February 13, 2011 10:45 am
Posted on: February 10, 2011 12:05 am
Edited on: February 10, 2011 12:23 am
Posted by Matt Norlander
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Rick Jackson doesn’t want to talk about or acknowledge Syracuse’s flaws.
“I don’t know. You’re going to have to tell me,” Jackson said after the Orange’s 64-56 home loss to Georgetown Wednesday night. “I can’t point out our flaws and what we need to work on. You can decide that.”
In a minute.
“That’s as good a defensive game as we’ve played this year,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. That could be worrisome for Orange fans. It wasn’t a standout defensive game, really. Georgetown shot better than 50 percent from the floor effectively (53.8) and turned it over on 22 percent of its possessions (SU got careless 24 percent of the time). Eighty-three percent of the Hoyas’ baskets came off of assists, which is what the Georgetown offense is designed to do.
Plainly: Syracuse, big-picture, may have slowed the Hoyas a bit, but the Orange didn’t make their opponent alter from its game plan.
It had been nine years since Georgetown won in the Salt City, though that statistic’s a little misleading, as the Hoyas and Orange haven’t played in each other’s gym every year since the Big East expanded to 16 teams. The primary reason John Thompson III got his first win in the Carrier Dome was due to the switch Georgetown flicked up down in the final portion of the ball game. The Hoyas took advantage of an absent-minded Syracuse defense in the last eighth of the game, finishing off the Orange with a 15-3 run in the final 5:37 to win 64-56.
SU guard Brandon Triche said Georgetown didn’t surprise he or his teammates at all. That’s why they were most frustrated in leaving with an L.
“It’s tough to lose, and it’s even tougher to lose when you know what they’re going to do,” Triche said, following up his statement by saying the team has become one that sees its play embellished when it has the confidence to match.
“I think our confidence was high, and it’s gotten a little bit lower,” Triche said. “We’re a team whose guys are built on confidence. When it goes down, we’re a different team. I don’t think it’s any [other] type of flaws. Defensively, the last couple of games, we’ve actually been improving and being more active.”
There were times when the Orange appeared to lack urgency and got fooled by Georgetown’s collective court-seeing ability. It was an aberration to Syracuse’s defensive behavior from earlier in the game, but of course it came at the wrong time. Losing a sense of urgency and spacing on the floor isn’t a good sign.
“We had opportunities to score — a lot of them — but we missed layups, and it just didn’t go in,” Scoop Jardine (right) said. “We had the game won, and it hurts to lose tough ones like this at home.”
So let’s get to those flaws. Every single team has them. Which are Syracuse’s? Well, let’s start by stating: Syracuse is a strong, competent squad with a ceiling that hovers somewhere between the Elite Eight and the Final Four and a floor that could be losing in the first round as a 7-, 8- or 9-seed. It’s the Orange’s lack of offense in a big spot that’s truly concerning. It wasn’t there tonight, and with no premier, make-it-happen-in-a-big-spot point guard and a lack of a true, consistent deep threat, it’s destined to happen again.
“We just had a great offensive game last week. We had a bad one tonight. I don’t understand that (question),” Boeheim said when a reporter asked if Syracuse was beyond a point of improving its offense this year. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to have a bad one tomorrow.”
Boeheim is right. Such crippling droughts — I mean, just 56 points at home? — haven’t been abundant this year. But down the road, when it happens again, are there enough components for the Orange to overcome a really bad shooting night?
“This was a great defensive effort against a very good offensive team, but we’ve just gotta score points,” Boeheim said. “The main difference between this year and last year, you know, I think we’re as good defensively, but we can’t score enough. … Certainly that’s going to catch up to you.”
It absolutely will. Georgetown hit six 3s in the first half, which allowed the Hoyas to keep pace with Syracuse, then have an opportunity to kill their bitter rival with backdoor passes and opportunistic rebounding. The former is a familiar Hoyas trait. The latter? Unh-uh. By game’s end, the 14 Orange turnovers, 39-percent shooting and Georgetown’s 45-percent offensive rebounding percentage seemed to be the catalysts for the outcome.
“The games that we’ve struggled in, we’ve shot less than 40 percent and less than 30 percent from the 3,” Boeheim said.
Those games are fresh in the team's mind, as Syracuse has dropped five of its past seven after an 18-0 start that some were skeptical about due to the relatively weak nature of the schedule, inflated by the fact Syracuse didn’t leave New York to play a game until Jan. 8 against Seton Hall.
One thing we saw in Syracuse Wednesday night: a hand-tied Rick Jackson. The Orange forward got into foul trouble for the first time this season in a big game, drawing his fourth whistle with 14:40 to go in the second half, prompting Boeheim to play freshmen Baye Moussa Keita, C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters.
Jackson admitted the quick triggers from the officials impacted his play.
“How you usually play, and the refs call flop after flop, of the ball fouls and things like that, it takes the physical play away from you,” Jackson said. “You don’t know what you can do out there. … It kind of makes you timid.”
In fact, Boeheim and most of his players said they weren’t happy with Georgetown drawing charges that seemed like flops. Syracuse players are pretty convinced it got a bad trio officials that weren’t the typical Big East, let-them-play-rough crew.
“It wasn’t defensive fouls; it was our offensive fouls,” Jardine said. “I think they was flopping on them a couple of times and he (Jackson) just got the bad end of it tonight. … Arinze (Onuaku) went through the same thing. It’s like that for big men when they’re as productive as they’ve been.”
Said Boeheim, “They looked like flops to me.”
Jackson’s foul problems will likely be the exception to the rule. And even when he left the game, Syracuse took the lead in his absence.
Look back on its season so far, and what was the game that stands out more than any other for this team? The Dec. 7 win against Michigan State at Madison Square Garden, right? And that’s rotted away with each passing week. (To be fair, the New Year’s Day win at home over Notre Dame is looking very good, as the Irish are on a six-game tear, going to 20-4 Wednesday night with an overtime home win against Louisville.)
Syracuse can and will continue to beat up on teams that won’t sniff the NCAAs, even most likely snagging wins against strong competition. The zone’s not going to duct tape the kitchen pipes when the water’s bursting through later on this season against teams that will play better, on a neutral floor, than Georgetown did tonight.
“I’m not worried,” Jardine said.
If Syracuse players don’t address their worries and flaws soon, the team may become a shell of what it was in December, when it was undefeated and considered a national-title contender.Photos: AP
Posted on: February 9, 2011 9:18 am
Edited on: February 9, 2011 10:17 am
Posted by Matt Norlander
Normally, this podcast won’t be so long, I don’t think, but today it’s a bit of a doozy. Since Matt Jones will be doing some hosting duties whenever I’m not shooting this thing off to the Internets, I didn’t want to wait another episode to get him on. So Jonesy (Jonesy, is it OK if I call you Jonesy?) and I are the second part of this podcast.
We breeze our way through conference talk of all the BCS-level leagues, plus the A10 and Mountain West. There’s some good dialogue about surprise teams in there, too, plus we complain about the free food fed to us when we work.
The first half of the podcast (I didn’t mean to Tarantino this blog post) is a joy as well, as I had to get Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard on to talk about Georgetown-Syracuse in advance of that big game tonight. Waters is a pro’s pro, and it was an honor to have him on. He’s dialed into the culture of that city and that program so well, I was stupid to not have him join me sooner. I hope you like our 20-minute convo.
Is Georgetown the better team right now? And what’s Jim Boeheim really like? (There’s a particular nugget in there many will be surprised to learn, I think.) Waters also gets into his early days of journalism, how he sort of lucked his way into a round of golf with Michael Jordan and what some of the best places to eat in Syracuse are. Yes, more food talk.
Listen below, and please search and subscribe in iTunes, too. We’ll be back with another podcast for you Friday morning.
Podcast No. 3: All things Syracuse-Georgetown, plus expansive conference talk
Posted on: February 1, 2011 12:00 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2011 12:04 pm
Posted by Matt Norlander
Last week was the debut of this feature, but in case you missed it, what we've got here is a bit of a twist on bubble watching, only it’s not just that. Every Tuesday I’ll be taking teams and stacking their ledgers against each other. Sometimes it will be to debate and determine at-large inclusion into The Tournament; sometimes it will be about seeding. Today, let's look at two bubble teams, as well as a debate over which five-loss team probably deserves a better seed than 21-1 San Diego State.
Bears vs. Bruins: Who's worthier?
UCLA has quite an interesting profile right now. You, like me, probably don't look at this team and think it's in the bracket. I saw the Bruins in person at Madison Square Garden back in November. It was a squad that had a long way to go. It still does. Ben Howland's crew right now, with a 14-7 record, needs to accumulate wins in the weak Pac-10 to have hope of inclusion. Still, I can't convince myself it should be a part of a 68-team field. Yet others see this as a fringe-worthy group.
The raw data: UCLA has a 4-7 record against the KenPom top 100. Two of those four wins are against 12-9 Pacific and Cal. However, there is no bigger win than the 86-79 defeat over BYU on Dec. 18. In fact, that alone is what's keeping UCLA on any sort of radar.
Bad losses? Montana's the only bad loss, I suppose.
Now, let's look at Missouri State. Each year the Missouri Valley Conference puts out one or two teams that are very embraceable and usually highly underappreciated, despite the league's improved reputation as the years have gone by.
The 17-5 Bears currently sit atop the MVC with a 9-2 record alongside Wichita State. (Perhaps I'll circle back around to the league and toss in the Shockers in a week or two.) Missouri State shares a win over Pacific with UCLA, so cross that out. Against the KenPom top 100, it's just 3-3 with no good non-con W to point up to the sky. The losses to Indiana State and Tulsa are worse than what UCLA has, even if the total amount of Ls is short of the Bruins'.
The pick: UCLA, which blows my mind on the first day of February. A classic case of a BCS conference school having more chances against better teams and edging out because of a beefier résumé.
Georgetown more qualified for a 2-seed than San Diego State?
A week ago, San Diego State was undefeated and ranked fourth in both polls. One loss in a tough venue and suddenly I'm thinking the Aztecs aren't worth a top-two seed? Unfortunately, yes ... as of now. The Aztecs have opportunities to rack up quality wins in the league, but as of now, the Hoyas simply have bigger scalps on the wall.
Georgetown, 2-seed. I'd put the Hoyas alongside Duke, Pittsburgh and Kentucky. Incredible leap, but the Hoyas now have Old Dominion, 20-2 Coastal Carolina and Utah State, Missouri, Villanova, Memphis, St. John's and Louisville. In a soft year, that's enough — for now. The losses are all fine: Temple, Notre Dame, St. John's, West Virginia and Pittsburgh. It's a loaded slate, but looking at it, plus seeing how Georgetown's won as of late, and it's certainly worth of just inclusion with other 2s.
San Diego State, 3-seed. Barely a 3, but a 3 nonetheless. The Aztecs beat up on Saint Mary's and Gonzaga, both good but not great, plus Wichita State and New Mexico ... and ... and, yeah, that's it. Love me some SDSU, but are you OK with waiting? Road games against Colorado State and Vegas are upcoming, plus the Feb. 26 home rematch against BYU. The possibility is there. In fact, seeing how BYU and San Diego State seek through the MVC in February is going to be a lot of fun.
And I'll say this definitively: By Selection Sunday, if San Diego State is a three-loss team, no matter how it got to that number, it will be worthy of the 2 line.Photo: AP
Posted on: January 29, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: January 29, 2011 5:52 pm
Posted by Matt Norlander
PHILADELPHIA — He’s just so casual about it.
Perhaps that’s the most impressive aspect to Austin Freeman’s personality — because it contrasts so glaringly with how he makes a stat sheet pop. Thirty points, six assists, one turnover, 8 for 8 from the foul line, two 3s, three rebounds and, most importantly, lifting his team for the first time this season to an above-.500 record in the Big East.
Yep. That’s right: It took until Jan. 29 for No. 21 Georgetown to get its head above water in the conference. But it’s now there because of what Freeman (right) did to Villanova Saturday afternoon in a 69-66 Georgetown road win. He’s more than insurance policy; he’s a certified life saver.
And here’s Freeman at the podium in the post-game press conference looking as quiet as a boy sitting next to mother in church.
And there’s Freeman talking to a handful of reporters in the hallway after said press conference — because this kind of performance demands more than the usual 10-minute meeting with the media horde — acting as businesslike as the men assigned to empty the garbage cans at the Wells Fargo Center on the outskirts of Philadelphia’s city limits.
Saturday afternoon’s dramatic, important and possibly season-changing (but let's wait for more evidence before going there) win against eighth-ranked Villanova could be the type of win every team hopes for but not the one every team gets: a W that validates a conference season, a purpose and place, for a group of young men.
Freeman's production was significant and consistent for 40 minutes, but it was during the final stretch his play ensured his Hoyas would head home happy.
“Austin Freeman, in most situations, is unflappable, so that last three minutes was indicative of what he’s done for four years here,” Georgetown head coach John Thompson III said. “I tell you what, I’m glad … No. 15 was on our team. There’s a comfort level. They (Villanova) were running, jumping, trapping, tripling sometimes; just made it hard to do anything. Just felt, when we got the ball in his (Freeman's) hands, good things happen.”
There is little doubt, had Freeman not been on the floor Saturday, Georgetown probably wouldn’t have won the game. No. 15 was everything his head coach needed him to be and more. After all, it was just earlier this month that many so quickly began to forget about or dismiss Georgetown. Three-game losing streaks aren’t uncommon, even among the strong in the strongest conference in the country, consistently, so perhaps tales of the Hoyas’ demise were exaggerated.
But, still, after falling in those three consecutive tilts — to St. John’s, West Virginia, Pittsburgh — Georgetown went from a top-15 ranking in the national polls to 1-4 in the conference and chilling in the Big East basement with South Florida, Seton Hall and Providence. All this in the span of nine days.
Plenty of time for everyone, me included, to get hasty in our judgments of JT3's teams. Just a few days ago, maybe even as late at 1:45 p.m. ET, Saturday, the Hoyas weren’t considered to be in Villanova, Syracuse or Pittsburgh’s class. (Just take a peek at how those teams have performed of late.)
A veteran crew, led by invaluable go-to man Freeman, has kept this team from losing pace.
“Having Chris (Wright), Austin, Julian (Vaughn) and Jason (Clark), guys that have been through this, we realize how long the year is, and we’ve had time to climb out,” Thompson said. “There was no panic.”
I previously wrote about, in the broad scheme, Wright’s value to Georgetown. But in tense moments, it's clear Freeman is the guy who needs to have the ball in his hands. Just ask the Georgetown point guard, who summed up his teammate’s role matter-of-factly.
“The thing about it is, we all have roads, and Austin’s road is to score 30 points in games like this,” Wright said. “The jumper he hit on the left wing [at the end of the game] was crazy. It would be stupid of me and my teammates to not give him the ball.”
And so JT3 can use simple coding from here on out to send a message to his team while on the floor: Don’t be stupid, or: give Austin the ball. Freeman does it all, really. The argument exists that his biggest play wasn’t a made shot.
Even when Villanova really threatened near the game’s end, forcing a couple of bad, uncharacteristic Hoyas turnovers in the final three minutes, everyone knew to not get stupid; just give it to Freeman.
With that collective mindset, Freeman scored 12 of the final 16 Hoyas points in the remaining seven minutes. He accounted for two of the four he didn't score on an assists, a heady play in the form of a 40-foot pass out of a trap to a wide-open, seldom-used Nate Lubick, who flushed down a dunk with 23 seconds left. It’s easy to forget about that sequence after Freeman hit a shot from the corner that went up just before the shot clock hit 0, with 41 seconds to go, crowd squirming, that gave Georgetown a 63-60 lead.
“They did get a little more aggressive on the defense end with forcing traps,” Freeman said.
Within these games, as they are happening and his stat line is looking more and more pregnant, is he aware of the damage he’s doing?
“Not really,” a coy Freeman added.
Despite his age and experience, Freeman said these kinds of games, win or lose, haven’t gotten easier or tougher — they’ve merely continued to be part of his college experience. “It’s just always tough,” Freeman said. “I just try to prepare myself physically and mentally for every game.”
Mentally, Georgetown only has to have one conviction and game plan going forward: don’t be stupid.
Posted on: January 13, 2011 3:19 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2011 3:38 pm
Posted by Matt Norlander
Not how I planned it, but it's time I panned it.
(Very aware that comes off as Jay-Z-esque, but it's not what I was going for; goodness, was that lede awful, so let's move on. Like, now.)
Yesterday I praised Penn State and Boston College. Today, I've embraced my inner Billy Packer. The crankier, critical side of me, which is good to let out of the cage every now and again (just like Billy Packer!). I chopped down Kansas State around breakfast, and now I've got to do the same with Georgetown, which lost to Pittsburgh on its home floor last night. The Georgetown faithful are probably hating me plenty now, but I promise I'm not going out of my way to pick on their team. I love so much about how Georgetown plays and wins games ... but it's gotten uncomfortable pretty quickly, right Hoyas fans?
For the non-Hoya viewer, I posit you probably know Georgetown as the team that's consistently been relevant nationally ever since John Thompson III took over in 2004. The program has been good-to-great with JT3 running the show, which has been good for the Big East, naturally. The program's adapted to the Princeton offense and managed to recruit a variety of players with different skill sets, from big men like Roy Hibbert and Greg Monroe to versatile wing players such as DaJaun Summers and Jeff Green. Now, of course, the three-guard look of Austin Freeman (above), Jason Clark and Chris Wright is the drink-stirring, three-pronged straw of the Hoya machine.
What we must recognize Georgetown as now: a team that can't handle too much success. Ever since its 2007 Final Four appearance, this group hasn't gotten back to an elite level. There's been pressure and expectation (and some really good wins mixed in with all that), but a lot of letdown. Remember the first round of last year's Tournament? A Lohan-like low point.
And now the Hoyas are 1-4 in the Big East — only ahead of winless DePaul, South Florida and Providence — carving their rears firmly into the bubble, which is forming before our very eyes. I don't think I'd be writing this today if Georgetown kept the game close and lost by five or six to Pitt. But that was a snoozer last night. Pitt ran its sets effectively and with ease.
Georgetown just off right now. It happens, but the worthwhile teams shake themselves out of it before a trend sets in, usually. The Hoyas had their chance to curb the crap last night and didn't get it done on their home floor. Something's not right, and I'm not talking about the ever-valuable Chris Wright — because that's been addressed, too.
Fortunately, the Hoyas get their gut check at the right time, you'd think, because the trinity of NYC-area games is next up on the slate. JT3's team plays at 10-6 Rutgers Saturday, then gets 8-9 Seton Hall on the road Tuesday, finishing up with 10-5 St. John's eight full nights later, on Jan. 26. A big break, and one Georgetown will want, even if it gets two wins upcoming on the road.
The sirens are now blaring, the lights crawling, because in a deep Big East, a 1-4 start can be like quicksand. Now's the time for the Hoyas to turn it around, lest they never get off that bubble and play the remainder of the year at an uphill pace.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: January 11, 2011 12:30 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2011 2:08 pm
Posted by Matt Norlander
The game isn't until Feb. 26 (Senior Night for Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Julian Vaughn), but there's already a lot of controversy surrounding it. And although this looks mighty unfair, I think it's bloody fantastic, primarily because it adds another layer to the hatred between the fanbases.
Syracuse vs. Georgetown is a top-five rivalry in college basketball, and this is a premier example of why. Syracuse, having loads of alumni based in greater Washington, D.C., almost always has terrific fan support for the Orange's annual trip into the District.
The game is much less of a home feel for Georgetown whenever SU shows up. Understandably, this irks the Hoyas' alumni base. But, hey, don't let SU fans snatch up the tickets, right? Well, obstructions have been put in place for that. Now it seems those with power of ticket distribution want to make it as tough and annoying as possible for SU fans to see their team. Look for yourself: it appears individual game tickets can't be purchased on Ticketmaster.
It's not been an out-and-out cold shoulder, but let's just say some savvy folks in charge of distributing tickets have made it a pain for Orange fans to get ducats. And Georgetown has done what other teams at all levels have: force fans to buy group tickets to make more money and sell more seats for less-desired games.
It's the mask that's donned so Syracuse fans can't just purchase a one-game-only stub for the SU-Georgetown tilt on Feb. 26. Also worth knowing: This is the first scheduled home game against Syracuse on a weekend in five years. Demand: high. Georegetown's options: plentiful. Barring a Hoyas collapse, this will be a tough ticket.
The excellent Orange-flavored blog, Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician, has been all over this for more than a week now, as this has been a smoldering topic since shortly after the new year began.
I spoke with a D.C.-based SU alum who clued me in to how this works. See, every year, Georgetown goes to alumni clubs around the District and disperses tons of tickets for opposing teams' fans to buy. Syracuse was flatly ignored this year. But diligent SU fans, like the ones behind Otto's Army, obfuscated this quagmire and found a way to get tickets: make a $25 dollar donation to Georgetown University. Then you get your single-game ticket.
Here's the proof.
Call it a Hoya tax, if you will. It's infuriating for SU faithful, but it's working.The aforementioned alum told me yesterday what the experience was like when she called over the phone to obtain tickets.
"When I called myself the kid was like, 'Yeah, we still have hundreds of tickets. But unless you donate you can't have them.' Obnoxious," she said.
Somehow, this rivalry has gotten not nearly the pub it deserves in the past five years, when both programs have been strong. Things like this keep it as hateful and sinister as any. No matter how Georgetown tries to spin this, it's obvious: The school is doing its best to keep as many Syracuse fans out of the building in seven weeks.
In doing so, the Orange fires appear to have been stoked that much more.