I apologize to the LPP Faithful for this delayed blog. I was traveling abroad during the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 and March Madness means nothing there. Only rugby and UK and European football raises blood pressure where I was. A few final words to the Hoya faithful and interested fans on this past season, where Georgetown finished 22-11 overall and 12-6 in the Big East.
I. Georgetown Hoyas Conclude 2014-15 Campaign with 75-64 Loss to the Utes in Round of 32 :
Perhaps it took me a trip across “the pond” in the middle of the night to write a fitting conclusion to the Hoyas season. This season had a bit of everything: The Promise; The Stumbling; The Resurrection; The Harsh Ending. Thus I conclude this–my first–season of blogging about Georgetown Men’s Basketball. A program that formed in my consciousness in the 1980s and a team that continues to capture my attention and heart in 2015. This may say as much about myself as it does about them. However, the focus belongs and remains on the team and program.
In prior entries, I have already paid tribute to the team and individuals; the Coach and staff that progressed beyond the double digit seed in the Round of 64 and advanced to contention for a Sweet 16 berth.
So as I write over Newfoundland toward Cape Bonavista, Bonavista Bay and Trinity Bay, I restate first the story that has already been amply covered by the mainstream media and the bloggers: the #4 Hoyas, of the South region, fell in Portland Oregon to the #5 Utah Utes, a team that finished second in the well respected and proven PAC12, along with two other PAC12 teams that remained in the Sweet 16: the UCLA Bruins, who were on the proverbial bubble before the tournament began, and eventually fell to the Zags; and the #2 seed Arizona Wildcats, who eventually fell to #1Wisconsin, in a tight matchup where the Badgers overpowered the Cats in the end.
The Hoyas played with the Utes through many minutes, tied even at the half, 32-32, after the Hoyas came out of the gates with hot shooting they could not sustain in the second half. Then the team experienced and Hoya fans watched that familiar breakdown in the second half, not completely explicable except to say that it seemed to happen at this time during the season. No one can engage in finger-pointing towards anyone. DSR was shut down by the Utes’ D, and other players much respond. Josh Smith responded in the second half, but it was another case of “too little too late”. Statistically, the Hoyas did not play their best basketball of the season but credit that in part to the Utes’ D or lack of Hoyas O, and the 2014-15 season was then over.
Perhaps there is little to be gained—now—in analyzing the loss to Utah, except to say that this is the last Hoya fans will be seeing the following players on the Court, and LPP has paid tribute to each played in past blog entries: Jabril Trawick, Mikael Hopkins, Aaron Bowen and Josh Smith. No one senior was able to take control of this game to lead the team onto the Sweet 16, and that was not generally the Seniors’ style or even this team’s style. While DSR at times had propelled his team to victory, DSR does not have the ability of either Jeff Green, or past Hoya greats, to carry the team on his back through several rounds of the tournament, and we can’t forget that Green had both Hibbert and Wallace, and Ewing Jr., to assist him to the heights of a Final Four. In my opinion, DSR should not consider a jump to the NBA–but we shall see what he decides.
In the Final Game, the freshmen played well, LJ Peak leading in scoring with 18 and Isaac Copeland finishing with 14 points. Georgetown scoring was rounded out by DSR’s 12 points and Trawick’s 10. While the entire team struggled from the field with the exception of Peak (7 for 8 from the field, 3 for 4 from the arc), DSR really struggled, on 6 for 15 shooting from the field and 0 for 7 from the arc. The ONLY bench points in the final game were 2 from Hopkins, although he and White saw double digit minutes, and Hayes pulled down 4 boards and had a steal in 8 minutes of playing time. The Utes shot nearly 60% from both the field and the arc and the Hoyas were sub 50% for the game in both categories (43% and 36%, respectively). Josh Smith ended his last game as a Hoya with 8 points and 6 boards in 17 minutes, with 4 personal fouls. That was the “average Josh Smith” game during his Hoya career. While Hoya fans loved his promise and the breakout games, he was not the reliable center and player that I think Coach JTIII, team and fans expected with the transfer from UCLA. So likable as a person, but Smith was not able to put together a sting of consistent big games as a Hoya. In the Round of 32 game against the Utes, the word I have used all season, URGENCY, again seemed to be lacking. I rarely questioned EFFORT; only urgency, and the strategy it takes to win a close game in March.
Aaron Bowen saw 6 minutes in this game, and to me, that is a travesty. As you know, I have been a great fan of Bowen, and he had a great deal to offer the Hoyas and showed it, when given time. The best athlete on this team, with the energy to make things happen and play D, I shook my head as he sat on the bench as the Hoyas went down.
II. The Final Four: Since then, the Utes lost to Duke in a tight game, 63-57, and the Final Four is set (this is the first time in my life that I was not Stateside for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 so had to follow online in the middle of the night while work faced me in the morning): few surprises, overall #1 seed Kentucky, who escaped by a point at the free throw line to the Notre Dame Irish, not in recent years a scary team by any means; #1 seed Wisconsin, led by big man Frank Kaminsky, whom the Hoyas shut down early in the season in the Bahamas, whose future in the pros seems to me to be a question mark (he will go but will he star?); #1 seed Duke, with its post-season struggles in the past few years, who surprisingly lived up to expectations this year, and have only one chance to win a championship with Jahlil Okofor (he’s soon gone); and last but not least, Mighty Tom Izzo’s #7 seed Spartans of Michigan State (The Outlier among 3 #1 Final Four teams). Believe me, I will never again bet against Tom Izzo in March. There are the Men of March and then there are the Mighty Men of March, among whom Izzo belongs. I would not be surprised if Sparty surprises but then again, Kentucky now may wake up after the scare by the Irish and that may spell disaster for its next two opponents.
III. The Struggling Big 10? (Really): This can be addressed in 8 words: Wisconsin and Michigan State in the Final Four. So we also have the already Knighted Wildcats of Kentucky of the SEC, until the Irish showed the Cats’ vulnerability and the Blue Devils of the ACC. What happened to the Cavaliers and the Tar Heels? Duke returns to form and in the end, if Duke faces Kentucky, who will you root for? Will you forget that you Hate Christian Laettner (ESPN reminds us), if you are old enough to remember him, and root for Duke, or will you root for anyone who plays Kentucky, as will most who live outside the State? Will you consider that Coach K is another One and Done Coach, as is anyone who wants to win an NCAA championship? If Duke wins, he could lose half his team but like Calipari, he’ll retool his starting lineup and perhaps have a “second string” as good as his first? Is this truly college hoops? Yes, it is in this Age of the Amateur Sports Multimilliondollar/Billion Dollar business.
IV. Looking Forward for the Hoyas: Hoya fans look to the SuperFrosh who excited fans this season, namely, Isaac Copeland, LJ Peak, Tre Campbell and Paul White, and those who didn’t have much playing time, including Trey Mourning; DSR, returning stalwart, pre-season Big East Player of the Year 2014-15; and other players who have shown great promise, especially true center Bradley Hayes (can we bring back Hoya bigs to coach him, imagine Patrick Ewing developing Bradley Hayes this summer!). Add to that already on board Akoy Agau, transfer from Louisville, 4 star recruits Jessie Govan, #10 center in the nation by one source, #27 power forward Marcus Derrickson and #18 small forward Kaleb Johnson, and what do the Hoyas have to look forward to in 2014-15? I wish I could answer that with certainty, but can say there is great promise.
Frustrated Fans: We understand how you feel. Everyone wants to go to the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final 4, but there are roughly 350 Division I basketball teams in the country and with the exception of Syracuse and a few others, most are eligible to get to that point. The Coach that every team wants, Shaka Smart, went out in the Round of 64? Yet Shaka may be headed to Austin, Texas. Does that seem right? I’ve heard they may even offer school naming rights to Shaka, renaming the venerable Texas university Texas Smart University (:-))) Fired Coach Rick Barnes is already signed to Tennessee, salivating about beating the school that ousted him, a coach that took his team 16 of 17 times to the Big Dance. Is there something wrong with this picture? Top 10 ranked Villanova and Coach Jay Wright laid an egg in the Round of 32. UVA’s Coach Tony Bennett, who has revived the program to the extent of winning the ACC championship, experienced the same fate. Let’s face it—there are only a few elite coaches and 4 of them indeed remain in the tournament. Regardless of how you feel about them: Calipari, Coach 1K, Izzo and Bo Ryan, these are coaches who win championships or regularly take their teams far into March. Four of 300 coaches or at least 60-80 who have a dream of getting the final weekend. Sean Miller and Shaka are included in those ranks, in the Younger Set.
As a Hoya fan, I will savor the past and hope for the future. We are graduating 4 tremendous seniors, plus one experienced Coach Tyler Adams, and many teams in the tournament cannot boast that accomplishment. I wish the best for All and thank them, again, for the memories. I don’t know their plans, whether it is playing, coaching, business, law, but know they will continue to represent. May all Hoyas support Jabril, Mikael, Aaron, Josh and Tyler as they leave the Hilltop. We will never forget—We Are/You Are Georgetown!
I may be finished with writing about the Hoyas season, but am going to continue to cover the Final Four and other sports … hope that you will continue to follow ProminentPlay!