2007 NCAA Final Four Preview: Georgetown Hoyas

by David Mihm | March 28th, 2007

Starting Five:

G – Jonathan Wallace (11.2 ppg, 49% 3P%)
G – Jessie Sapp (9.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.4 apg)
F – DaJuan Summers (9.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
F – Jeff Green (14.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.2 apg)
C – Roy Hibbert (12.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.5 bpg)

Key Bench Players:
Patrick Ewing, Jr. (4.2 ppg, 55% FG%), Vernon Macklin (3.0 ppg), Jeremiah Rivers (11.7 mpg)

How They Got Here:
First Round – Blew out Belmont 80-55.
Second Round – Defeated Boston College in a close one, 62-55.
Sweet 16 – Eked by Vanderbilt 66-65 on a final-possession Jeff Green bank shot.
Elite 8 – Staged an epic rally to beat North Carolina 96-84 in OT.

2007 Changes:
The key components of last year’s squad remained intact for John Thompson III this year, namely Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert. Brandon Bowman and Ashanti Cook were significant losses, but DaJuan Summers and Vernon Macklin have filled in nicely, along with a much-improved Jonathan Wallace.

Summers is a 6-8 wing player who is as solid as Jeff Green defensively but lacks a bit of polish on the offensive end. He’s athletic, long-armed, and his slashing ability is tremendous. He’s really come into his own in the NCAA Tournament, shooting much better than his 42.5% season average from the field in the Hoyas’ two biggest games against Vanderbilt and UNC.

Macklin is a surprisingly little-used bench player in the same mold as Summers. Coming out of high school, Vernon was a top-15 recruit as a McDonald’s and Parade All-American.

Wallace led Georgetown in assists last year, but has increased his scoring role this year. He played a terrific game against Boston College, scoring 15 points without turning the ball over. And of course, the Hoyas wouldn’t be here without his game-tying three at the end of regulation against North Carolina. The 6’1” guard is one of the few players on the Hoyas who isn’t big for his position.

Mention should also be made of Jessie Sapp, Georgetown’s 6-3 sophomore starting two-guard. Sapp has doubled his minutes and has become a much better ballhandler and passer in his second season under JT III.

Strengths: Frontcourt Size, Halfcourt Execution.
There are three reasons the Hoyas were able to keep Carolina off the glass down the stretch of their Elite Eight game—their names are Roy Hibbert, Jeff Green, and DaJuan Summers. Green is one of the hardest matchups in the Tournament: a 6-9 star who can post up, take opponents off the dribble, and spot up for three. And he’s strong enough, at 235+ lbs., to bang and rebound against seemingly bigger players on defense. Hibbert, at 7-2, is the tallest player in the Final Four. For a man of his size, Hibbert’s footwork is tremendous, and he’s every bit as quick underneath the basket as Greg Oden and Al Horford, with a few extra inches to boot. Always a tremendous shot blocker, Hibbert’s touch around the basket has dramatically improved this year. And at the “3” position, where two of this year’s Final Four participants (Ohio State and UCLA) are starting a 6-4 player, the Hoyas have 6-8 Summers in the starter’s role with 6-8 Patrick Ewing, Jr. and 6-9 Vernon Macklin coming off the bench.

The Hoyas are also the best of the Final Four teams in their halfcourt execution. No team in the country makes Princeton-style cuts with Georgetown’s explosiveness, because Georgetown quite simply has better athletes than most of those teams. There’s also an added element of NBA-style isolation in JT III’s “Georgetown” offense (he bristles whenever members of the media refer to it as “Princeton”), which makes sense given two of the country’s most talented players at their positions in Green and Hibbert. The Hoyas are not afraid to run in transition, either, as they proved against North Carolina, but look for them to slow their remaining games down to a pace where they are more comfortable for a full 40:00.

Weaknesses: Perimeter Defense, Foul Trouble.
It’s hard to find something that the Hoyas do wrong. They shoot better than 50% from the field, better than 70% from the line, outrebound their opponents by six per game, and only turn the ball over about 13 times. They’ve advanced this far in the NCAA Tournament by out-executing their opponents under pressure.

But if we take a closer look at three of the six teams that have beaten them this year (Vanderbilt, Oregon, and Syracuse) and the one that’s played Georgetown the closest in the Tournament (Vandy, again), the common thread is outside shooting. The Orange lit up the Hoyas with nine threes in their late-season win, and Vandy went 6-15 in the first half before the Hoyas clamped down in their second-half comeback. Georgetown may not get the chance to come back if they leave Ohio State’s shooters open—every starter except Greg Oden has the kind of range that GU has to respect.

Indirectly, this weakness influences another weakness of theirs: foul trouble. Roy Hibbert in particular has shown a knack for picking up cheap fouls that don’t stem from a blocked shot attempt. If the Hoyas try to protect Hibbert from fouling out by staying in a zone at the defensive end, Ohio State may very well shoot right over the top of it and into the national championship game. And if they do get in foul trouble, the Hoyas’ bench production (at least on the offensive end) leaves something to be desired.

Crunch Time Strategy:
Get the ball to Jeff Green. Or, apparently, Jonathan Wallace. Green has famously hit a number of game winners this year, including two in the Big East Tournament and most recently against Vandy. His strength simply wears down defenders over the course of the game, and his size and leaping ability mean that he can almost always get a clear shot over the top of them. His versatility makes it hard for defenders to play him tight, for fear of a blow-by, but if they hang back he’ll simply take the open shot from the outside. There’s no other player JT III (or we as fans) would rather see with the ball in late-game situations this year.

Unless that’s Jonathan Wallace. Not known as a big-game star up until the North Carolina victory, Wallace, some ice from the rim at Carolina’s end must have dripped into his veins with 1:00 to go, as he stepped up for a colossal three at the end of regulation. He followed that up with the opening score of overtime on a driving layup to inject a massive boost of confidence into the Hoyas.

Prospective Matchups:
Georgetown is the hardest matchup of any Final Four team, again, because of its large, athletic frontcourt. Summers and Green are both versatile enough to knock down the three against larger players or post up smaller defenders. Thad Matta is going to have his hands full trying to stop the two of them, and may try some sort of matchup zone along the baseline if Ron Lewis and Ivan Harris are overwhelmed in the early-going.

Luckily for Buckeye fans, he has one of the few guys who might be able to outduel Roy Hibbert in Mr. Oden. Fans, analysts, and NBA scouts have been salivating over this potential matchup since the Tournament field was announced on Selection Sunday. In an era of so few legitimate centers, let alone centers with the ability that these two demonstrate, this promises to be an epic battle on the biggest possible stage.

If the Hoyas get past Ohio State, they’d clearly rather play UCLA. At the offensive end, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute might be a tough matchup for Green, but Lorenzo Mata is little match for Hibbert down low. On defense, if he wants to, John Thompson has the luxury of switching Jeff Green to the 2-spot against the undersized Bruins to make life downright miserable for Arron Afflalo. And Jonathan Wallace is certainly quick enough to keep pace with Darren Collison. If it’s Florida, Noah and Horford’s presence in the post largely neutralizes Georgetown’s biggest strength, and Corey Brewer should be able to handle DaJuan Summers on the wing.

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