Things never get any easier in the Big East and thus DePaul has a New Year's Day date with destiny in Washington, D.C. The Georgetown Hoyas have the same record in the conference, 0-1 after a 69-55 loss to Notre Dame, as the Blue Demons do and they're not happy about it. Can DePaul take the Hoyas out of their rhythm? That's Oliver Purnell's challenge.
Here's five questions with SBNation Georgetown blog Casual Hoya
to get you prepared for the game.
CCB - Is this (11-2) where you expected to be at this point in the season?
CH - Record-wise 11-2 is probably a bit better than what I had expected at this point. I figured we'd lose at least a couple in the Old Dominion, Missouri, Temple, Memphis gauntlet so to emerge with 11 wins is a pretty nice accomplishment, especially since Georgetown's out of conference schedule was the toughest in the country. The loss to ND stings a little bit, but the reality is the Irish are a Top 20 team and Georgetown always has problems playing there.
CCB - How good is Austin Freeman? How good can he be?
CH - Austin Freeman is very good. He is one of the most efficient scorers in the nation and has increased his scoring production each year he's been at Georgetown. He is a perfect fit for John Thompson III's offense because he is a great shooter, extremely unselfish, and an intelligent basketball player. He's improved his shooting percentages each year, and has a chance to shoot 60% from the field, 50% from three, and 90% from the free throw line, which is completely absurd. My one hesitation with him is he only uses his big frame when completely necessary, while I think he could dominate in the low post because he is so strong.
CCB - Does the Missouri game show any problems for the Hoyas against a pressure defensive team that a squad with a similar strategy, like DePaul, might be able to exploit?
CH - Georgetown turned the ball over a ton against Missouri but the turnover rate was actually on par with what Hoyas have been averaging all season (since they had so many possessions in the 111 point victory). Chris Wright and the guards handled the press very well and it was not as big of an issue as many had expected. The main reasons Missouri overcame the 18 point deficit in that game were because they switched to a zone defense to rest their defenders and they protected the ball very well. So to answer your question - no, pressure defense will not affect the Hoyas. In fact, it could work against DePaul since defending Georgetown's patient offense is tiring enough for players.
CCB - What happened in the losses to Temple and Notre Dame?
CH - Both games were in difficult environments, but the ND loss is a bit more concerning in that 1) it was more recent and 2) Georgetown simply didn't come to play. In the Temple game the Hoyas fought hard all game and had a chance to win it at the end but came up short. In the ND game, the Hoyas were flat-out beaten from the get go and could never get into any sort of rhythm offensively. There's not much takeaway from those games as far as an opponent offering a blueprint as to how to beat the Hoyas, but clearly a key to an opponent's success against us will be stifling Chris Wright. When Wright is having a tough time, the offense seems to stall.
CCB - People think "Princeton offense" and they think slow, but the Hoyas have been right in the middle of the pack this season. Do you think having a guard like Wright encourages John Thompson III to push the tempo?
CH - The long held belief that the Princeton offense meant exclusively walking the ball upcourt and then setting a half court offense has really been broken down with the transition to bigger conferences (obviously Northwestern and Princeton) and even some smaller ones (like the OVC when Samford had its moment in the sun). [Ed. Note: Northwestern fans would have you believe this isn't the case anymore, but the Wildcats still rank 240th in adjusted tempo.] Coach Thompson has done a great job adapting to the players in the program and there's little question that Chris Wright has really helped to push the envelope.
But putting it all on Wright is unfair to the rest of the team - this year's team is dominated by the backcourt and (with the exception of the horrific ND game) Wright has paired with Austin Freeman and Jason Clark to unleash a barrage of threes. This is still a half court team and back up big man, Henry Sims, has been dropping dimes to back door cutters but this year's team is not as post dependent as the teams featuring Greg Monroe or Roy Hibbert have been. Having three players (and several more off the bench) who can push tempo and having a big like Julian Vaughn throw solid outlet passes has allowed Georgetown to open it up this year.
A big thanks to Casual Hoya for answering these questions for us. Considering their coverage of the ND loss I can only imagine what would happen if DePaul was to pull a monumental upset to start 2011. The game is at noon central time and is available on ESPN3.com, The Big East Network and The U Too.