This weekend, the Devils will take to Washington, DC to pay a visit to the Hoyas of Georgetown. Word on the street has it that President Obama (and his bodyguard, former Devil Reggie Love) will be in attendance. It should be a dandy.
This week, we got to speak with Andrew of CasualHoya.com, a pretty cool Georgetown blog, to get a feel of what to expect as the Devils face their toughest matchup of the year. Naturally, Andrew and his crew at CH have an unnatural and unfounded hatred for all things Duke, but that’s hardly uncommon. What makes it funny is that we don’t really hate Georgetown at all…we just don’t care.
If you’re interested, we answered some of their questions as well. You can check them out here. Our interview is below.
Crazie Talk: The ‘Big Three’ of Scheyer, Singler, and Smith have been integral to the success of this Duke team. The big three for Georgetown, statistically, is Wright, Freeman, and Monroe. How do they function together on the court? What are their main strengths?
Casual Hoya: Monroe, Freeman and Wright function very well together on the court. Wright and Freeman have been roommates throughout college, grew up in the same area, and have known one another since they were kids. They worked out all summer together and have a very good understanding of one another’s games. Monroe fits in very well with them because he is such a good passer and facilitates John Thompson III’s offense from the high post. It is nice that he can take a complementary role to Wright and Freeman, but also frustrating because he will go 10 possessions without touching the ball.
Main strengths are abundant with all three. Wright has vastly improved his shot, and is strong going to the hole. Sometimes he can be completely out of control, as we have named him The Wrecking Ball over at Casual Hoya with his reckless drives into the lane taking on four defenders. That said, he has cut down on turnovers, improved his assists, and is playing very strong defense. Freeman has been our best player this year. He lost 30 pounds over the offseason, regained his shot, and has shown explosive athleticism. He is also the calming force to Wright’s sometimes dimunitive behavior. Monroe has all the talent in the world, is the best big man passer in the country, and finishes with ease. His biggest issues are between the ears, where he can sometimes seem disinterested and passive.
CT: Talk about Greg Monroe. He picked Georgetown over Duke two years ago. How important is he to this squad? Do you think he’ll go pro after this year?
CH: Even though Monroe is the object of national attention, the centerpiece of Georgetown’s success has been the play of point guard Chris Wright. In games where Wright has scored in double-digits, the Hoyas are an impressive 14-0. On the flip side, the Hoyas are just 1-4 when he scores under 10 points in a game. That being said, Monroe is clearly the player that Duke needs to concentrate on, since he can carry the team on his back for stretches and dominate the paint. As far as picking Georgetown over Duke, I can’t find any fault in that. I mean, I did the exact same thing. As far as him going pro after this year, I would suspect that he would because he will be a top 10 pick and there just comes a time when getting paid millions takes precedence over sticking around and playing St. John’s again. I don’t think many Hoyas fans expect Greg Monroe to be on the team next season, which is a shame because Georgetown would be a serious contender for a National Championship next year with him.
CT: Like Duke in recent years, Georgetown has had a ridiculous number of transfers since John Thompson III became head coach in 2004. Vernon Macklin, Tay Spann, Marc Egerson, Josh Thornton, Cornelio Guibunda, Ray Reed, Omar Wattad, and Jeremiah Rivers all seemed to find that they were a better fit somewhere else. Why do you think that is? Do you see any linkages between Duke and Georgetown on this issue?
CH: Tremendous Google research by you all. A few of those are wildcards as Ray Reed, Cornelio Guibunda, and Octavious Spann were all Escherick era recruits who were clearly not good enough to play at Gtown and basically showed they weren’t ready for the high D1 level following their transfers to other schools (Cal State Fullerton, American, and Marshall, respectively). CasualHoya has been none too kind to Jeremiah Rivers or Vernon Macklin, both of whom were highly regarded coming out of high school though each showed a distinct lack of basketball ability at Gtown; of course, each made a poor decision to transfer to a high level program, where they’ve largely showed that they can’t compete. Marc Egerson and Omar Wattad are in their own categories – first, Egerson went to a notoriously shady high school and never seemed to be the type of player who was cut out for Gtown to begin with; Wattad, on the other hand, was a laughable last minute recruit who clearly never had the talent to play at Gtown but became something of a fan favorite for hitting a few threes and being wildly theatrical after dropping them.
Thompson has been a very solid recruiter at Gtown over his career – highlighted with the three stars on this year’s team: Wright, Freeman, and Monroe. He’s also had some real missteps. It’s a little different from Duke, where K will clearly recruit over kids (and I understand that he makes that clear to them from day one). Both Duke and Gtown target only a handful of kids a year and that makes things difficult – when the top level drops out, they are left scrambling and that can have bad consequences, when it’s a kid like Wattad, or great ones when it’s someone like Benimon. The name of the game is recruiting as the better your players, the better the coach looks and in spite of the missteps and hurt feelings, K and Thompson are getting the kids they need to compete at the highest level.
CT: Georgetown hasn’t quite been the same powerhouse it once was under the elder John Thompson. Will JTIII ever approach the renown of his father? It that a realistic expectation? Would you consider this Georgetown program one of the elite, as it was back in the 80’s?
CH: Georgetown hasn’t been the same powerhouse it once was because we suffered under the oppressive tyranny of Craig Esherick between 1999-2004. I don’t think JTIII wants to “approach the renown” of his father; Big John was more than a coach – he used basketball as a means to fight for social justice, whether by walking off the court in opposition to Proposition 42, taking on racism in the media or fighting drug lords within DC. Georgetown is making its way back to the top of the heap for basketball programs, they won back-to-back Big East titles in 2007 and 2008 and went to the Final Four in 2007. What happens in the next few seasons will determine if it was a fluke or not.
CT: Two years in a row, the Hoyas have lost to Old Dominion at home. Georgetown is 0-3 all time against the Monarchs…in their own gym (which looks pretty small – and that’s something coming from Cameron Crazies). Georgetown has certainly stepped up in bigger games against better opponents (in bigger arenas) this year, but is there some kind of psychological issue with ODU or the on-campus gym?
CH: EVERY SINGLE GAME we get this ridiculous question, so I can’t say I am surprised that someone who went to college in the Dumpster of the Carolinas (Durham) would ask the same kind of question as the guy who went to college in the Dumpster of the Earth (the kid from Rutgers). Anyways. Remember Georgetown’s Magical Run to the Final Four? No, of course you don’t, you guys got owned by VCU in the first round of the tournament. Well, when you were back at the Dumpster eating Double Stuff Oreo’s and waiting for Lacrosse season (too soon?) we were on said Magical Run to the Final Four. And where did that start? An on-campus loss to ODU. I guess what I am saying is, see you in Indianapolis (well, not you, Duke will probably get a home NIT game before calling it a March).
CT: Georgetown has always attracted phenomenal big men, from Zo and Ewing back in the day to Hibbert and Monroe recently. What allure do the Hoyas have for this type of player? How does JTIII’s Princeton style offense prepare these stars for the NBA?
CH: You’re really comparing 2 wildly different eras between the JT2 and JT3 regimes but JT2’s tremendous run with bigs obviously stemmed from Ewing, who dominated his 4 years in a way that has rarely been seen at the college level and that paved the way for Mourning and Mutombo – but let’s be honest, in today’s game, each of them would have been gone after 1 year. Hibbert was a local kid and not hugely recruited, aside from our mustachioed hero, Craig Escherick. He played with the Hoya legends over the summers but one of the keys to each of the bigs who dominated the Hilltop was their personal work ethic – something Hibbert displayed from being an awkward freshman to a dominant player his junior and senior years.
The Princeton style offense demands a lot of bigs and Monroe is really well suited for it, given his scoring ability from inside and 15 feet and his passing – definitely moreso than was Hibbert. The biggest difference between the NBA and college game is the speed with which each is played, and although Princeton often yields some long possessions, players react to the defense and are forced to make quick reads and quick passes. Monroe’s just starting to round into form with the offense (though we’d like him to be far more aggressive) but this will likely be his last year at Gtown, following in the upside footsteps of Jeff Green and the downside footsteps of DaJuan Summers.
CT: You guys have two solid 2010 recruits in Nate Lubick and Markel Starks. Do you think Thompson will go after anybody else for this class, or move onto 2011?
CH: I would love to give you more info on who we are going after but I have no doubt that Coach K and his sniveling little assistants will read your board and try to woo our targets, like they are doing with Austin Rivers. Stay away Wojo – go back to your doghouse.
But in all seriousness, we are looking at a couple of targets for the spring signing period who can add height to our bench. Starks and Lubick will be able to make immediate impacts off the bench next year.
CT: How will this game play out? Prediction?
CH: I suspect this game will play out much like the first half of the game last year played out before the team self-destructed at halftime and tanked the rest of the season. In 2006 when an unheralded Georgetown defeated the then-unbeaten Devils, the Hoyas were able to backdoor the crap out of Duke when Coach K decided it was a good idea to play man to man. At some point in that game and for most of last year Duke played zone, and Georgetown was still able to compete due to consistent outside shooting and deft interior passing. Though our players are generally still the same as last year, the makeup of the team is much different due to the departures of malcontents DaJuan Summers (12thman, Detroit Pistons) and Jessie Sapp (starting guard for some team in Scotland). JT3 has this group firmly committed to his style of play, and with Monroe inside, Freeman outside, and electric bugaboo Chris Wright heading the point, the Hoyas have the weapons to cause Duke serious problems. Kyle Singler will be the key on Saturday since I suspect the Hoyas can contain Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer. If Singler can emerge as a reliable third scoring option, it will put more pressure on the Hoyas defensively, lead to some fouls, and then Duke can get into our bench, which is horrendous.
Final score: Hoyas 78 – Duke 71.
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While their hatred for Duke is more than obvious, we’d like to extend our thanks to Andrew and his crew at CasualHoya for their time. This should be a fun game to watch.