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Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Summer Buzz: Georgetown Hoyas

By Eamonn Brennan

For the next month or so, our friends at The Mag are previewing one high-profile school per day for their Summer Buzz series. For the sake of all that is synergistic, yours truly will be attempting the same, complementing each comprehensive Insider preview with some adjusted efficiency fun. Today's subject? Georgetown. Insider Up next? Villanova.

The Georgetown Hoyas will miss Greg Monroe. That much is easy.

Greg Monroe
Greg Monroe's departure will hurt the Hoyas more on defense than on offense.
After all, it's not every day you send a surefire lottery pick to the NBA draft. Monroe was a unique player, a center-sized lefty with small forward skills who created off the high block in John Thompson's offense with preternatural vision. With few viable candidates ready to take his place immediately -- Greg Monroes are tough to find -- Georgetown will suffer from his departure. Duh.

There is good news and bad news for Georgetown here. The good news: The Hoyas will still be a very good offensive team without their talented center. The bad news: What about defense?

Since John Thompson III took over at Georgetown, his teams have played with a specific identity. Thompson likes to slow the game down, wear opposing defenses down, and bank on the fact that his team will be able to create good looks from a half court set. Thompson's best teams have complemented that style with defensive rigor. The Jeff Green- and Roy Hibbert-led 2006-07 team played at a glacial pace -- 59.9 possessions per game -- but had the second-best adjusted offensive efficiency in the country and the 20th-best adjusted defensive efficiency. A year later, Georgetown's defense was its primary strength. A year after that, the same rule applied (though Georgetown lacked the hyper-efficient offense to go along with it.)

In 2009-10, Georgetown's defense slipped. The Hoyas were very good on the offensive end, scoring 1.17 adjusted points per possession, good for a No. 9 national ranking in the category. But their defense, which gave up .926 adjusted points per possession, was the worst it's been since 2004-05, Thompson's first year with the program.

Naturally, Monroe had plenty to do with Georgetown's offensive success. He played a ton of minutes and took a lot of shots, and his ability to score from inside gave the Hoyas an inside-out combo most teams spend years trying to put together.

But Monroe's absence stands to hurt Georgetown's offense far less than it hurts their defense. Consider the players staying in D.C. There's guard Austin Freeman, who had one of the Big East's highest offensive ratings (119.7) among players with at least 20 percent of his team's possessions used. Freeman was among the best shooters in the country last year.

There's guard Chris Wright, whose offensive rating was five points higher than Monroe's (111.7 to 106.2). And there's guard Jason Clark, the team's best shooter, who ranked No. 34 nationally in effective field goal percentage.

Is this a case of Monroe creating opportunities for players to get wide open looks? Or of Monroe's offensive capability being slightly overrated?

Meanwhile, back on the defensive end, the Hoyas were merely average for a couple of reasons. For one, they rarely forced opponents into turnovers. But perhaps more importantly, they allowed offensive rebounders to grab 32.1 percent of their misses, which put them just above average in all of Division I. Why does this matter? Because Monroe accounted for 25.2 percent of those available defensive rebounds, the 26th-best personal mark in the country. No one else on the Hoyas even came close.

Georgetown was always going to be a guard-heavy team in the wake of Monroe's departure; he was their featured big man, and with the possible exception of a few recruits, there isn't anyone capable of filling his large shoes.

But even without Monroe, Georgetown still returns huge chunks of its offensive skill in 2009-10. Where they'll miss Monroe is where they need him most: defense. If Georgetown can recalibrate its defensive style -- maybe utilize a four-guard lineup and press out to 35-feet, which would hopefully force more turnovers -- they could possibly escape last year's fate.

As it stands, the Hoyas seem primed for another season of offensive mastery complimented by just-OK defensive play. Which could be worse, considering last year's season. But without Monroe, "could be worse" could quickly devolve into "just OK," and few Georgetown fans would be quite so happy with that.