College Basketball Nation: Greg Monroe

In the weeks leading up to the June 27 NBA draft, we’ll be taking a look at the 20 schools that have produced the best pros in the modern draft era (since 1989, when the draft went from seven to two rounds). Click here to read Eamonn Brennan’s explanation of the series, which will be featured in the Nation blog each morning as we count down the programs from 20 to 1.

Top Five NBA Draftees Since 1989

  1. Allen Iverson (1996)
  2. Alonzo Mourning (1992)
  3. Dikembe Mutombo (1991)
  4. Roy Hibbert (2008)
  5. Greg Monroe (2010)
Sixth man: Jeff Green (2007)

The rest: Charles Edward Smith, Jaren Jackson, Robert Churchwell, Don Reid, Jerome Williams, Othella Harrington, Jahidi White, Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje, Mike Sweetney, Patrick Ewing Jr., DaJuan Summers, Chris Wright, Henry Sims

Why they’re ranked where they are: My barbershop -- all barbershops -- was buzzing after Allen Iverson embarrassed the Great One with a couple of crossovers that froze the legend.

“Did you see it?”

“I can’t believe he did that.”

“He fears no man.”

On March 12, 1997, Michael Jordan still ruled the NBA. That season culminated with Jordan and the Chicago Bulls winning their fifth NBA title.

But it was clear then that his reign would end soon. Superman would eventually age.

The NBA’s influx of young talent, however, boasted a fleet of potential successors.

When his Philadelphia 76ers faced the eventual champs that night, Iverson was an emerging candidate. He was a 6-foot ball of agility, speed, skill and explosiveness. And he met the hype that began building during the 1997 rookie of the year’s debut.

Iverson was one of the greatest players in NBA history.

That double-crossover against Jordan demonstrated the bravado Iverson exuded then. He wasn’t the first young cat to challenge MJ. But his audacity and success contributed to the notion that he was ready to seize the throne. The career-high 37 points that evening provided more proof that the Georgetown product could be NEXT in the NBA.

In his prime, Iverson wrestled with a variety of All-Stars for the “best in the NBA” title. The league MVP in 2001, Iverson carried the Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA Finals. They lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.

But the second-best player on that 76ers roster might have been Aaron McKie. Think about that.

Iverson averaged 31.1 PPG, 4.6 APG and 2.5 SPG in 2000-01. Few players throughout the history of the league have carried that much weight in a run to the Finals.

Iverson was an 11-time All-Star. He was named to the NBA’s all-first team three times. He won the scoring title four times. And he averaged 26.7 PPG, 6.2 APG and 2.2 SPG (78 percent free throw shooter) throughout a 14-year career.

His messy exit and disastrous post-NBA existence have made the memories of “AI” feel ancient. But he stood with the league’s kings for many years.

[+] EnlargeAllen Iverson
AP Photo/ Nick WassAllen Iverson averaged 25 points, 4.7 assists and 3.4 steals per game during his final year at Georgetown.
He is certainly the best player Georgetown has produced since the 1989 draft, the cutoff for this project.

For most of the schools that have cracked our “Path to the Draft” rankings, Iverson would represent an anomaly.

Multiple schools produced a single superstar who anchored their entire NBA legacies. But Georgetown is different.

Iverson is certainly the top performer within this group. But he’s not the only elite athlete representing the Hoyas.

Georgetown is No. 2 because the majority of the school’s draftees in the last 20-plus years are/were stars at the next level.

Iverson, Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning, Greg Monroe, Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green anchor a group that’s second in our rankings because of its undeniable depth and talent. The numbers are modest: 19 draftees since 1989.

But Mutombo, Mourning, Hibbert and Iverson made a combined 26 All-Star appearances. And Green and Monroe could be All-Stars soon.

Othella Harrington played for 11 years. Jerome “Junkyard Dog” Williams was the consummate glue guy and a gritty rebounder.

Mourning’s career was interrupted by kidney issues. But he played most of his career as one of the league’s best bigs. He was a seven-time All-Star. In both 1999 and 2000, he was the defensive player of the year and the NBA’s blocks leader.

Mutombo was a four-time defensive player of the year. He led the NBA in rebounding twice and blocks three times. He was also vital for that 76ers team that lost to the Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals (11.7 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 2.5 BPG).

But the Hoyas also have three current NBA players who've emerged as future stars, too.

Hibbert was impressive throughout this season’s playoffs. He’s one of the top centers in the NBA right now.

The Boston Celtics are changing. Their new nucleus could revolve around Jeff Green, who revived his career in 2012-13 after missing significant time with a heart issue.

And the Detroit Pistons have a potent young big man in Greg Monroe.

That’s a hefty lineup.

My guess is that Georgetown in the No. 2 slot will draw boos from some folks who’ve followed our rankings. But the Hoyas deserve this position.

This is a stacked assembly that surpasses any group we’ve mentioned thus far.

Why they could be higher: It’s simple. Georgetown has arguably produced the most impressive collection of talent since the 1989 draft.

Mutombo, Mourning and Iverson were all great players during their respective stints in the league. All three could be in the Hall of Fame.

But the current reps have high ceilings.

Hibbert (2013 playoffs: 17.0 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 51.1 field goal percentage, 81 percent from the free throw line) was one of the most effective players in the postseason. He’s obviously on the rise. The Pacers will pay him a lot of money soon.

Monroe (16.0 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 49 field goal percentage in 2012-13) is a franchise player for the Pistons.

And Green (2013 playoffs: 20.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 84.4 percent of his free throws, 45.5 percent from the 3-point line in six playoff games in 2012-13) was a beast in a postseason loss to the New York Knicks.

Georgetown could make an argument for the No. 1 slot in our rankings because the Hoyas have a balance of past and current standouts that’s difficult to match. The program’s past is rich with players who were all considered elite, and its future is attached to multiple athletes who are considered some of the NBA’s top youngsters right now.

That’s why the Hoyas could be a potential No. 1 in these rankings.

Why they could be lower: This is not a quantitative project. But the 19 draft picks would be the only valid reason to demote Georgetown. Our rankings have featured teams that have sent dozens of players to the NBA since the 1989 draft.

Georgetown, however, has averaged less than one draftee per year throughout our eligibility period. Arizona, No. 4 in our rankings, has produced 32 draft picks since 1989. Kansas, No. 14, has sent 34 players to the league since that time.

But I think Georgetown’s concentration of talent overrides any debates about its numbers.

What’s ahead? Well, we’ve already discussed the new flag-bearers for Georgetown. Hibbert, Green and Monroe continue to evolve each year.

Three guys who’ve become anchors on NBA teams.

In a few days, Otto Porter Jr. will become Georgetown’s latest lottery pick and young prospect.

He’s an ideal pro small forward. He’s 6-foot-8. He’s comfortable as a ball handler. He has enough length to hurt opponents inside. He’s dangerous from the field, too (42.2 percent from the 3-point line last season). And he’s efficient (118.8 offensive rating in 2012-13 per

He’s a top-five pick on many draft boards.

No guarantees that he’ll become a star. But he has the tools to perform at a high level once he arrives.

He was born to play the 3-spot in the NBA.

And Georgetown’s NBA legacy suggests that Porter will adjust well.

Final thoughts: I understand the arguments. But I don’t agree with them.

Yes, multiple teams could have been listed at No. 2.

Duke, Connecticut, Arizona and others are strong candidates.

But I’ll take Georgetown every day.

Iverson was the best guard in the league for a healthy stretch. Mutombo and Mourning were two of the greatest defensive players of all time. Hibbert? Identify a better center in the NBA today.

Green is a necessary component for a Boston Celtics team that’s rebuilding. And Monroe is the man in the Motor City.

That’s a special crew.

Only one team can top it.

Summer Buzz: Georgetown Hoyas

August, 3, 2010
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.

[+] EnlargeGreg Monroe
AP Photo/Nick WassGreg 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.

Greg Monroe goes pro after all

April, 19, 2010
For a while there, it looked like Greg Monroe was going to do something entirely unlikely: stay for another year of college.

Monroe is a lottery pick. Most lottery picks go to the NBA draft. But Monroe was a lottery pick after his freshman season, too, and he declined a rich NBA rookie contract to come back to Georgetown and play for another season. This doesn't happen all that often in the one-and-done era, but Monroe did it.

Would he do it again? Would Monroe face the lottery again after his sophomore season, look at all those millions of dollars on the table before him, and opt for college again? Hey, he did it once -- why not a second time?

Not so much. Sorry, Georgetown fans, but Monroe is going to be in the NBA next year. Monroe has declared for the draft and will hire an agent, according to a release from Georgetown Saturday. In the release, Monroe says it was "mentally what he wanted to do" and that he feels "ready" to take the next step in his basketball career.

The move will hurt, if not devastate, Georgetown in 2010-11. The Hoyas would have been a likely Big East favorite with returners Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, and the hypothetical Monroe in the middle. John Thompson III will welcome a good recruiting class with two top 20 position players in power forward Nate Lubick and point guard Markel Starks. Instead of complementing Monroe, though, Lubick will have to step in and attempt to fill the big man's lofty lottery-bound shoes.

As for Monroe? His draft stock has wobbled this year, but he found himself back in the top 10 recently. NBA scouts love Monroe's size, his basketball IQ, and his versatility, even if they're not wild about his "lack of explosive athleticism." Regardless, the forward should be a productive NBA player, his Georgetown years formative but not definitive. We'll remember him well.
With Gordon Hayward gone, there are very few prospects still to declare for the NBA draft. Kyle Singler is one of them, but he says his brain is still "scrambled." There are already well over 50 underclassmen declared for this year's draft Insider, though some of them will drop out before they select an agent. Of that group, the only big names we're still waiting on -- other than Singler, obviously -- are Georgetown's Greg Monroe and Nevada's Luke Babbitt. Oh, the suspense.

What's the impact here? Simple enough. Babbitt scored 21 points and grabbed about nine rebounds a game for the Wolf Pack this year; if he leaves, Nevada -- having already lost guard Armon Johnson -- would suffer a bit of a rebuilding project after an already disappointing 2009-10 in the WAC. Babbitt isn't necessarily a lock to leave. He's a fringe first-round pick that could fall to the second round if things take a bad turn, and as a sophomore, Babbitt's in no real hurry to get into the draft before that ever-scary potential 2011 lockout.

Greg Monroe, on the other hand, is a lottery pick. Again. After Monroe's freshman campaign, in which a clearly gifted but incomplete Monroe shined for the Hoyas, most assumed he would come out, be a lottery pick, and make his one-and-done money. Not so much. He stayed. He improved. He didn't get injured. And though Georgetown didn't end its season on a high note, it's hard to say the big man made a bad decision.

But this year? Monroe is a lottery pick again. Georgetown would love to have him back, no doubt, but at some point your financial future has to take over, doesn't it? Will Monroe really sit this one out again? The longer he waits, the more likely the answer is yes. Now that would provide some suspense.
NEW YORK -- Terrific first half worthy of the Saturday night bright lights of New York City. I'll be surprised if this doesn't go down to the wire. The teams are both playing too hard and too well for anyone to break ahead by much.

Some quick thoughts about an entertaining 20 minutes:

  • West Virginia's ability to own the boards is the slim difference between the two teams. The Mountaineers have 19 rebounds to Georgetown's 11, but more critically WVU has nine offensive rebounds. That's equated to 10 easy points.
  • The Mountaineers are getting a well-played game from just about everyone in uniform. I doubt even hard-to-please Bob Huggins will have much to pick apart here. Wellington Smith leads the Mountaineers withe nine points, Joe Mazzulla is directing the offense with authority and Devin Ebanks is commanding the backboards. He has four rebounds already. And of course Da'Sean Butler is doing everything else. He has seven points, two offensive rebounds and an assist.
  • The Hoyas aren't as deep, but if anyone thought they'd be tired playing their fourth game in as many days, guess again. With Greg Monroe and Chris Wright leading the push, Georgetown is doing a terrific job running the floor. Monroe's pretty one-handed bounce pass for a crowd-pleasing Wright jam epitomized the level that the two are playing at. Wright has 12 early, Monroe 5 points, 3 rebounds and two assists.
  • Georgetown, a better shooting team, hasn't been able to take advantage of its edge at the arc. The Hoyas are 1-for-7 from the arc and Austin Freeman is still looking for his first made 3-pointer of the Big East tournament. He's 0-for-2 tonight. The Hoyas need him to be a threat to stretch the Mountaineer defense.

Michael Heiman/Getty Images/Howard Smith-US PRESSWIREGeorgetown's Greg Monroe or West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler: Who will walk away as the Big East tournament's most outstanding player?

NEW YORK –- A good friend pulled John Thompson III aside after Georgetown ousted Marquette in the Big East Tournament semifinals.

“He told me, ‘There’s nothing better than Friday night in New York City other than Saturday night in New York City,’’ Thompson said.

Bright lights, big city, two teams and only one trophy as West Virginia and Georgetown go head-to-head for the coveted Big East championship tonight at 9 p.m. on ESPN.

Here’s a championship rundown:

Numbers: West Virginia has only appeared in one Big East Conference Championship but has never taken home the hardware. The Mountaineers, in fact, haven’t won any conference tourney titles since 1984. Georgetown has played for the title 13 times and won a record seven crowns.

One or the other: Barring an unexpected 50-point barrage from someone else, either Greg Monroe or Da’Sean Butler will leave New York as the tournament’s most outstanding player. In two games, Monroe is averaging 19 points, 11.5 rebounds and seven assists while Butler chimes in with 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, three assists and one banked in, buzzer-beating, game-winning 3-pointer.

The last time: West Virginia thumped Georgetown, 81-68, in Morgantown but the result might as well come with asterisks for all the sub-plots that affected the game. The Mountaineers rode the high of an emotional senior night for Butler; the Hoyas endured the emotional low of playing without Austin Freeman, who was out with the flu (and a week later would be diagnosed with diabetes). Georgetown fell behind by as many as 27 before trying to mount a comeback, but WVU’s pressure led to 20 turnovers, which led to 27 points, which led to disaster.

New York State of mind: There aren’t a lot of similarities between Morgantown and New York City, which is what makes the Mountaineers’ roster so confounding. Six of WVU’s players, including all five starters, are from the New York-New Jersey area. What circuitous twists led them from the streets of Gotham to the country roads of West Virginia? Simple: the Big East and Bob Huggins. “It’s the Big East and with anybody from the Big East, people in New York are going to listen,’’ Huggins said. “If we weren’t in the conference, can’t recruit these guys.’’ Huggins’ track record helps, too. The coach has a reputation for developing players evidenced by the 15 NBA draft picks he’s coached, including four lottery picks.

Is that a yes? Syracuse 73, Georgetown 56. Syracuse 75, Georgetown 71. Marquette 62, Georgetown 59. West Virginia 81, Georgetown 68. The Hoyas came to New York City with one primary goal: to win another Big East championship. But they also packed a little extra motivation: revenge. Asked if beating teams that had topped them during the regular season put a little extra kick in their step, the Hoyas didn’t hesitate to answer.

“Yes,’’ said Chris Wright loudly and quickly into the microphone.

“Yes,’’ said Austin Freeman, almost simultaneously.

“For the record, that’s a yes,’’ Greg Monroe deadpanned.

For West Virginia: True to form, Bob Huggins didn’t mince words: "Quite frankly, people with size bother us,’’ the coach said. “We’re not that big.’’ That’s a short way of saying the Mountaineers will have to work hard to stop Monroe. Huggins seconded Jim Boeheim’s assessment that Monroe is the “best skilled big man in the country.’’ Even in the Mountaineers’ decisive victory, Monroe got his, finishing with 22 points nine rebounds.

The Mountaineers also need to overcome themselves a little bit. Against Notre Dame, WVU almost blew a 10-point lead. They nearly coughed up a late 9-point advantage against Cincinnati the night before and in the regular-season finale against Villanova had to dig out of a 13-point hole to win.

For Georgetown: Thompson didn’t want to entertain questions about his championship game opponent on Friday night. “Can I wait until we see who we’re playing?’’ the Georgetown coach said with a laugh. A little later Thompson expounded on what his Hoyas have to do: “We have to play the way we play,’’ he said.

It sounds simplistic but it’s really the right remedy for the Hoyas. They have been winning here in New York because they have been playing their brand of basketball: feeding the ball to Monroe and then letting him direct the offense.

That’s not to say Georgetown doesn’t have to do anything to stop the Mountaineers. They do. Despite its lack of size, West Virginia works the boards with a vengeance. They clobbered Notre Dame in rebounding, 35-18.

Hoyas' Monroe in a league of his own

March, 12, 2010
NEW YORK -- John Thompson III played his college basketball for a man who thought there was nothing a big man couldn’t do.

[+] EnlargeGreg Monroe
Tony Spinelli/ESPN.comGreg Monroe has proven he can do it all for the Hoyas. He had 23 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks against Marquette.
In Pete Carril’s offense at Princeton, centers were expected to score down low, bounce a perfect backdoor pass and step out and sink a three. He called them point-centers, treating them as equal parts point guard and post player, and with such reverence his entire Princeton offense was predicated around their abilities.

Carril groomed some good ones in his day, but the hoops yoda never saw anything quite like Greg Monroe.

The Georgetown sophomore unleashed his stat-stuffing repertoire on a Marquette team that was helpless to contain him. Monroe racked up 23 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks to take the Hoyas to an 80-57 win over the Golden Eagles, and into the Big East tournament championship for the third time in four years. With seven titles, Georgetown has won more Big East crowns than any other league member.

“We see it everyday,’’ Thompson said. “But what’s commonplace to us, the rest of the world gets to see every now and again.’’

Good big men are hard enough to find at this level. Exceptional ones are rarer than yellow diamonds.

A guy like Monroe might as well be preserved next to Walt Disney and Ted Williams.

He has the sound fundamentals of an Ivy Leaguer and the skill set of a McDonald’s All-American, a deadly combination of smarts, savvy and strength that is unlike anyone currently in the college game.

Monroe’s dad, Gregory Sr., insisted his son learn to pass the ball as a kid, reminding him that passing big men are harder to guard. The dribbling followed the passing and the rest just came thanks to the good graces of good genes.

In one two-minute span against Marquette, the nature/nurture benefits were on full display. Monroe drained a 3-pointer (taking a moment to strike a hand-flick pose like a guard), blocked a shot, took an outlet and dribbled the length of the floor like a gazelle, bouncing a perfect pass to Austin Freeman for an and-one play.

“It is unique because he can dominate in his own way, but like a point guard, he an also make everyone else better,’’ Thompson said. “That’s what he’s learned, when to turn it on and when to take a step back.’’

Which is exactly what he did against the Golden Eagles. Monroe was everywhere in the first half, taking 14 points, five boards and three assists into the locker room.

He stepped off the gas to start the second half, but instead of growing frustrated as Marquette packed in to contain him, he simply bided his time and fed picture-perfect passes to Chris Wright, Freeman or Jason Clark.

And then when the Golden Eagles threatened to make it interesting, there was Monroe again, scoring eight in the final 10 minutes when the game went from 56-51 to over.

“Sometimes in the huddle, the guys will tell me, ‘It’s time for you to take over,’’’ Monroe said. “If it’s there, it’s there. That’s how I play. My nature is to win. That’s all I care about.’’

Monroe is at a school, of course, that has produced its fair share of talented – and successful – centers.

He refuses to put himself anywhere near the pantheon of the best ones and isn’t terribly interested in comparing his successes, either.

“The history here with big men is very rich,’’ Monroe said. “I’m just trying to do what I can in my time here and make my mark.’’

Certainly a good first step would be a Big East tournament championship.

Final: Georgetown 80, Marquette 57

March, 12, 2010
NEW YORK -- Georgetown advanced to the semifinals via an upset. But the fact that the Hoyas are in the Big East tournament finals after an 80-57 win over Marquette isn't a shocker. One of the conferences original members, the Hoyas have made 12 appearances in the title game, including three in the past four years.

They've won a record seven trophies. On Saturday night they'll go for number eight.

Here's how they got there:
  • Greg Monroe constantly redefines what a big man can do, or at least what extraordinary ones can do. The junior swished a 3-pointer, ran the floor like a gazelle (while dribbling!) dished backdoor passes and blocked shots in a 23-point, 13-rebound, 7-assist and 2-block game that looked almost effortless.
  • When Monroe wasn't scoring, the Hoyas didn't miss a beat. They simply reconfigured when Marquette tried to pack in on Monroe. Enter Austin Freeman, Jason Clark and Chris Wright, who carried the load through the first part of the second half. Freeman grabbed eight of his 12 points in the second, Clark scored 11 of his 15 and Wright 14 of his 15.
  • Marquette, which hadn't lost by more than nine all season and lost its 10 previous games by a combined 35 points, ran out of gas. The Golden Eagles mounted one final charge midway through the second half, but then the needle finally reached E. After making it 56-51, Marquette scored just six points in the final 10:50.

Half: Georgetown 37, Marquette 34

March, 12, 2010
NEW YORK - In a stunning departure, Marquette appears headed to another photo finish. The Golden Eagles dug themselves out of an early 15-4 rout and now it's anybody's game.

Here are a few quick thoughts before the second half starts:

  • Greg Monroe is clearly the best player on the floor tonight. The Hoya big man has 14 points but it's how he's running the floor that's really impressive. Late in the half, Monroe blazed down the court to block Maurice Acker from behind, a sensational block at the glass that ignited the Georgetown crowd. Monroe also has five rebounds and three assists.
  • With Monroe leading the charge, the Hoyas are getting anything they want inside. Of their 37 points, 22 are in the paint.
  • If Monroe is the best player, Lazar Hayward isn't far behind. The senior has 12 points and has zipped two 3-pointers.
  • The Hoyas have to be mindful of the arc. Marquette shoots a sizzling 58 percent from 3-point and already has four in the half. Pretty much everyone in a Golden Eagle uniform is a threat on the arc, including big men Jimmy Butler and Hayward.

Georgetown 91, Syracuse 84

March, 11, 2010
Syracuse DejectionTony Spinelli/ESPN.comSyracuse now must wait to see if its loss to Georgetown costs the Orange a No. 1 seed.
NEW YORK -- In the span of one game, Georgetown reminded everyone why it can be a serious player in the NCAA tournament and Syracuse faced its first taste of vulnerability.

In an incredibly high-energy quarterfinal game, the Hoyas played smart, focused and forceful, pushing the tempo on Syracuse and upsetting the Orange's rhythm in a stunning early dismissal of one of the best teams in the country.

Frustratingly unpredictable all season, the Hoyas put on display that when they are good, they can be very, very good.

But the biggest play of the game won't show up on the stat sheet. Arinze Onuaku and Greg Monroe collided when Monroe went up for a shot and Onuaku crumbled to the ground, clutching his right knee. For a Syracuse team that has played so well together since the start of the season, it's not just a big loss on the court, it's a potentially huge mental blow.

  • The big question: How serious is Onuaku's injury? The big man was helped off the court after injuring his right knee. He went directly to the locker room and his parents were brought in with him. If it's serious, it's a body blow for the Orange going forward. They quickly become six deep in the rotation and lose one of the anchors in that tough zone. It also puts a much heavier burden on Rick Jackson.
  • The other big question: Will this loss change Syracuse's spot on the No. 1 seed line? My guess is no. Last year, Pitt lost in this exact spot but still was awarded a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday. That said, the once-vaunted Orange have now dropped two in a row. They're still a terrific team, but head into the NCAA tournament looking vulnerable and perhaps without Onuaku, feeling vulnerable.
  • Georgetown won this game with hustle and hard work. The Hoyas finally figured out how to get inside the Syracuse zone. Their interior passing was sensational and Chris Wright was other worldly. The guard scored 27 points, but more than that, he dictated the tempo and energy of the entire game. He was a big, blue blur barely, taking a possession off.
  • The Hoyas also pestered Syracuse into 17 critical turnovers, miscues that ultimately did the Orange in. Some were unforced errors, but even those were caused by the frenzy created by Georgetown.

Halftime: Syracuse 40, Georgetown 37

March, 11, 2010
NEW YORK -- After a few avert-your-eyes games on the first two days of the Big East tournament, Georgetown and Syracuse have revved the energy in the building. What this game lacks in defensive intensity it more than makes up for in entertainment. Bodies are flying all over, shots are going up in rapidly and no lead is safe. Good stuff.

Here's a few things to keep an eye on when the second act begins:
  • Neither coach can be terribly pleased with the defense. Syracuse is shooting 59 percent and Georgetown 48. I expect both teams to come out with more intensity on that end of the floor when play resumes.
  • The Cuse has been entirely too sloppy The Orange has turned the ball over 11 times, leading to 16 easy buckets for Georgetown.
  • Georgetown has done a terrific job getting inside the Syracuse zone but has been less effective shooting over it. The Hoyas have matched Syracuse for points in the paint with 18 but have struggled to shoot just 3-of-11 from beyond the arc, compared to 6-of-11 for the Orange. I am curious to see how Jim Boeheim adjusts defensively to plug the gaps and if the outside shooters can get rolling for Georgetown.
  • Wes Johnson finally looks like a player of the year candidate again. Stymied with a hand injury, he's been less dominant in recent weeks. Today he has 12 points at the break. He is demanding the ball and is really active on the offensive end. Can he keep it up in the second act?
  • Credit Greg Monroe for keeping active in the game, even when he is not scoring a bunch. He only has four points, but has dished three assists and four rebounds. Usually when Monroe isn't a factor in the first half, he has a big second half. We'll see how it plays out this time.
  • The bench could be a critical factor here. Georgetown doesn't have much of one. Syracuse, on the other hand, has one of the best in Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph. The duo already has 17 combined.
NEW YORK -- Bubble talk is almost over here at the Big East tournament. Of the remaining eight teams playing today, only one -- Cincinnati -- isn’t guaranteed to see its name on the board come Selection Sunday. And the Bearcats, frankly, have a lot more work to do before they can enjoy the view from the Barcaloungers.

So what’s left to play for? Nothing but being the top dog in the top conference in the country. And if you don’t think that matters, you haven’t been paying attention. Winning the Big East is akin to earning the medal of honor. It means you’ve done something darn difficult and borderline courageous.

Here’s a quick look at today’s slate:

Georgetown vs. Syracuse

The good news: This game will finish on the same day it started. A year ago today, the Orange tipped off against Connecticut on Thursday. The final buzzer sounded on a Friday morning after the marathon six-overtime game finally ran out of gas.

For the Hoyas: Georgetown dug itself a 23-point hole when it played Syracuse in the regular season. It absolutely cannot do that again. The Orange is too good defensively to come back against.

For the Orange: The regular-season loss ought to have an asterisk -- played in an emotionally fervent Freedom Hall. Syracuse remains the team to beat in this conference, but will need its big man combo of Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku to contain Greg Monroe today.

Marquette vs. Villanova

The good news: For Villanova, Taylor King is back in the lineup. Suspended by Jay Wright for "personal issues" he has been reinstated and gives the Cats another scoring threat.

For the Golden Eagles: Maurice Acker and Lazar Hayward are key. Acker needs to get by the deep and talented Villanova backcourt and get the ball to Hayward, who ought to have an edge on the Wildcats’ slim frontcourt.

For the Wildcats: Once 20-1, Villanova enters the Big East tournament on a 2-5 skid. Its biggest issue has been finding another reliable scorer to go alongside Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher.

Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh

The good news: Luke Harangody looks not just healthy; he looks like the one time league Player of the Year. He provided a huge spark for the Irish off the bench against Seton Hall and posted a double-double.

For the Irish: Notre Dame’s game change to a slower, ball-controlling tempo has worked well. The Irish have won five games in a row and are the hottest team in the Big East right now.

For the Panthers: Pitt has a chance to right one of last season’s wrongs. The Panthers were stunned and crushed in this round a year ago, the No. 2 seed going down at the hands of rival West Virginia. To do it, Pitt will have to use its scrappy and disruptive defense to take the Irish out of their new slow-down mode.

Cincinnati vs. West Virginia

The good news: The Bearcats are still alive. Winless in the tournament since joining four years ago, Cincinnati now has two W's in the books. Plus, every night the Bearcats are here adds another breath of life to their slim NCAA tournament hopes.

For the Bearcats: Mick Cronin minced no words after his team beat Louisville on Wednesday night: “If we get beat on the boards, we lose.’’ Cincinnati need to bring the same gusto and fervor to its rebounding effort tonight as it did against the Cardinals. The Bearcats aren’t likely to match the numbers. West Virginia is a much better rebounding team than Louisville, but they need the same dedication and effort in order to prevent the athletic and long Mountaineers from dominating.

For the Mountaineers: West Virginia looked like the team with Final Four talent by year’s end. The Mountaineers won five of their last six in dominant fashion, riding the coattails and talent of Da'Sean Butler.

Georgetown 69, South Florida 49

March, 10, 2010
NEW YORK -- Game 1 is in the books, and while St. John’s and Marquette take the floor for warm-ups for the second half of the afternoon doubleheader here at the Big East tournament, here are a few quick thoughts on South Florida and Georgetown.
[+] EnlargeGreg Monroe
Tony Spinelli/ESPN.comGreg Monroe looks to make a move against South Florida in the second half of Wednesday's win.

  • South Florida’s very thin bubble almost assuredly has burst now. The Bulls had a sort of up-and-down, even quirky season. They turned heads with a mid-season four-game win streak and then sort of disappeared. The late push to get into the tournament was exactly that -- too late. South Florida needed a fairly deep run and some help from other teams -- no upsets, a Seton Hall loss -- to even make a case. Now the case is closed. Still, South Florida had what could be a program-defining season, going from nine wins to 20. The Bulls almost assuredly will be in the running for an NIT bid, and the extra games will be good for the continued development of a fairly young team. "We know we're going to have more games to play,'' senior Chris Howard said. "Regardless of what happens, I'm proud of my teammates and my coaches. This year has been good to me.''
  • To be competitive in the Big East, however, South Florida is going to have to develop an outside game. Or at least the threat of one. The Bulls went 1-for-10 from behind the arc against the Hoyas. Add that with the 0-for-8 against DePaul and it’s easy to see why the Bulls shot just 29 percent from 3-point range all year. "I saw several times I thought we had 15, 17-footers and even threes that we should have taken,'' Stan Heath said. "We passed those things up to try and get a little closer.''
  • Georgetown’s reward for the victory -- a date with No. 1 seed Syracuse. The Hoyas nearly dug themselves out of a gigantic 23-point hole when the two teams squared off last month but couldn’t close the deal. With the way Syracuse has been playing lately, the Hoyas can ill afford another sluggish start this time around. "They can hurt you in many different ways,'' John Thompson III said of Syracuse. "They put a lot of pressure on you because they don't allow you to get good shots. And so you cannot be careless against them because they make you pay.''
  • Against Syracuse in the regular season, Georgetown got itself back into the game by forcing the ball inside to Greg Monroe. He not only scored, he got the Orange’s big men, Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku in foul trouble. That will again be critical this time around.


Naismith Award nominees down to 30

February, 24, 2010
The Atlanta Tipoff Club, which awards the Naismith each year, has narrowed its preseason list of 50 "watch" players down to the much more manageable 30 -- what it calls its midseason candidates list, even if, on Feb. 24, the whole "midseason" thing is a bit of a misnomer. But that's beside the point. The point is that we have 30 players to mull over now. True, most of the list won't even crack consideration for the final player of the year award, which is almost certainly going to go to Ohio State's Evan Turner or Kentucky's John Wall. But the tally is fun to look at anyway.

One minor quibble: The list of 30 manages to include six ACC players -- just one behind the Big East's leading seven -- without including Virginia Tech guard Malcolm Delaney, who happens to be leading the conference in scoring with 20.2 points per game for a 21-5 Tech team that's overcome its horrid nonconference schedule to (probably) play its way into the NCAA tournament. Nothing against Al-Farouq Aminu or Gani Lawal or Sylven Landesberg or Trevor Booker but it's hard to see how you could include those four and leave Delaney off the sheet.

Anyway, the full list is after the jump. Other quibbles? Let's hear 'em in the comments.

(Read full post)

Halftime: Louisville 35, Georgetown 29

February, 23, 2010
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Halftime thoughts from Louisville 35, Georgetown 29.

  • Louisville senior point guard played his best half of the season. Edgar Sosa drove to the basket, shot from the outside and passed deftly to teammates, producing 13 points, six assists -- and, a key stat for the mercurial senior, zero turnovers. Cut out a couple 25-foot 3s and he would have played an ideal half.
  • The primary recipient of Sosa's passes was forward Reggie Delk, who made three 3s and had 11 points. Delk had not been a big factor in Louisville's three-game winning streak, missing the big upset of Syracuse with an injury and then scoring just 10 total points in wins over Notre Dame and DePaul. But his perimeter shooting is a key element of Louisville's attack, and he had his stroke going in the first half here.
  • Georgetown has been all Greg Monroe, all the time. He had 12 points, six rebounds, an assist and a block, and got the best of his individual matchup in the paint with Samardo Samuels (five points, three rebounds).
  • If the Hoyas are going to come back and get this road victory they'll need more from guard Chris Wright. Georgetown is 16-1 when Wright scores in double figures, and at halftime he has zero.
  • Louisville coach Rick Pitino put a pregame premium on winning the turnover battle with Georgetown. At halftime, advantage Cards: They have committed four turnovers while forcing six. But Georgetown cannot feel too badly about being down six after shooting 37 percent from the field and 29 percent from 3-point range. The Hoyas have hit just 11 of their last 40 threes over the past 2 1/2 games.