File Photo: WEB LESLIE/THE HOYA
File Photo: WEB LESLIE/THE HOYA

Even when Chris Wright’s left hand has a fully functioning third metacarpal, Georgetown has weaknesses.

The Hoyas occasionally fall in love with the three, even when it isn’t going down. They have trouble preventing elite scorers like Marshon Brooks and Kemba Walker from having banner games. The frontcourt isn’t good enough to make up for off nights by Wright or Austin Freeman. Jason Clark is still a role player. The bench is not consistently productive.

Still, with Wright steering the ship, Georgetown can look like a Big East power, a Sweet 16 lock and a serious threat to make it to Houston. But without him, as the college basketball world has seen over the last two and a half games, the Hoyas look hard-pressed to win against quality opponents.

Why?

Well, most obviously, the Hoyas are playing without their emotional leader and their starting point guard; that’s extremely difficult for any basketball team at any level to overcome. In addition, Wright is one of three legitimate playmakers on the team (along with Freeman and, once in a while, Hollis Thompson), a facilitator and a triple threat who opponents must account for. When he has the ball, he can create off the dribble, he can create by finding open teammates, and when he’s on, he can create with his shot. On the other end, he often guards the other team’s best or second-best perimeter player. Without him, the Hoyas, of course, become much easier to guard.

When Wright went down, everyone knew the Hoyas would become eminently more beatable simply because his production would be erased from the equation, but could anyone predict just how anemic the offense would become without him? The ripple effects of Wright swapping his No. 4 jersey for a well-pressed suit have been striking.

Let’s start with Freeman. While he is one of the premier offensive players in the Big East, he does not have the 1-on-1 ability of a Brooks or a Walker. He can still score and he can still find shots, but without Wright setting him up for high-percentage looks, Freeman is less efficient. Spraining his ankle against Marquette clearly affected his jumpshot and his burst, and without Wright, he has done all he can to carry the Hoyas on his back — but over the last two-and-a-half games he has gone 15-of-44, or 34 percent, from the field. In Wright’s absence on the other end, Freeman, who has trouble moving laterally on defense, must guard a better offensive player than he is used to when the Hoyas go man-to-man.

Another direct correlation to Wright’s absence has been the decline in production from Jason Clark and Julian Vaughn. While Clark had already faded after a strong start to the season, Vaughn was a major factor in the Hoyas’ eight-game winning streak that ended in Connecticut. Without Wright, though, both players have not only missed shots, but their good looks at the basket have been few and far between. Since Wright broke his hand, Clark is 5-for-21 from the field and Vaughn is 0-for-10. Neither is playing well right now, but it is clear that Wright’s absence isn’t helping.

As a whole, the entire offense has looked disjointed. Drive-and-kicks have lessened, back cuts have been non-existent, and inside penetration has slowed. Aside from playing Markel Starks 26 minutes against Syracuse, John Thompson III has elected to stay with his regulars and has just altered their roles. Clark and Freeman have done most of the ball-handling and there are nearly always two true bigs on the floor at a time. After 93 straight games with Wright running the point, it is probably too much to ask of Thompson and the Hoyas to fully adjust over a few games and several practices.

Since the 15:54 mark in the second half of the Hoyas’ home loss to Cincinnati, Thompson has said that each of the Hoyas need to play just a little bit better for a little bit longer in order to lessen the blow of Wright’s absence. Up to this point, that has not happened, and until Wright is ready to go for the NCAA tournament, all signs indicate that it won’t happen.

Ironically, after all his aggressive drives to the basket, after all his three-pointers and assists, the value of Chris Wright is most obvious when he isn’t on the floor.

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