Now that the cupcakes have been devoured and Georgetown has had to stomach two losses to legitimate teams in Virginia and Duke, it seems like a good time to step back and take stock as the Hoyas press on with their conference schedule.

There have been positives, but there have been a lot of negatives as well and unless those negatives dissipate, then I fear that the team will be enjoying March Madness just like we students will – on TV.

The positives so far mostly focus on the play of the team as a whole, but the play of Gerald Riley has to top the list as the most pleasant surprise of the season. While last year Riley did have some good games, the home win over Syracuse probably being the most notable, he has never looked as sharp as he has so far this season.

While he created off the dribble last year, this season he’s doing so in a much more controlled fashion, as well as capping off these drives to the hoop with a consistent pull-up jumper. After two relatively disappointing seasons (he averaged 6.7 points per game in 2001 and 10.3 last season, despite starting every game), I had given up on Riley as a candidate to lead the Hoya offense. So far this season he’s averaging 13.8 points per game in addition to playing outstanding defense, including shutting down Duke’s J.J. Redick for the first half of last Wednesday’s game. Another past knock on Riley was his penchant for turning the ball over, but so far this season Riley has more assists (25) than turnovers (18).

It seems like G-Rock has finally become more comfortable and relaxed on the court. In past seasons he has seemed tentative, and both teammates and coaches thought he might be trying too hard. Part of that pressure might have come from his early placement in the starting lineup. Unlike most freshmen who are either natural stars (a la Sweetney, or Redick), or still have to earn a spot in the starting lineup, Riley was unquestioningly given the job in his first season, and never missed a start despite long stretches of unproductiveness.

With that in mind, a look at freshman Brandon Bowman’s season statistics might paint a story similar to Riley’s early career hardships. Bowman, who has started all 11 games for the Hoyas, missed all seven shots from the field against West Virginia and is shooting just 32.5 percent on the season. Even senior defensive specialist Victor Samnick is shooting better. And, while I like Samnick and his great intensity on the court, he’s a defensive specialist for a reason.

Bowman is young and certainly has the potential to be a member of the starting five down the line, maybe even later this season. But with by far the lowest shooting percentage of the starting five (sophomore Tony Bethel is the next lowest at 44 percent) and a team-high 24 turnovers, his current play certainly begs the question as to why he is starting.

Another fairly disappointing member of the starting five has been senior center Wesley Wilson. Touted as a Top-50 recruit his freshman year, Wilson has never fully played to his potential. Last game, Wilson played just two minutes after a match-up problem prompted Esherick to play the more agile Samnick. I thought Wes might come around after the UVA game where he scored 11 and pulled down 10 rebounds largely without Sweetney on the floor, but he was a non-factor against Duke with just four points in 13 minutes.

Eventually teams will be big enough to effectively double team Sweetney down low. When that time comes, Wilson will have to lend a hand, particularly with rebounding.

On the whole, the team has looked very impressive defensively. The press has given the opposition fits, but the Hoyas can’t set up the press when Georgetown goes cold from the field and can’t make a shot. And both Duke’s and West Virginia’s half court offenses seemed to work a little too well against such a solid defensive squad like Georgetown.

Offensively, the good news is that West Virginia played a 2-1-2 zone and Georgetown was still able to get the ball to Sweetney. The bad news is that the Hoyas still have stretches when they go into vapor-lock and take undisciplined shots – hoisting up three-point prayers against tight defense late in the game against UVA for example, and doing the same against Duke when the game was still very much within reach. Against West Virginia the Hoyas partially curbed that problem, only taking 10 shots from behind the arc for the game, but they turned the ball over 22 times, often because of trying to force a fast break layup when defenders had good position. While the Hoyas have been and will continue to be effective in an uptempo game, their offensive mainstay will be getting the ball inside to Sweetney and they don’t need to force poor shots on the break when they run an effective half court offense.

With games coming up against Seton Hall, St. Johns and Rutgers, the Hoyas will have three games to prepare for what will likely be the make-or-break part of their schedule, beginning Jan. 25 when Georgetown heads to Pittsburgh to take on the No. 3 Panthers and then faces road games against No. 10 Notre Dame and No. 25 Syracuse before returning home to face its final non-conference opponent of the season in UCLA.

Midway through the season the Hoyas’ prospects could still be bright, but Georgetown’s track record has not instilled fans with confidence. Maybe this will be the year that turns that all around. And as usual, only time will tell.

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