Theories Abound as Losses Mount

All the Coastal Carolinas and Howards could not prevent this from happening. The Georgetown men’s basketball team is at .500 for the first time in my four years here, and they are in danger of not making the Big East Tournament.

Tuesday’s most recent loss to Rutgers only furthered the distance between hope and reality for fans, but probably even more for all the players. There is a limit to the number of times Mike Sweetney can say that the team fell apart down the stretch or that the team lacked execution. It gets under the skin of players more than us, and there is no reason to think that the players are happy losing.

Obviously there are theories to this season’s disappointments. Based on the “Wanted: New Coach” sign in Red Square, letters to the editor in THE HOYA and general fan murmurings, the main perpetrator is Head Coach Craig Esherick. We all know about the late-game collapses and the seemingly outrageous decision-making. Esherick does not have the recruiting clout that John Thompson had. Throughout this slump, there has been the talk of countless rumors regarding coaching changes. Yet, lest we forget, only two years ago, Esherick was being hailed as a worthy successor to Thompson. Even if it really is Esherick to blame, the head coach is too easy of a target to criticize.

Another theory refers to the home court disadvantage at MCI Center. Basically the theory is that, since we don’t have a typical, comfortably sized college arena, the team does not get the motivation and diehard fan support it needs. No doubt in some ways, this theory may hold true; students don’t want to pay the eight dollars and find a way to commute to downtown D.C. for a Georgetown game against Rutgers. All students are relegated to sitting behind one of the baskets when they would be more effectively placed along the sidelines. And when the home team is in a bad slump, the cost of going to a game is suddenly so much greater.

The last time the Hoyas played a meaningful game in McDonough was in 1982 when Patrick Ewing was only a freshman. Twenty-one years have passed since that nationally televised issouri-Georgetown game, and high-quality Hoya teams have played in big arenas throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. The adjustment period has been long enough and you cannot put all of the blame on the home stadium. If you want to talk about home field disadvantages, see if you know where Georgetown’s baseball team plays. At least the basketball team can practice on campus.

In addition, the Hoyas can’t win whether they’re in Washington, D.C. or in Piscataway, N. J. They are winless on the road, having lost all seven of their games away from home. Discounting the cakewalk teams, i.e. Virginia Military Institute and Norfolk State, they are 2-4 at home with wins only against South Carolina and West Virginia.

No matter how close or far they were from winning, the fact is that a loss is a loss. Aside from the six-player Seton Hall fiasco, all the excuses in the world can’t exonerate these losses.

The theory to which I am beginning to subscribe is that Georgetown’s talent is overrated especially for the system it employs. Traditionally, it has prided itself in making substitutions frequently in order to keep the freshest players on the court as well as to match up favorably on both the offensive and defensive ends. However, when the talent level is not as high, this system does not guarantee that the best players will be on the court.

If we were to compare this year’s team to the NCAA tournament team of two years ago, it is evident talent depth was much higher two years ago. The Hoyas had a solid and experienced bench highlighted by Nat Burton, Anthony Perry and Lee Scruggs. Size was abundant with Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje, Scruggs, Mike Sweetney and Wesley Wilson. Therefore, substitutions could be made that would guarantee both offensive and defensive presence.

In contrast, this year’s team features no spark off the bench. While it has defensive stalwarts like Victor Samnick coming off the bench, the offense often suffers when the starters are pulled. The top five scorers on the team are the five players who have started the majority of the games for Georgetown. Even more revealing is that no reserve is averaging more than six points a game. The one viable offensive threat off the bench, freshman Ashanti Cook, has been plagued with injury during most of this current six-game losing streak.

The Hoyas no longer can be considered a team of giants either. With Wesley Wilson out indefinitely, they feature no player taller than 6-foot-9. This might not hurt a team that relied on perimeter shooters and guards, but Georgetown has always been a team that depends on low-post activity and inside play. Without a size advantage, defensive rebounding has been a major problem for the Hoyas this season. Time after time, they have failed to get boards in key situations, allowing teams second and third chances at the basket.

It is amazing that I used to think that the graduation of Kevin Braswell would create more opportunities for other players to shine. Instead, the subtraction of Braswell has illuminated the talent deficiencies in this year’s squad.

There is no doubt that this is a Georgetown team that plays hard, but it is also hard when you compete against fellow Big East teams that rack up big-name recruits. Whether it is the coach’s fault, the university’s fault, or simply a change in times, Georgetown does not attract top talent like it used to. Obviously, recruiters will find the diamond in the rough like Sweetney but rarely will you hear a top-50 recruit even consider Georgetown on his list of possible schools.

Schools like Arizona, Duke and Florida consistently reload their teams with top recruiting classes. Georgetown does not. That is the reality of the times today and that is part of the reason why Georgetown is .500.

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