A physical Georgetown team is a better Georgetown team

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WASHINGTON DC – Back in the early 80’s, when John Thompson Jr. led Georgetown to three national title games in four year, the Hoyas were the epitome of physical basketball.

They pressed, they pushed, and they pummeled for 40 minutes. They intimidated opponents, seemingly winning games without even having to set foot on the court. That’s what happens when you have players like Sleepy Floyd, Fred Brown, and Reggie Williams on the perimeter, Patrick Ewing manning the paint, and a snarling Thompson roaming the sidelines. (For what its worth, even at 69 years old, JTII is just as intimidating as ever.)

They didn’t call it “Hoya Paranoia” for nothing.

The younger Thompson’s teams haven’t been known for playing with that same physicality. Instead of Ewing, Dikembe Mutumbo, and Alonzo Mourning, he had Jeff Green, Greg Monroe, and Roy Hibbert. Full court presses and blocked shots have been replaced with high post screens and back door cuts.

JTIII has had success, making a Final Four and winning a Big East regular season title, but he has won using more of a finesse, Princeton-style offense.

This team, however, may be different.

In Georgetown’s 69-60 win over Marquette on Sunday afternoon, the Hoyas took control down the stretch with their defense and their rebounding. It was the second straight game they had done so, using a late 15-3 run to knock off Syracuse on Wednesday.

Against Marquette, it was a 11-1 surge that started with 7:23 left in the game that was the difference. Up 52-50 at the time, Henry Sims scored on a drop step, drawing Davante Gardner’s fifth foul in the process. Two possessions later, after a turnover by Jimmy Butler, Austin Freeman got a layup to push the lead to seven. After another turnover by Dwight Buycks, Jason Clark was fouled going in for a layup and hit both free throws. After Junior Cadougan hit 1-2 from the line, Clark again drove and drew a foul, hitting two more free throws. With 3:43 left in the game, Georgetown was all of a sudden up 61-51, and despite a late push by Darius Johnson-Odom, the Hoyas held on to win.

“We can sit here and talk about schemes and systems, man and zone,” Thompson said after the game. “At the end of the day, you have to guard somebody. If the guy’s in front of you, guard him.”

“I think its just as simple as the guys understand now that its personal.”

The Hoyas took it personal in the second half, as Marquette was simply unable to get into any kind of a rhythm on the offensive end of the floor. Marquette shot just 31.8% from the floor and had a 36.3% eFG. They turned the ball over nine times in 36 possessions. They had just an 11.1 offensive rebounding percentage. All told, Georgetown allowed Marquette just 0.69 PPP over the final 20 minutes.

The key wasn’t necessarily the defense. It was the rebounding. In the first half, Marquette grabbed six offensive rebounds and scored 10 second chance points. In the second half, Marquette managed just two offensive rebounds and didn’t score a single second chance point.

“I don’t think out defense was poor in the first half,” Thompson said. “Our rebounding was poor. We were getting a lot of the same stops, but we were getting the ball in the second half instead of them getting second shots.”

The hero? Sophomore Hollis Thompson. Austin Freeman sprained his ankle at the end of the first half and was late getting back to the court as he got it retaped. So Thompson started, and he didn’t disappoint. Thompson grabbed 12 of his career-high 13 rebounds in the second half, with all but two of them coming on the defensive end.

“Coming out of the locker room we emphasized boxing out and getting rebounds, and I think my teammates did a great job of boxing out which allowed me to come in and get some boards,” Thompson said.

Georgetown was known as a team with terrific guard play and a perimeter oriented offensive attack.

But the last two games, they have proven they can win gritty, physical basketball games against quality competition.

Maybe there is a reason this team has now won eight straight Big East basketball games.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

CBT Podcast: Recapping the first weekend of the 2018 NCAA Tournament

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Eamonn Brennan of The Athletic joined Rob Dauster for an epic, two-hour podcast on the first weekend of the tournament. It was so good that we had to split the podcast into two parts. On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the South and West Regions, from Sister Jean to UMBC to Nevada’s comebacks to Kentucky’s chances at a Final Four.

On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the East and Midwest Regions, from Villanova and Duke steamrolling to Michigan State collapsing to Syracuse and Clemson and Texas Tech and Purdue. It’s all in there.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Eight viral heroes from first weekend of March Madness

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One of my favorite parts of the NCAA tournament is seeing who comes out of nowhere to turn into a viral celebrity during this month of madness.

By my estimation, we had eight true candidates for the award of March Madness Viral Celebrity of the Year. Here they are:


He was more fired up for Houston’s success in the tournament than any Houston fan in the history of basketball in the city of Houston.


Jordan Poole is spelled a lot like Jordan Peele, which inevitably led to people tweeting at Peele instead of Poole. Peele’s thank you tweet was a highlight of the first weekend.


Having to answer questions from a bunch of reporters after suffering the most humiliating moment of your life is not an easy thing to do. Having to answer ridiculous and stupid questions could be intolerable, which is why I loved Ty Jerome’s response to a stupid question he was asked:


I loved seeing Robert Williams’ teammate do a panotmine windmill in the background while Williams was throwing down a windmill in real time on Providence:


Nevada head coach Eric Musselman has led his team to the Sweet 16, cussed on live television and gone shirtless to celebrate with his team, but the star of the Musselman family is his daughter Mariah:


He really does have great hair:

2. @UMBCAthletics

This dude lived the dream of every twitter user out there. When your shot is there, you have to take it.


Mic drop:

VIDEO: Eric Musselman celebrates Nevada win without a shirt

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Nevada head coach Eric Musselman went shirtless to celebrate his team’s come-from-behind win over No. 2 seed Cincinnati on Sunday.

I guess this is better than dropping F-bombs live on national TV. Maybe that’s why they had Steve Lappas talking over him …

Penny Hardaway to be named next Memphis head coach

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The worst-kept secret in college basketball no longer appears to be a secret: Penny Hardaway is going to be the next coaching at the University of Memphis.

ESPN is reporting that a deal has been agreed upon. The Memphis Commercial-Appeal is reporting that Penny was waiting for his season to end with East High School before he made anything official. NBC Sports can confirm that an announcement is expected to be made early this week, likely as soon as Tuesday, to introduce the former Memphis and NBA star as Tubby Smith’s replacement.

The truth, however, is that we all knew this was what would be happening the second that Memphis formally fired Tubby Smith. Hell, we knew it a month before that decision was made final. This was always how it was going to play out.

What’s interesting to me is now the discussion of whether or not Penny will be able to handle being a Division I head coach, because it’s been hit or miss with basketball programs hiring legends of their past. Chris Mullin and St. John’s hasn’t exactly gone to plan but Fred Hoiberg was quite successful at Iowa State. Kevin Ollie won a title with UConn then fell off a cliff. Patrick Ewing’s start wasn’t great, but he was better than expected.

Where does Penny fall on this scale?

Well, let me just drop this section of a column from Geoff Calkins in here:

Hardaway isn’t a guy who woke up one morning and decided he’d like to be a Division I head coach. He’s not a former player who got bored with retirement and decided he’d like to do something other than play golf.

Hardaway started coaching at middle school. Middle school! Because an old friend needed some help.

Then he built one of the best AAU programs in the country. Then he spent years coaching a high school team.

Does that sound like someone who doesn’t want to roll up his sleeves and do the work? Does that sound like someone who is just in it for the glory and the glitz?

The truth is, if it weren’t for Hardaway’s iconic stature, he might be characterized as a grinder, as a guy who worked his way up from the lowest levels of basketball on the strength of his relationship with the kids.

I think that this is going to work out for both Penny and Memphis, especially if Penny hires a staff that can help him with the intricacies of running a college basketball program.

2018 NCAA Tournament: All-First Weekend Team

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PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND: Jevon Carter, West Virginia

So Carter’s numbers themselves were ridiculous this weekend. He had 21 points, eight assists, six steals and five boards in a first round win over Murray State. He followed that up with 28 points, five assists, five steals and four boards in a win over in-state rival Marshall to advance to the Sweet 16. For the weekend, he shot 54 percent from the floor and 63 percent from three.

But perhaps the more telling state in regards to what Carter did this weekend are the numbers that the Murray State and Marshall stars put up this weekend. Jon Elmore — whose averages of 23 points, seven assists and six boards matched what Markelle Fultz averaged a season ago — was 4-for-12 from the floor with eight turnovers in Marshall’s second round loss. Jonathan Stark, who entered the tournament averaging 22 points, had nine points on 1-for-12 shooting in Murray State’s first round loss.

On Friday night, we get Jalen Brunson squaring off with Carter.

Buckle up.


  • ROB GRAY, Houston: Gray is the only guy on this list that didn’t reach the Sweet 16 — blame Jordan Poole for that — but he did put together one of the most memorable and impressive first round NCAA tournament performances I can ever remember when he dropped 39 points and a game-winner on San Diego State.
  • KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech: Evans averaged 22.5 points in this weekend’s two games, but what got him on this list was that he averaged 16.5 points in the second half of those two games, closing out a come-from-behind win against Stephen F. Austin with drive after drive and hitting the go-ahead three in the win over Florida.
  • ZACH NORVELL, Gonzaga: Not only did the Zags freshman averaged 21.5 points in two games — including a career-high 28 points, a career-high 12 boards, a career-high six threes and his first career double-double against Ohio State — but he hit the dagger in both of those games; a game-winner in the final minutes against UNCG and a three to put the Zags up six in the final two minutes against Ohio State.
  • SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER, Kentucky: We spent the entire season talking about how Kentucky didn’t have a star this year. That may not be true anymore. SGA averaged 23 points, 7.0 boards, 6.5 assists and 3.5 steals as the Wildcats reached the Sweet 16 as the highest remaining seed in the South Region.
  • THE MARTIN TWINS, Nevada: Caleb was the hero in the come-from-behind win over Texas, doing bonkers in overtime, while Cody had 25 points, seven assists and six boards in the come-from-behind win over Cincinnati. But mostly they were both awesome all weekend.