Otto Porter Jr., John Thompson III

Georgetown beats Marquette, finally controls Big East destiny

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The Georgetown turnaround has become one of the nation’s most intriguing story lines. Here’s a team that struggled to break 40 points throughout much of December, dropped to 0-2 in the Big East when they were pounded by Pitt at home and lost their second-leading scorer and most versatile defender to academic issues when the second semester began.

I wrote the Hoyas off.

You wrote the Hoyas off.

Just about everyone except for the people in John Thompson III’s locker room wrote the Hoyas off.

And here they are, on February 11th, with a legitimate shot at winning the Big East regular season title.

I’m serious. They’ve won six straight games and eight of their last nine to climb to 8-3 in the Big East. Monday’s 63-55 win over No. 18 Marquette at the Verizon Center drew the Hoyas into a second-place tie with the Golden Eagles a half-game behind Syracuse — who holds a one game lead in the loss column — at the top of the league standings.

And, unlike Marquette, everything seems to be clicking for Georgetown right now. Otto Porter is beginning to take over games the way everyone that had him projected as a lottery pick back in October thought he would. He’s averaging 18.6 points over the last nine games. Markel Starks is becoming more consistent as a secondary scoring option and a steadying influence in the Hoya offensive attack. He’s averaged 16.6 points over the last five games. Mikael Hopkins has awoken from his January hibernation. Nate Lubick has embraced the larger role that he’s playing in Thompson’s offense with Whittington out. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is one of a handful of reserves that have made the most of their opportunity to play increased minutes.

A lot has changed for the Hoyas over the course of the last month.

The result is a team that is finally confident offensively while still managing to play defense as well as they have all season long. That’s why they are in a position to make a run at the Big East title. It certainly won’t be easy. Georgetown still has to play two games against Syracuse and visit Cincinnati, UConn and Villanova. That schedule is the reason that I think the Hoyas are still a long shot to win the league.

But they have a chance, and they hold their destiny in their hands.

Win out, and they win the final installment of the Big East as we know it.

Win out, and that Big East title will come when Georgetown sweeps Syracuse by beating them at home in the final Big East matchup between the two teams.

That’s a long way away.

But with all the uncertainty surrounding the Catholic 7 and the future of Georgetown’s basketball program, it’s must be nice to hear that the Hoyas finally control their Big East destiny.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.