Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Look Back and a Glimpse of What's To Come

Thanks to Jeff Green's miraculous shot (it wasn't a travel, read the rules) the Hoyas now advance to face the North Carolina Tar Heels on Sunday. After surviving such a tough game against an opponent the Hoyas dominated earlier in the year, it's worth noting a few observations from this Sweet 16 contest.

• In the first meeting this season, Georgetown was able to get the ball inside with impunity early in the game. Whether the Hoyas were deterred by an (atrocious) early charge call on Hibbert or by Vandy's defenders, GU did not get the ball down low where they are most effective until the early going of the second half. As soon as Georgetown did so, that eight-point Vandy halftime lead disappeared in a hurry.

• Foul shooting was poor at best, with the Hoyas missing 6 of 14 free throw attempts. The effort was well below GU's usual 71.6% clip. Those were six big points that nearly sent the Hoyas packing.

At first glance it appears that next round's outcome will be decided by the pace of the game. If GU can slow the pace down into a half court game, the Hoyas will likely prevail. If the Heels get out and run, UNC likely moves on. But if the NCAA Tournament has proven anything over the years, it's that nothing is guaranteed.

North Carolina and its No. 2 ranked offense rely heavily on transition baskets for the majority of its points. When the Heels do get into a half court set, they usually look inside to freshman Brandan Wright or Tyler Hansbrough, where their size and strength usually translate to points in the paint. Against the Hoyas and Roy Hibbert, that advantage disappears and if the Hoyas can force the Heels to shoot from behind the arc (where UNC ranks 240th in 3-pointers made) GU will have a tremendous advantage. But that all starts by the Hoyas not turning the ball over and getting back on defense. If Jesse Sapp and Jonathan Wallace start turning the ball over, it will be a long day for the Hoyas, as every turnover at the top of the key will probably equate to two Tar Heel points.

Defensively, Georgetown needs to be patient and try to cut off dribble penetration. Look for a lot of zone defense from the Hoyas tomorrow. If they go man to man, or even a matchup zone and start chasing players like they did in the first half against Vanderbilt, North Carolina will make them pay.

This game more than ever it seems it will be important for the Hoyas to go inside early. While North Carolina is deep, Hansbrough and Wright are their only players capable of hanging with Hibbert and Green in the post. If the Hoyas can force one or both to the bench with early foul trouble, the Hoyas will exploit it all day. Of course, that cuts both ways. If Hibbert is forced to the bench, it will be a lot to ask for either Patrick Ewing Jr. to body up on Hansbrough or for Vernon Macklin to hang with Brandan Wright.

Despite the vastly contrasting styles, the Elite 8 game at the Meadowlands on Sunday should be evenly matched, and presumably one of the best games the Tournament could produce from here on out. The only thing for certain is that for all of the talent on the floor tomorrow, Billy Packer will be able to find 40-minutes worth of flaws. THAT I guarantee.

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