Posted: Monday November 13, 2006 2:37PM; Updated: Tuesday November 14, 2006 1:41PM
Another thing Georgetown has going for it is the collective intelligence of this team. One of the reasons I love watching practice is it gives me a feel for a program's personality. Georgetown and Notre Dame are the most prestigious academic schools in the Big East, and you can tell by the way the Hoyas communicate and interact during practice that they will be as mentally prepared for each game as any opponent. Thompson, who is an Ivy League graduate himself (Princeton '88), calls Green the smartest player he's ever been around. And you certainly need a lot of smarty pants to be able to master the intricate offense of screens and back-cuts that Thompson learned while playing for Pete Carril. Some people will say the Hoyas need to win ugly this year. I say they'll need to win smart.
Seth Davis will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his Hoop Thoughts column.
One thing that is sure to change from last season is the Hoyas' continuity. Last year, Georgetown started the same five players in all 33 games. I'll bet there aren't five teams in America you can say that about. As long as Hibbert, Green and Wallace are healthy, I'm sure they'll start every game, but Thompson told me he will probably rotate several players through the other two spots. "I'll get a comfort level with different guys as the year progresses," Thompson said. "We're all just going to have to figure this thing out together."
Herewith, my breakdown of the Hoyas:
Heart and soul: Green. Thompson and his assistants tried to convince me 6-3 junior guard Tyler Crawford, who played all of 94 minutes last season, is the team's heart and soul. Watching practice I could see why -- Crawford is energetic and emotional, and he is exactly the kind of vocal leader so many teams are missing. But the fact is, Green, who led the Hoyas in scoring (11.9 pg) and assists (3.27) while finishing second in rebounding (6.5), is by far this team's most important player. He's also one of my favorite players in all of college basketball. He is all substance and little flash, which means he may be the best player in the country who will never be shown on Sports Center this season. Even when Green grabbed an offensive rebound and dunked it with both hands during Thursday's practice, it looked rather pedestrian. That's my kind of guy.
Most improved: Marc Egerson. The 6-6 sophomore forward averaged just 6.9 minutes last season, but he started the Hoyas' season opener against Hartford on Saturday and contributed seven points and three rebounds in 29 minutes. He even went 1 for 2 from three-point range, which is a great early sign. With the graduation of Bowman and Owens, Emerson will have much more opportunity to play this year, and he appears ready to seize that.
Glue guy: Jessie Sapp. Emerson would also be a good pick here, but since I have a rule against assigning players multiple categories, I'll go with Sappy, a 6-3 sophomore who will be called upon to handle much of the ball handling and defense responsibilities in the back court. Again, that's a little disconcerting considering Sappy only averaged 16 minutes a game last year and shot 40.7 percent from the floor, but that's where the Hoyas are right now.
X-factor: Summers. One thing I didn't fully realize until I watched practice was just how good a shooter Summers is. He's athletic and long and repeatedly stroked in deep jump shots with ease. He only took one shot against Hartford in 10 minutes off the bench, but if he can progress to the point where he moves into the starting lineup, then you'll know this team is ready to take a major, major step forward.
Lost in the shuffle: Patrick Ewing Jr. You'd think it would be hard enough being Patrick Ewing's son without also deciding to play at Georgetown, where Patrick Jar. transferred following his sophomore season at Indiana. With all the big talent on this roster, it's hard to see how, barring injuries, he'll play his way into the mix. I imagine he'll be pushed further down the rotation once Macklin, a raw and tenacious re bounder, who did not play at all in the opener, progresses.
Bottom line: I frankly went to Georgetown expecting to be under whelmed, but I came away believing this team has a real chance to finish in the top two of the Big East. With this system, the Hoyas don't need to have stellar guard play -- just very good guard play. As long as the Hoyas are able to take care of the ball, I see them finishing no worse than third in the conference behind Pittsburgh and Syracuse. They'll be a shoo-in for the NCAA tournament, but unless they really improve I think they'll be hard-pressed to reach the Sweet 16.