Thursday, March 29, 2007

Georgetown is Here -- to Win it All

By Jared Trexler
The Phanatic Magazine

Now four days removed from the unveiling of a new basketball building in Chapel Hill, the Final Four ascends upon downtown Atlanta -- a cultural and tourist haven full of transplant Northeastern businessmen, fine dining and multiple night spots to wet any pallet.
By the way, that new basketball building in the heart of North Carolina's campus was built with bricks -- the same ones thrown up over the final 10-plus minutes of the East Regional Final.
Finishing your season 1-of-20 from the floor is never a good conclusion, but instead of reveling in the Tar Heels' utter offensive collapse, credit should be given where credit is due.
Georgetown is the best defensive unit left standing -- yes, not UCLA --, and that's the reason the Hoyas will cut down the nets in the Georgia Dome on Monday night.
Jonathan Wallace and Jesse Sapp play longer than their respective 6-1 and 6-3 frames, and both are the basketball equivalent of jacked. It's one thing to have muscle, it's another to use that muscle to dictate tempo, throw off rhythm, drain an opposing backcourt.
That's why the team that never wears down was left with its collective hands on its hips during overtime. There was no doubt Georgetown was the fresher team in the face of Roy Williams' 12-man turnstile over the course of 45 minutes.
The Hoyas are also multi-faceted, ever-changing in their defensive approach, going zone late in the game with seven-foot tower Roy Hibbert clogging the middle. Georgetown is long enough on the perimeter and instinctive enough to anticipate skip passing. And then there is the art of basketball IQ -- to which the Hoyas' basic fundamental defensive shifting resembles a Van Gogh painting.
When playing man defense, you better believe there is an overplay just one pass away. Three passes away from Tar Heel swingman Reyshawn Terry? Jeff Green's butt is firmly planted in the middle of the paint.
That's what makes the defense so suffocating. It's not the pressure, it's the relentless nature. And the flexibility, as there aren't many players like Green left in college basketball. A 6-9 forward with a guard's feet to man up Ty Lawson one possession and a bruiser's strength to front Tyler Hansbrough on the post just minutes later.
This is all basketball lingo for very good -- but because the Hoyas don't have Greg Oden's NBA appeal, Joakim Noah's hair or Aaron Afflalo's name, they are the forgotten team in Atlanta this weekend.
Just the way they want it.
With all the attention going to Billy Donovan's Kentucky love affair and the Gators' road to a repeat, Ohio State's fabulous freshmen and its bumpy road to Atlanta and UCLA's suffocating defense coupled with its rematch against Florida, there isn't much attention left to go around.
Again, fine with the soft-spoken John Thompson III, the pass-first, go-to-guy Green and the turn-back-the-clock, Afro and high-tops Hibbert.
It would be dangerous to assume the Hoyas are centered on Green's mid-range game and Hibbert's back-to-the-basket hooks and hoops. Wallace is shooting 56 percent (9-of-16) from beyond the arc during the tournament, while Summers and Sapp have also made six three-pointers.
The unforgotten trio played large against North Carolina on both ends, with Summers pouring in 20 points, Sapp adding 15 and Wallace scoring 19 -- including the game-tying three from the left wing near the end of regulation.
They also excelled on the defensive end of the floor, pressuring Lawson and fellow freshman Wayne Ellington to the point of physical submission. In overtime, North Carolina's two perimeter targets didn't have their legs.
Throwing stiff-legged shot puts instead of high-arching majestic jump shots was the cumulative effect of no-nonsense defensive fundamentals.
Conley can dance. Noah can scream. UCLA head coach Ben Howland can bend down in a defensive stance. It's all flashy for the camera, but it won't last over 40 minutes.
Georgetown isn't going to Hoops Hollywood this weekend, it is entering college basketball's test of attrition -- one they already won against the team that never got tired.
Until it faced the Hoyas.
The new brick building in Chapel Hill should have a plaque at its entrance, "Courtesy of Georgetown basketball. The 2007 national champions."
Jared Trexler can be reached at

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