Monday, March 26, 2007

Hoya Saxa!

I've been warned not to blog about the Georgetown Hoyas by my friends - if I do, I might jinx them into a loss. But the way I see it after today's improbable, heart-stopping win over North Carolina in the East Region Final, these Hoyas have been beating the odds all year, so my little old blog isn't going to wreak too much havoc.

What an incredible 48 hours to be a Hoya. After the shot of a lifetime from team bastion Jeff Green to beat Vanderbilt on Friday night, it was looking like we were going to suffer the ultimate letdown. From an incredible high to a feeling of desperation knowing we had come this close to Final Four immortality. That's how I felt with about 8 minutes left in today's game against the Tar Heels.

It wasn't the North Carolina lead that bothered me. In theory it was more than a workable margin. It never ballooned to a point that would have put the game out of hand. It was the fact that Georgetown was playing North Carolina's game, and we seemingly had no answer for their fast-break offense. If the remainder of the game had played out like that, the Hoyas would be headed home empty, because they wouldn't have had the ability to cut the deficit. Luckily, with time starting to run out on Georgetown's season, they were able to impose their will on a game that had been in North Carolina's control for 30+ minutes.

In retrospect, you could see that Georgetown had a chance even before they began their surge late in the half. The prolific scoring of the first half, resulting in a 50-44 UNC halftime lead, played right into the Tar Heels' hands. If Tyler Hansbrough and company could score another 50 points in the second half, their ticket to Atlanta would most assuredly be punched. When that scoring pace didn't continue to start the second half, the Hoyas had new life. Now, a slow-down, half-court type of game was being played - exactly what Georgetown Coach John Thompson III wanted. It suddenly hit me with 6 or 7 minutes left that the score was only 75-72 Tar Heels. Neither team was pushing 85 or 90, which is what would have happened had the Tar Heels continued to play at their pace in addition to make some shots.

Ah yes, the field goal drought. Georgetown came back in this game in equal parts because they got tougher on the boards and got back to playing their trademark efficient half court game. But just as importantly, North Carolina went as dry as the Mojave for such a prolonged period of time that the lead couldn't help but be cut. I watched with utter amazement as the offensive firepower of the Tar Heels - dangerous from players 1-12 - flamed out in spectacular fashion. In the end, the Heels' sudden offensive futility combined with clutch shooting and toughness from the Hoyas resulted in a 12 point overtime win.

To me, this team is special because of their mental makeup. As they have shown in the last three games in this tournament, they do not allow themselves to get flustered when trailing. They keep the game within reach, and when they eventually able to figure out how to slow down what the opponent has thrown at them, they close the gap, then shut the door. That ability to strategically adjust in-game to the intricacies of the opponent's style has been a hallmark of Coach Thompson and the Hoyas all year, and it has become even more evident in the tournament.

Now comes Ohio State, in a rematch of last year's second-round tournament game in which the Hoyas came up victorious. But this game will bear little resemblance to the matchup from a year ago. Both teams have improved immensely over the course of that year. And now we get to see a matchup of the two best centers in the tournament, Ohio State's Greg Oden vs. Georgetown's Roy Hibbert. The right to play in the national championship game awaits.


Caitlin M. said...

Yeah, talk about beating the odds, the 2007 Hoyas have been doing it all season. From the beginning when detractors claimed our pre-season ranking was overrated, to the several weeks mid-season we fell out of the rankings altogether, this team has shown a truly special ability to keep their eyes on the prize and their noses to the grindstone in the face of challenges and negativity. Whatever happens against Ohio State, this is a roster for the ages.

Mini Me said...

The outcome of this game weighs heavily on who gets into foul trouble first...Hibbert or Oden?

Johnny Limarzi said...

Everyone's talking about the big men, but this game is going to be about guard play.

The Hoyas obviously do better when Hibbert is available, but Ewing and even foul-happy Macklin have stepped up when called upon. Oden is a terrific player, but so are Hibbert and Green, so while fouls may be important, the matchups inside will be interesting even with some fouls thrown in there.

What is going to make or break this game is the backcourt. The Hoyas guards have been playing exceptionally well this tournament, and the same can be said of Ohio State, case in point the deciding 3 in the Xavier game to force overtime. These guys have all stepped up their game in the Tournament, and they will be the difference maker, especially if the teams decide to go to zone to protect their big men.

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