NEW YORK -- Three things we learned from No. 15 Georgetown's 72-65 win over No. 22 Butler in Tuesday's Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden ...
1. No matter what Greg Monroe does, he's a divisive player. The Hoyas' 6-foot-11 sophomore center had career-highs in points (24) and rebounds (15) against the Bulldogs, but all this did was spark debate about two things: whether the former No. 1 overall recruit, who's been accused of being too passive in the past, should be putting up those numbers every night; and whether he has a big-time future in the NBA.
In the postgame press conference, Monroe was asked if 20 shots was the most he's ever taken (he said yes), and if coach John Thompson III had told him to be more offensively assertive. "You should ask coach that," Thompson stepped in and said, referring to himself in the third person. He then provided a classic Georgetown-system answer: "If it's there. I think Greg is an unselfish player. We have an unselfish team. We have a lot of people in that locker room that can score. The number of shots one takes isn't important to this group. It's how we play, and if they're the right shots, and if we get victories that's important."
On Tuesday they were the right shots: Monroe exploited Butler's interior weakness, getting forward Matt Howard into early foul trouble and then toying with a series of inferior reserves. On the season, the numbers show that Monroe has taken on a significantly larger role since his freshman campaign: As a rookie, he took 20.8 percent of the Hoyas' shots while on the floor; as a sophomore he's taking 30.8. His offensive rating has dropped somewhat as a result (from 111.1 as a frosh to 102.8 now), but he's become more of a beast on the glass, increasing his offensive rebounding percentage from 8.7 to 13.5, and his defensive rebounding percentage from 16.7 to 25.4.
"[Monroe] establishing himself as a presence has and will make life a lot easier for everyone else," Thompson said. "And we've got some guys on the perimeter that can feed off of him."
But what can Monroe do to satisfy NBA scouts? He's a lock to be a first-round pick next June, but there's much disagreement over whether he's still worthy of being taken in the top 10. One scout I texted with during the game said, "I like [Monroe] as a slashing/passing power forward," and Butler coach Brad Stevens made a favorable comparison between Monroe's passing ability and that of Florida's Joakim Noah and Al Horford, top-10 picks whom the Bulldogs faced in the NCAA tournament in 2007.
But many others voiced concerns about Monroe's explosiveness and, as one scout put it, "lack of visible physical improvement" from Year 1 to 2. A tweet from DraftExpress' Jonathan Givony late in the second half said, "Strange to watch a guy have 22 and 12 and come away so completely underwhelmed. That's how I feel about Greg Monroe tonight."
If evaluators are underwhelmed by Monroe's career game -- a performance that, at least to a college basketball writer, seemed impressive -- will they ever be sold on the Hoyas' center?
2. Georgetown's real concern should be at point guard. On a night where Monroe and teammate Austin Freeman (18 points on 4-of-5 long-range shooting) looked like stars, fellow sophomore Chris Wright didn't deliver at the point, committing six turnovers against just four assists.
Point guards in Thompson's Princeton offense haven't traditionally put up massive assist totals, because games are low-paced and everyone, not just backcourt players, is put in position to make key passes. But the floor general who helped the Hoyas get to the Final Four in 2007, Jonathan Wallace, was an excellent steward, and Wright has yet to settle into that role; his assist-to-turnover ratio is a career low 1.1 through seven games.
The lone negative part of Georgetown's box score from Tuesday was the fact that it committed 21 turnovers against 10 assists, with Wright playing 37 minutes at the point. As Thompson said, "We've gotta protect the ball."
3. Butler, which began the season ranked No. 10, is putting itself in a scary position with the NCAA tournament selection committee. Stevens has an admirable approach to scheduling, which he explained after Tuesday's game: "My point on playing people is, let's live. Let's go out and challenge ourselves and see how good we can be."
So the Bulldogs scheduled Northwestern; a 76 Classic appearance in which they'd face Minnesota, UCLA and Clemson; Georgetown in the Jimmy V Classic; and then Ohio State and Xavier back-to-back for their next two games. They beat Northwestern, which could be an NCAA bubble team, and UCLA, which will have to fight to make the NIT. But after losses to Minnesota, Clemson and Georgetown, Stevens' crew is left with the possibility of heading into Horizon League play without a signature win, or a non-conference record that would make them an attractive at-large candidate.
Ohio State (Dec. 12) and Xavier (Dec. 19) will be Butler's first two marquee home opponents, but the Buckeyes will be without star Evan Turner, making them less of a "quality" foe in the eyes of the selection committee, and Xavier has flopped against even bubble-level competition this year, losing to Marquette, Baylor and Kansas State. Even if Butler sweeps those games, it may need to win the Horizon League tournament to guarantee itself an NCAA bid -- a situation no one expected the Bulldogs to be in a few months ago.
They're at risk of doing what Stephen Curry and Davidson did in 2008-09, beginning the season in the Top 25 and then missing out on the dance. Butler's overinflated preseason ranking was the fault of us, the pundits, who got too carried away and put them in the top 10, but Gordon Hayward & Co. are still good enough -- in the top 30-35 teams nationally -- to belong in the NCAA tournament field. If they don't make it, that's their fault. As Stevens said, "If we feel sorry for ourselves, or we're concerned with not meeting expectations, that's no way to move on."