When I spoke with Georgetown coach
Thompson demurred. "Uh, I'm not going to take you in there," he said. "Let's just say it wasn't exactly somber. I was pretty animated. We had spent all week preparing them to be ready emotionally, but they came out flat."
Thompson's non-answer was revealing nonetheless. The reason I had asked about what he said in that locker room, as opposed to what he said following the Hoyas' big wins over Duke and Villanova, was because I wondered why this team has so far avoided the fate of last year's squad. Last season, the Hoyas also started out with much promise, jumping out 10-1 and reaching the No. 9 ranking in the AP poll following a win at No. 2 UConn. But those Hoyas dropped their next two games, later endured a brutal five-game losing streak, and the bottom fell out. The end result was a desultory 16-13 campaign in which Georgetown missed out on the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005.
When I asked Thompson to compare this team to last year's, he demurred again -- but still gave another revealing non-answer. "It's natural for people to want to compare and contrast to last year, but the composition of this team is different, the energy is different, the understanding is significantly different," he said. "Chemistry, or a lack thereof, is not even a part of the equation. It's just not."
It's understandable that Thompson would not want to say so explicitly, but chemistry is indeed the biggest difference. Last year's group never jelled between the youngsters and upperclassmen
Saturday's 103-90 win over the Wildcats was especially impressive because junior guard
To be fair, last year's team was also much younger than this one. Clark and 6-foot-11 center
The good chemistry is also a direct result of Thompson's having to play his starters so many minutes. It's a lot easier to pass up an open shot if you know you're going to be in the game for a long time. "Those guys have been preparing for the minutes they're playing from the first day we got back to school this year," Thompson said. "The four of them have a big responsibility and they know it."
Not surprisingly, Thompson also did not want to compare this team to another team he has had at Georgetown, the
That is indeed good news, but that growth will only come if the Hoyas continue to heed the lessons of 2009. That means not just reacting well to losses, but also to wins. That means not coming out flat on Wednesday night, when the Hoyas will face a Providence team that will be amped up to knock them off their pedestal. "Hopefully we've learned some lessons," Thompson said. "Everyone knows how we felt last Wednesday night and Thursday morning [after the South Florida loss]. You have to have a short memory in this league. Sometimes the best way to grow is to be hurt."
• I gotta say I'm pretty surprised at the limited contribution freshman swingman
• I'm guessing efficiency maven
• A lot of people assume that Kentucky is running a lot of dribble-drive motion this season, but
• When it's February and you're a bubble team and you have a good team on your home floor, you have to win the game. Dayton (which beat Xavier), Richmond (Temple), Illinois (Michigan State), UNLV (BYU) and Oklahoma (Texas) did that last weekend. Memphis (which lost to Gonzaga) did not.
• Speaking of Memphis, sophomore swingman
• Incidentally, I don't mean to detract from what Richmond pulled off, but it's worth noting that Temple played that game without second-leading scorer
• I'm hoping against hope that
• I agree with
• I realize I've been paying a lot of attention (much of it unflattering) to Oklahoma guard
• Speaking of Texas, do you realize the Longhorns were 10-for-27 from the foul line in that game?
• Did I miss the press release announcing the elimination of the coaches' box? Because as far as I can tell, there's not a single coach staying in it.
• William & Mary is a scary team when it's making threes, but when it's not, the Tribe have no Plan B. They shot 5-for-25 from behind the arc in their loss at Old Dominion, and they got out-rebounded by 19.
• If Georgia sophomore forward
• Looks like Seton Hall's
• You think Ohio State is hurting for depth? The Buckeyes cruised by Iowa at home by 10 points on Sunday, yet four of their five starters played all 40 minutes.
• I haven't broken out my
• Maybe Walker should watch some video of Texas Tech guard
• For all of South Florida's success of late (the Bulls had won four in a row, including home against Pitt and at Georgetown, before falling by three points at Notre Dame on Sunday), keep in mind that their second-leading scorer and best big man,
• In case you missed it, check out
• I love that Purdue's walk-on guard
• Anyone else out there noticing that Maryland guard
• It would be great to see Vermont make the NCAA tournament if only to give
• Marshall freshman center
• I keep hearing TV announcers referring to a team running a "three-guard offense" as if it's something worth mentioning. Does anyone have a two-guard offense anymore? The days of a lineup that reads guard-guard-forward-forward-center are long gone.
1. Kansas (1)
Dropped off my ballot: Siena (19), Pittsburgh (22), Xavier (24)
Skinny: This was a week to tinker at the margins, not make wholesale changes. Georgetown was not easy to rank, but I decided to let myself be more influenced by the Hoyas' rout of Villanova than their loss to South Florida. My respect for Georgetown prompted me to enter the Bulls on to my ballot for the first time this season. Otherwise, I decided not to punish Michigan State for its two losses. Both came on the road, and the Spartans aren't the same team without
I took a closer look at Purdue this week because I have been ranking them several spots lower than my fellow pollsters. Upon closer inspection, the other voters knew better (for once). The Boilermakers have won five straight since that three-game losing streak, but the best win came at home by three points over Wisconsin, and they certainly didn't look like world-beaters at Indiana. Still, there really is no good reason to rank Purdue behind Tennessee, which the Boilers beat on a neutral court, or West Virginia, which Purdue blitzed by 15 points on New Year's Day. The benefactor of Purdue's mini-bump was Wisconsin, which beat Ohio State at home and Northwestern on the road (Purdue lost both those games) and split with Purdue home-and-home. I love those stinkin' Badgers.
I've got a lot of mid-major love in the bottom half of my ballot, though you'll notice that I don't have a single team from the Atlantic 10 in my top 25. (That league is having a good season, but this talk about them getting six teams into the tournament is a little overboard.) I could have had another mid-major team in there in Siena, but I couldn't come up with a good reason to keep ranking the Saints ahead of Northern Iowa, considering they lost at UNI by 17 points in December.
I usually don't like to punish a team for losing on the road to a better squad, but Pitt's 19-point thrashing at West Virginia was so decisive that I figured it was time to drop the Panthers, who have lost four of their last six, and give someone else a chance. The list of teams I also considered includes Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Ole Miss, UAB, Dayton, Temple and Richmond. Frankly it's hard to get excited about any of them right now.