Georgetown Style Very Similar To Gamecocks

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota --- The offense is a tweaked version of what Pete Carrill used to run at Princeton. Pete is one of the two mentors that John Thompson III, the Georgetown coach, says has most influenced his coaching style. The defense is the quart of blood technique and that comes straight from the playbook of his other coaching influence, his famous dad, John Thompson, the guy who transformed Georgetown from the Dark Ages of college basketball into a modern day power.

What you get when you watch Georgetown play is ugly. There's a certain finesse to their offense, at least until someone launches a shot and then it's all hell breaks loose as they crash the boards with their tall, athletic big guys and bat it around like a volleyball until it either goes in the hoop or someone in a different colored shirt comes down with it. On defense, the Hoyas are at their best when the zebras are allowing certain liberties --- in other words, no autopsy, no foul.

Put that offense and defense together and you get a team that knows how to win ugly games. Pretty really isn't in their vocabulary. They want games that are in the 120-130-point range which means limited numbers of possessions, shot clocks winding down under 10 just about every time the Hoyas have the ball, and very physical defense.

To put it in layman's terms, this is South Carolina all over again only with better athletes and more size.

That's what the Florida Gators (29-6) face Friday night at the Metrodome in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. Georgetown (23-9) comes into the game averaging 66.4 points per game and giving up just 59. That's very similar to the style that South Carolina employs --- the Gamecocks average 67.3 and give up 62.6 --- and it's a style that drove the Gators batty in three meetings this season.

Florida lost twice in the regular season to South Carolina --- 68-62 in Columbia and 71-67 at the O-Dome. Those two games were about as ugly as it could get but they couldn't hold a candle to Florida's 49-47 squeaker over South Carolina that won the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Although South Carolina's offense is vastly different than Georgetown in most of its principles, the one thing that stands out is their willingness to run the shot clock down to 10 or fewer seconds before someone throws up a shot.

That poses a defensive dilemma for a coach that likes to pressure the basketball at all times like Florida's Billy Donovan. Donovan wants his defense to become a part of the offense, forcing turnovers so that the Gators can get going in transition where they can finish with thunder dunkers like Corey Brewer or Joakim Noah or nail down threes off the run with Lee Humphrey or Taurean Green spotting up. That formula has worked very well for the Gators all season except in the three games against South Carolina which refused to let the Gators get the running game going.

Expect a similar approach from Georgetown, which even if Donovan elects to pressure the ball, probably won't take the bait and will continue to run time off the clock every possession before launching. One of the reasons pressure usually doesn't work so well is because in the tradition of the Princeton offense, the Hoyas spread the floor very well and all five of their players will touch the ball at just about every position on the floor. The key to what Georgetown does on offense is based on good spacing that virtually eliminates traps and puts defenders in situations where there is no help.

"It's very hard because of their spacing on the floor," said Donovan. "There are things built into their system and into their style that if do you get out and really pressure them that their system and style is based on spacing and they will space the floor. If you back off and allow them to run their offense, they can take time. I don't know if you do pressure that it will make them necessarily shoot any quicker."

South Carolina's offense is designed to create defensive breakdowns by making opponents defend for a long time. South Carolina is more of a perimeter team that is content to take a lot of threes late in the shot clock. Where the Gamecocks proved particularly pesky was in their ability to track down long rebounds off missed threes and then get a quick pass inside for a layup against a defense that had been stretched out of position.

Georgetown has more inside size and presence than the Gamecocks but the way the Hoyas run the shot clock down puts a premium on defensive discipline and maintaining rebounding position. By spreading the floor, Georgetown hopes to get an opponent's big people away from the basket and far out of position for rebounds once the ball goes up.

"I think what really becomes very, very important in playing against them is your late shot clock defense and your late shot clock ability to rebound the basketball because they do have size and they do have quickness," said Donovan.

Georgetown shoots a respectable 47 percent from the floor with a lot of their points coming off backdoor cuts to the basket against teams that want to play them man to man. When the offense is working right, the ball is in the center of the court with both the guards and forwards cutting off the center. The Hoyas will try to use a lot of picks down low to free up Bowman or Green down low for layups.

Teams that are willing to zone the Hoyas have had some success because Georgetown doesn't shoot the three ball particularly well. The Hoyas are hitting only 35.9 percent from the three-point line this season. Their best two shooters from beyond the arc are guards Ashanti Cook (43.9 percent overall but only 38.9 percent in Big East Conference play) and Jonathon Wallace (41.4 percent overall, 40.4 percent in the Big East).

Should the Gators go zone, it's likely Donovan will try to force forwards Jeff Green and Bandon Bowman to try to beat Florida from the outside. Green and Bowman are both 6-9 and very athletic. They are far more effective against man to man teams where they can put the ball on the floor and take it to the rack. Green is hitting only 30.8 percent from the three-point line (28.8 percent in Big East games) while Bowman is hitting 29.9 percent from the arc (31.7 in Big East games).

When Georgetown is most effective, the Hoyas get a quick lead and hold it by spreading the floor and dictating the game tempo. When Georgetown is controlling the clock, the offense becomes a defensive weapon. The Hoyas figure that a team that is trailing cannot afford to stay in a zone, thus forcing opponents to go man against an offense that rotates around the man in the middle like a wheel. When the Hoyas have their big lineup in, they run a lot of cuts off 7-2 center Roy Hibbert, a pretty good distributor of the ball in this Princeton knockoff offense. They will still hold the ball deep in the shot clock but when it gets under ten seconds, the first option is to let Green and Bowman slash to the basket.

If opponents take their big men out and try to match Georgetown with quickness, the Hoyas are quite comfortable taking Hibbert out of the game and bringing in Darrel Owens, who is very quick and a slasher to the hoop, much like Green and Bowman.

Georgetown has the personnel to run the offense successfully with either the big guy in the lineup or the smaller, quicker lineup they present with Owens. The Hoyas are comfortable going big or staying small as long as they can force opponents to chase the ball for extended periods of time and that limits the number of possessions in the games and holds the score down. Once again, the target number for Georgetown is found in the 120-130 point range. The Hoyas are quite comfortable scoring in the 60s and winning close games. Florida, on the other hand, averages 79.3 points per game and the Gators like to get opponents playing an up and down the floor game where a large majority of the points are scored in transition. Florida figures to have an edge if the Gators can somehow get the running game going and force the Hoyas to run the floor on every possession.

Georgetown's goal will be to maintain discipline and avoid the temptation to run. The uglier things get, the better the Hoyas like it and the more comfortable they feel that they can win the game.

"People talk about how they're holding people down scoring wise and it's two reasons," said Donovan. "I think there are two reasons. One, they do a very good job defensively of locating and helping each other but often times there are fewer possessions in the game."

If the Gators get the lead early, expect Florida to play a lot of the 2-3 zone that has been so effective for long stretches in this seven game winning streak. Florida used the zone to effectively take LSU out of its element in the SEC semi-finals and the zone also worked quite effectively in both games in the NCAA Tournament in Jacksonville last weekend. If the Gators can force the Hoyas to try to win the game from the three-point line, the odds are good that Florida will advance to play again on Sunday.

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