Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Takeaways from Indiana-Georgetown

By Charlie Scaturro

Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America
After watching Georgetown’s impressive showing against UCLA on Monday, everyone figured that we might be in for a serious dogfight when the Hoyas played number one ranked Indiana in the championship game of the Progressive Legends Classic (can we seriously call this a ‘classic’ if no ones ever heard of it before?), and that became clear very early on during last night’s game.

Forget about the fact that the Hoosiers held a slim four point lead at the half or that both teams were on fire from three in the early going, if you watched the way these two teams were competing and flying around the court in the first few minutes of last night’s game you knew this was going to be a slugfest throughout. The electricity emanating from the first few minutes of this game prompted me to say on Twitter that if you weren’t watching this game you didn’t have a soul, and while that might not be the case, those who missed Georgetown-Indiana certainly aren’t college basketball fans (I could argue that people who aren’t college basketball fans don’t have souls, but I digress).

By the time Dan Shulman was ready to jam a ballpoint pen in Dick Vitale’s thigh (otherwise known as “the end of every game this duo calls together”), Indiana emerged on the right side of an 82-72 overtime thriller that had a bit of everything. And really, the final 10-point margin doesn’t do justice to how fun and competitive this game was.

While watching Indiana-Georgetown, I inadvertently coined a new phrase to describe how good a game can be, and I called it “forget your birthday good,” which actually happened to me last night. Yes, November 21st is my birthday, and as the Hoosiers and Hoyas battled into overtime and a game that started at 10 pm eastern broke the 12 am barrier, I was so fixated on this game that I actually forgot it was my birthday. Only after the game ended and I got a text message from my brother did I realize it was November 21st, and from this point on, I’ll be referring to all great college basketball games as “forget your birthday good.” I’m sure I’ll have to come up with more specific criteria to differentiate “forget your birthday good” games from regular good games, but that’s a job for another day. Without further a due, here are a few takeaways I had from Indiana-Georgetown:

Christian Watford is vital if the Hoosiers are going to win it all

For a guy as talented and versatile as Christian Watford, he sure disappears for long stretches at a time. While Watford did finish with 10 points and a game high 10 rebounds against the Hoyas, he was virtually absent from Indiana’s offense with the exception of two big three pointers that came within 40 seconds of each other during the first half. Other than that, he shot 1-8 and scored all of four points during the rest of the game. One of the big takeaways from this game about Indiana was the fact that they have a multitude of offensive weapons, and they’re not too reliant on one guy to carry the load.  Case in point; the Hoosiers scored 81 points against Georgetown, and everyone in their starting five reached double digits and no one had more than 17 points. This is the reason why the Hoosiers weren’t negatively affected by Watford’s somewhat quiet offensive night, but I can’t imagine this team getting through the NCAA Tournament without him being much more effective than he was against Georgetown.

Watford’s unique skillset to create his own shot and ability to hit the three at 6’9’’ is unlike any other player the Hoosiers have, and when he’s on his game he’s one of the toughest matchups in college basketball. Everyone remembers Watford’s now iconic buzzer beater that downed Kentucky last season, but what they might not remember is that he went for 20 points on 8 of 15 shooting (4 of 6 from deep) and wouldn’t let the Wildcats pull away in that game. There are very few players in college basketball with Watford’s size and skillset, and he is a huge key to their title aspirations this season.

The rest of the Big East should be worried about Georgetown 

 Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America
As we’ve all heard by now, the Georgetown Hoyas were an afterthought in the Big East during the preseason, and even keeping in mind that preseason predictions are largely meaningless after the first 2 weeks of the season, that’s especially true with JT3’s squad.

They’ve already beaten UCLA, given Indiana all they could handle, and if you don’t think those air craft carrier games are complete nonsense, they trailed a Florida team that the Send It In Jerome guys think very highly of by just four points at the half before the dreaded “condensation cancellation” took place. Yeah, I know, it was only Shabazz Muhammad’s first game, Indiana eventually won by 10 in overtime, and they could have ended up losing by 15 to Florida if that game were played in an actual gym, but from what we’ve seen out of this young team thus far it’s hard to be anything but extremely impressed with the Hoyas.

Their starting lineup, which consists of four guys who are at least 6’8’’, is going to cause a ton of matchup problems for opponents all season long, and if the Hoyas get a bit better at exploiting these advantages as the season progresses they could be really scary. Regardless of how much this young team matures, they have a legit star in Otto Porter, a more-than-adequate guard in Markel Starks, and Greg Whittington would no doubt be getting a ton of praise right now if he didn’t happen to play on the same team as Porter.

Thinking a little bit more about the makeup of this lineup, it reminds me of the 2009-10’ West Virginia squad that featured Da”Sean Butler, Kevin Jones, Devin Ebanks, and Wellington Smith all playing forward in some capacity with Truck Bryant as the lone guard in the starting lineup. It’s probably too early to compare the Hoyas to a West Virginia team that made the Final Four, but I’m seeing a lot of similarities right now, and the rest of the Big East should take notice of the Hoyas.

The Otto Porter love fest begins now

Even though Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson, and Henry Sims were the elder statesmen on Georgetown last season, you could see that Otto Porter was a star in the making. His freshman totals of 9.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists don’t jump off the page (although he was the team’s leading rebounder and their most efficient scorer), but if you watched Porter play you could tell this kid was going to be very good very soon.

And here we are, just four games into Porter’s sophomore season and it’s clear that he’s one of the best players in the country. He contributes in every phase of the game, he has an uncanny ability to always be around the ball, and the early returns seem to indicate that he’s improved his three-point shooting quite a bit from last season. Yes, we’re looking at a very small sample size in this case (six shots to be exact), but he’s looked very natural shooting the ball from behind the arc and his makes have been anything but lucky.

Standing 6’8’’ and possessing a fantastic all-around game plus one of the steadier hands in college basketball (seriously, his shot is so consistent), there’s a reason why I’ve seen Nicholas Batum comparisons popping up on Twitter, and NBA scouts are buzzing about the Missouri native.

After he averaged 16.5 points, 8 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.5 steals, and 3.5 blocks against UCLA and Indiana, the Otto Porter love fest is officially underway.

Indiana is extremely balanced, but do they have someone who can take over? 

Source: Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America
I’ll admit that I’m nitpicking here, but when you look at the Hoosiers offense they seemingly have a ton of options, but not one guy who can take over a game. Zeller can clearly do damage in the post, Watford has the ability to score from pretty much anywhere, Oladipo’s offensive game continues to improve (more on him in a minute), and Jordan Hulls can jack up a three from just about anywhere and it has a good chance of going in, but do any of these guys have the ability to take over a game?

Having a balanced offensive attack but not really having one dominant scorer isn’t necessarily a problem, and the Hoosiers might very well win the National Title by playing some combination of “give it to whoever has the hot hand” and “let the defense pick its poison”. At the same time, I think this question leads me back to what I said about Christian Watford earlier; he’s such an important player for this team because of how he can create his own shot and score points in bunches.

From what I’ve seen out of this team thus far, Watford appears to be the only guy with a killer instinct who can really take over a game on the offensive side of the floor, and it seems unlikely that this team won’t need him to do that on their way to a title. On any given night against top competition, guys like Zeller, Hulls, or Oladipo might be able to pour in 25 points, but I think this team’s best bet is Watford, who as we saw last night, can disappear on the offensive side of the floor on occasion.

Victor Oladipo has to be one of the most underrated players in the country

It could be because of all the attention Cody Zeller gets, or maybe it’s because (as we mentioned earlier) Indiana is so balanced, but Victor Oladipo isn't very well known nationally considering what he does for the Hoosiers.

He’s the best athlete on team, and at 6’5’’ he’s got the tools to be a lock down perimeter defender and a menace in transition. Oladipo’s outside shot is still a bit of a work in progress, but it certainly stands to reason that he could be at least an average three-point shooter this year as opposed to last season when he hit just 20.8 percent from behind the arc. Although his outside shooting wasn’t much to write home about last season, Oladipo was a mainstay in the Hoosiers starting lineup who contributed across the board.

Oladipo will help out on the boards, he can distribute the ball a bit, and he’s the perfect slasher to pair with guys like Zeller, Hulls, and Watford who command a lot of attention from defenses. When watching him play during certain stretches in the Legends Classic, I almost convinced myself that he might be Indiana’s best player, but then Zeller manhandled someone in the paint or Watford hit a couple of three’s in a row and I talked myself down off that ledge.   Despite the fact that he might get outshined by teammates, Oladipo gives the Hoosiers a dynamic wing who can play off the ball and excel on defense, while not needing the ball much to make a big impact.

The rest of America might not know much about him just yet, but Victor Oladipo is a very good player on the current number one ranked team in the country, and one that has legit title aspirations. I don’t think Oladipo will mind staying underrated if he helps the Hoosiers hoist another championship banner in Assembly Hall.

No comments:

Post a Comment