Georgetown Ready for a Big Challenge in No. 2 Connecticut

Connecticut's Hasheem Thabeet, who stands 7 feet 3, is a solid NBA prospect for a team that has them at each position. The Huskies are 11-0.
Connecticut's Hasheem Thabeet, who stands 7 feet 3, is a solid NBA prospect for a team that has them at each position. The Huskies are 11-0. (By Don Heupel -- Associated Press)
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By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 29, 2008

At 7 feet 3, Connecticut's Hasheem Thabeet is a double-digit rebounder, a shot-blocking machine and, despite offensive skills that haven't fully evolved, the most imposing center in the Big East.

Thabeet stands to be all those things when Georgetown travels to Hartford today, as well as a measuring stick of how far the Hoyas have come and how far they have yet to go in this season of rebuilding.

With an NBA prospect at every position, the second-ranked Huskies (11-0) are favored in the Big East opener for both schools. But Georgetown (9-1) has emerged as the most surprising team in the conference, marching steadily up the standings each week on the grit and guile of its defense.

Projected to finish seventh among the Big East's 16 teams, the Hoyas have already vaulted ahead of conference rivals Louisville, Villanova and Marquette in the Associated Press poll.

Georgetown Coach John Thompson III dismisses early-season polls as nothing more than a popularity contest. If so, the Hoyas have happily proved themselves more capable than liked, ranked 12th behind only Connecticut, No. 3 Pittsburgh and No. 8 Notre Dame among conference teams.

Much of the credit goes to freshman center Greg Monroe and sophomore point guard Chris Wright, who have exceeded expectations in filling the major vacancies on the Hoyas' roster.

Wichita State Coach Gregg Marshall called Monroe, who is averaging 12.4 points per game, "one of the best -- if not the best -- freshman centers in the nation."

"His potential is limitless," Marshall said following the Hoyas' 58-50 victory in Thanksgiving weekend's Old Spice Classic.

And Sergio Rouco, coach of Florida International, called Wright the best player his team had faced in a season that has included games against Washington, UCLA and Miami.

"He's special," Rouco said of Wright, who is averaging 13.2 points and playing with a swagger and authority well beyond his years. "He runs his team, he gets to the cup and he's making jump shots. He's so hard to guard because he is so strong."

Both will be facing Connecticut for the first time: Monroe, as a freshman; Wright, having missed the Big East season his rookie year because of a foot injury.

Asked if his squad is ready for the veteran Huskies, Thompson simply says: "We are as ready as we can be."

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