Sixth-ranked Georgetown has been a team for all basketball tempos this season, winning with full-court pressure and a fast break and succeeding also at a slower pace, or with a delay game.
This week, basketball aficionados want to know which style of play the Hoyas (29-6) will employ against 20th-ranked Louisville (23-9) in Saturday's NCAA national semifinal game at the Superdome in New Orleans. But Georgetown Coach John Thompson isn't saying publicly which tactic the Hoyas will use against a team whose best assets are its speed, physical abilities and depth.
"I don't know a lot about them," Thompson insisted at a press conference yesterday at McDonough Arena, three days after Louisville gained the final four with a victory over Alabama-Birmingham in the Mideast Regional final.
"I know they have depth and they use it. They get four new faces on the floor in a hurry and depend a lot on their pressure defense. I really haven't made up my mind about the match-ups."
When reminded that Louisville had problems with teams that had legitimate centers, Thompson replied, "At one time Louisville had problems with a lot of things.
"Center is just one position. Since they were losing at one time, that happened to be one problem people hopped on. When we lost those three games in a row, a 5-foot-2 guy could have given us trouble. Remember, three of the four teams in the final four had difficulties at the same time (Only North Carolina (30-2), which plays Houston (25-7) in the 3:39 p.m. EST opening game, did not). All of us were in a slump."
While Thompson mulls over his strategy, he has to feel confident of his 7-foot freshman center Patrick Ewing, who is at least four inches taller than Louisville's tallest starter. During the season, Louisville lost to 6-11 Steve Stipanovich-led Missouri, 6-9 Terry Cummings-led De Paul, 7-4 Ralph Sampson-led Virginia and dropped two of three games to 6-10 Keith Lee-led Memphis State.
Louisville Coach Denny Crum, who won the national title two seasons ago with four of the five starters on the current team, admitted his charges might have problems containing Ewing but doesn't plan to alter his game plan.
"I really don't know how to handle the guy. We don't have anyone big enough to handle him one on one," Crum said. "We'll just have to get a lot of help and try to double-team him where we can. Hopefully, keep the ball out of his hands as much as possible, as much as we can."
Oregon State tried that strategy on Saturday. Ewing scored 13 points and had three rebounds (in only 22 minutes), but was so intimidating in the middle defensively, the Beavers abandoned their inside attack. Hoya guard Eric Floyd took advantage of the Beavers' sagging defense and scored 22 points in the 69-45 victory for the West Regional title.
"I watched a tape of their game with Oregon State," Crum said. "I am very impressed with Ewing's talent. Pointing to one individual is something we try not to do. It detracts from other things. And trying to get a guy in foul trouble never seems to work when you try that stuff. We played Oregon State (OSU won, 62-56) so I know how good they were. And to watch Georgetown dismantle them . . . needless to say, they got our attention."
Thompson always has maintained he doesn't worry so much about his opponents but concentrates on preparing his team.
"We plan to do the same things we've always done," Thompson said. "You don't change anything at this stage."
One of the things that has worked best for the Hoyas this season is a full-court press. The Cardinals are not among the better ball-handling teams, averaging 17 turnovers per game. Georgetown's defense has forced an average of 19 turnovers per game.
"We've played with it and against it," said Crum, referring to both his and Thompson's press.