At the risk of imitating the little boy who stared at the emperor parading grandly down the street and said "But he isn't wearing any clothes!" I know that Georgetown is a wonderful basketball program. I know this year's team has two NBA lottery picks. I know the Hoyas play terrific defense, better perhaps than anybody in the country . . .
But they don't score any points!
What benefit is there in keeping your opponents from scoring if you don't score either?
Last week Georgetown scored a total of 105 points in two games. None of last week's other top 25 teams scored fewer than 127 in two games.
For those of you tempted to think there was something in the Gatorade that the top Big East teams drink, Syracuse scored 207; Pittsburgh got 167; St. John's, 149; Seton Hall, 146.
Nevada-Las Vegas, which also has two NBA lottery picks, scored 184 points. North Carolina, which runs a deliberate offense, got 172. Even Princeton, which hasn't looked to score since Bill Bradley left, had 138.
Georgetown had 105.
Come on, it's a 45-second clock, not a 45-minute clock.
This isn't a drought, it's California.
Anybody got Mouse Davis's phone number?
Georgetown has never been Body By Westhead, but this is ridiculous. The Hoyas are averaging 64 points a game in Big East play, 10 points under the rest of the league -- nearly 15 points under what they averaged last season. Georgetown has finished in the 50s six times in 12 Big East games -- the 50s! Nobody else has ended up down there more than three times. Adding insult to injury, the scoring dearth comes when the Hoyas' Big East foul shooting percentage (76.5) is higher than ever.
Before you get fed up with these numbers, try one last set: Alonzo Mourning, unquestionably the most highly coveted recruit in the country three years ago, is averaging 11.4 points a game in Big East play -- fewer than he did as a freshman or sophomore. In eight league games he has taken just 57 shots, and never made more than five field goals. In his last two games, against UConn and Seton Hall, Mourning made one field goal! For a starter, that's dubious. For a lottery pick, it's unbelievable.
People are reluctant to criticize Georgetown in this city, because any such criticism is regularly seen as an attack on John Thompson. Thompson has become somewhat of a sacred cow owing to his stunning success and his strong, stand-up principles. So let's try to separate the team from the program. We're not talking about graduation rates, we're talking about shooting percentages. Other good teams -- say Vegas, Indiana and Kansas -- play defense and score. It's not illegal.
Part of Mourning's problem is that he missed nine games with a foot injury. Part is that he's seeing collapsing zones that never have to expand if nobody can sink jump shots. Georgetown's primary outside shooters -- Joey Brown, Charles Harrison and Ronny Thompson -- are making 36.1 percent, often on uncontested shots since defenses concentrate on Mourning and Georgetown's other lottery pick, Dikembe Mutombo. Part is that Mourning and Mutombo don't seem to complement each other offensively. "There's very little interaction between them, either screening for each other or passing to each other," said one NBA scout. "Alonzo doesn't look like a happy camper out there. He was a better player when he tried out for the Olympic team than he is now. Then, he was an intimidating, ferocious player." Now, Mourning's averaging 11.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots in the conference -- trailing Cedric Lewis's 12.9, 7.7 and 4.7 in the ACC for Maryland. When did you ever think you'd see those two names in the same sentence?
The lack of shooting on this Georgetown team is reminiscent of the problem Thompson's 1988 Olympic team had after Hersey Hawkins was injured. Nobody can thrive against sagging zones by shooting 36.1 from the outside. The case is made how Georgetown is suffering because it starts three freshmen -- Brown, Harrison and Robert Churchwell -- and quickly brings in a fourth, Lamont Morgan. But those freshmen wouldn't have to play this much if Georgetown hadn't been shredded by transfers. John Turner and Wake Forest's Anthony Tucker, who scored 31 against Duke on Sunday, would be seniors. Michael Tate-Venson, Milton Bell and last season's starting point guard, David Edwards, would be playing. Sometimes, the price of being a domineering coach like Thompson -- and like Bobby Knight, who has also signed several transfer requests -- is an attrition you have to live with.
Previous Georgetown teams overcame their lack of shooting by hounding opponents into turnovers, and scoring transition baskets in bunches. This team is on a pace to break its own NCAA team defensive record of holding opponents to less than 37 percent shooting. But the bunches haven't come. Uncharacteristically, the Hoyas have committed more turnovers and gotten fewer steals than their opponents. And they are reluctant to commit to full-court pressure; not only is it risky speed-wise with twin towers on the court, but the swarming, slapping nature of the effort could put the big men in foul trouble. When the patented pressure does come, Big East opponents seem less fazed by it, because they've seen it before. The defense is better than ever, but the intimidation seems to have eroded. On offense, Georgetown still hasn't figured out a way to showcase Mourning and Mutombo.
The numbers say Georgetown has become mortal, particularly on the road. In the most balanced Big East ever, Georgetown is 2-4 away from home. Factoring out their four Division II opponents, the Hoyas are a respectable yet uninspiring 11-8 vs. Division I teams. Quality victories over Duke, Pitt, St. John's and Seton Hall will get the Hoyas in the NCAAs, where, with two lottery picks, anything can happen. But disturbingly late in the season this is a team -- unlike Georgetown teams we've come to cherish -- whose whole is perplexingly less than the sum of its parts.