John Thompson’s System is Undermining the Georgetown Hoyas

Whatever good vibes Georgetown hoops had given off in the non-conference were just an illusion.

The Hoyas are a dysfunctional mess.

If the first 11 games of offensive lethargy didn’t have you skeptical—maybe the specious 10-1 record masked by one of the nation’s best defenses fooled you—Tuesday’s atrocity was a telltale sign that the veneer of Georgetown’s defense is beginning to lose its effect. The Hoyas tallied more turnovers (16) than field goals (13) during their 73-45 loss to Pittsburgh in the team’s Big East home opener, further evidence that systematic changes to the offense are in need, but likely not in store.

January 8, 2013; Washington, DC USA; Georgetown Hoyas guard Jabril Trawick (55) shoots the ball as Pittsburgh Panthers center Steven Adams (13) defends in the second half at Verizon Center. The Panthers won 73-45. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s an oversimplified analysis of John Thompson’s overcomplicated offense: it doesn’t work with this group. Like any viable marriage, Thompson’s Princeton-based system has a mix of good matches and bad. Score this assembly of Hoyas as one destined for a prompt divorce.

For a team replete with schoolyard ballers, Georgetown’s offense is too formulaic. Thompson’s system inadvertently quells the one-on-one skills and individual freedom that make Otto Porter, Greg Whittington and Markel Starks who they are—namely, coveted players. The philosophy is counterproductive, no less ineffective than giving Picasso instructions on how to paint.

Teams bereft of top-level talent must generate synergy by way of more intricate systems. It’s why so many mid-majors run zones and complex offenses while NBA teams stick to largely amorphous systems. Teams with upper echelon talent need freedom to flourish. Anything to the contrary impedes, not facilitates.

Ever wonder why no other program that ushers in the type of talent Georgetown does on a regular basis runs a variation of the Princeton offense? Because it isn’t tailored for teams armed with NBA talent. When Pete Carril pioneered the system to beat the likes of Yale and Dartmouth, Princeton didn’t have a sure-fire lottery pick like Porter or another league-bound player of Whittington’s ilk. His offense was intended to disguise deficiencies in star-caliber talent. At Georgetown, the reproduction is adversely disguising their best players instead.

Without a stable post presence for the first time since Thompson III took over, Georgetown’s offense is unviable in its current form. If you thought Julian Vaughn was a letdown from Mike Sweetney, Brandon Bowman, Roy Hibbert, Greg Monroe and, in hindsight, Henry Sims, it’s not too late to reassess after watching Mikael Hopkins roam the middle.

Like Vaughn, Hopkins is part of a rare breed of Georgetown bigs that doesn’t pass well out of the pinch post, which is a staple to an offense that relies so heavily on backdoor cutting action. But unlike Vaughn, who held his own on the glass and had some semblance of an offensive game, Hopkins has no redeeming value on the floor. He can’t score, isn’t a particularly imposing rim protector and rebounds like a guard. Could Moses Ayegba really be that raw?

Thompson could justify preserving his system two weeks ago, when Georgetown’s lone blemish was an overtime loss to then-top-ranked Indiana. After an 0-2 start in conference play compounded by more of the same stagnant offense, however, all bets are off.

The Hoyas head coach is trying to shoehorn a roster stocked with NBA prospects into a system designed for Ivy League talent. Somewhere, Pete Carril is rolling his jaded eyes. This old Princeton hat isn’t cutting it on a high-major outfit, which is news to no one save for one prominent figure stalking the sidelines in D.C.

Topics: Basketball, Georgetown Hoyas

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