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Battle of the Dogs: Georgetown at Butler

In another true battle of giants, the mighty Georgetown Hoyas head into Hinkle Fieldhouse to take on the Butler Bulldogs. Now, these are two programs I care a ton about, and well with these seasons not going to plan, and both teams likely not playing postseason basketball, I wanted to talk about the futures of these teams. So, I sent out this tweet:

I sent this out and got a couple of responses. Shoutout to those who dropped questions, let's get to it.

The easiest answer is probably this (which I think has to be playing a factor).

But, to try to play a bit of devil's advocate for a second: there’s a chance that there’s something that we don’t know. I’ve tried to ask around and you really don’t get much more than “there could be something we don’t see.”


The main example I have is when this team was in Atlantis and played 6 guys, they had the ability to play Myles Tate, to eat minutes when you are playing 3 games in as many days, and chose not to. He wasn’t hurt, he was the dreaded DNP-CD (Did Not Play- Coaches Decision, I’ve said it a lot like this and never explained it, that’s my bad), and there could be a reason behind it. I have no idea why and don’t really want to speculate on it (promised minutes could certainly/likely is a part of this), but there could be something there. Either that or the staff is incredibly stubborn, who knows?


Butler first, my read was Coach Matta was just coming back for the short term. 5ish years, just enough to get the program back to a decent spot and then hand it off to a capable successor. I didn’t think he, after leaving Ohio State with health problems, was going to stand in for like ten years. I could be wrong, but this was always my read and after this season, definitely hasn’t changed.


Georgetown: I mean he has to be the first call. At this point, if you are Georgetown, your main goal has to be to get back to relevancy ASAP. No risk, hire a safe bet short term, and hope they can get the program back on track. Georgetown hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2015 and hasn’t made a Sweet 16 since 2007. They have made one NCAA Tournament in the last eight years, just two in the last ten.


For a program of Georgetown’s magnitude, that’s unacceptable. That’s why you have to make a hire and bring someone in who can use the transfer portal well and right the ship immediately. That has to be the goal.


If it isn’t Pitino, I don’t know. You probably look to take someone from another high major program (don’t take Dawkins or Brey, plz) and go from there. If that fails and they go the mid-major route, guys like Ron Hunter and LeVelle Moton would be some of my first calls. They fit the culture the program desires to build, and if they can win it would be exactly what this school wants. It’s a massive risk at this point (and there are certainly a couple of names I missed, these are just the guys I thought of first), but if you strike out, these guys are some solid backup options.

I’ll add my thoughts on this too, why not. I don’t think Thad takes this job. I don’t think Ohio State wants him back. He missed the tournament two years in a row and at that program, that’s unacceptable. The health issues certainly impacted his ability to coach (as did losing future All-American Keita Bates-Diop for the season, but nobody points that out), so they agreed to part ways. I don’t think they look to bring him back.


I’d be stunned if Coach Matta wants to leave. It wouldn’t make sense for either party. He was very committed to rebuilding this program, which gave him his first chance as a coach, and is the school that his kids go/went to. You don’t come out of retirement to move on from a job after one year. @OldTakesExposed, but I will put my foot down and say this absolutely will not happen and will leave it at that.

Yes. 100%. This staff now has a full transfer portal cycle to operate, instead of starting well behind as they did last season. By the time Coach Matta was hired in April (let alone his assistants being hired after, including Coach Ragland accepting the Evansville job), visits were already scheduled on prominent recruits, commitments were made and the pool of transfers had shrunk.


As much as it sucks, there will be transfers after this season. I will not speculate on who, as I think it’s irresponsible as a fan, even more so being blessed with this platform I have. With how the team has performed, there’s no way more guys don’t leave. I’ve heard from a couple of people there will be transfers (no insight on who they are, and even if I had it I wouldn’t tell anyone unless the athlete makes it public), and that’s what I’d expect.


I’m not rooting for it, as in my perfect world the 13 guys here would succeed and have excellent careers. But it’s just the nature of the game. At the end of the day, the players will do what’s best for them and I’ll root for them wherever they end up… unless it’s Syracuse or Duke.


With roster spots opening up, there will be room for this staff to come in and find recruits in the portal. They're already getting ready for this offseason, that I can promise you.

There were a couple of questions here that I feel I addressed before I saw this, so I just put them here. First, some of the recruiting goals. Short-term, transfer portal, long-term, I wish I could tell you. I would think Coach Matta is looking for a specific type of freshman, but I can’t tell you what that is aside from someone who fits his system.


For Jayden Taylor, I don’t know. They might like him as a spark plug off of the bench. I think his rhythm in the last few games should earn him a starting spot for the rest of the season, but only time will tell. I don’t think Ali would have started (or at least should), but if he did, it wouldn’t surprise me if Taylor got starter minutes.


In this matchup specifically, I remember in the first half of the last game Ali Ali isolated a ton on Georgetown’s Akok Akok (yes I did this intentionally) and Akok won just about every matchup. He’s the only Hoya who plays defense. He is the Georgetown defense. Don’t let him beat you, make the other guys have to defend! In this matchup, I think it would be incredibly foolish to start Ali (if he’s active) or use him as anything other than a decoy.


And jerseys are far from my specialty. I was baffled when they were wearing blue (which was for the blue out, but I wasn’t in the know and they were also handing out white towels too cuz Butler), I was confused when Villanova’s warm-ups were white during Butler’s White Out, I’m confused why Butler is the only Big East team with two jerseys (was this one last Friday a third jersey?), etc. I would say I know just as much as you, but that’s a lie because I bet you (you to really anyone reading) know more than I do.

Of course it is! Live from Historic Hinkle FIeldhouse on the Sunday after the Super Bowl (some are calling this the people’s Super Bowl) we have the spectacular Butler Bulldogs taking on the impressive Georgetown Hoyas.


Is there any more you could want? Spotlight of the nation. Two programs that have only one way to go, two teams that are capable of playing exciting games, two teams that…



I lied, no. Absolutely not. I’ve never dreaded a game more. This one reflects how much time I've spent on the 113 and 214 best teams in the country.


More Future Talk:


Butler first here, since I went Georgetown heavy in the last one and poured years of feeling out there.


As a Butler fan, I think you just have to put this season behind you. Being in year three as a student here, it sucks but that’s life. This staff will now have a full transfer portal cycle to operate with, instead of starting well behind. They should be able to bring some guys in and go from there.


This staff brings in two freshmen and both have some solid potential. Bizjack looks the part of a legit high-level talent, and Kapke is going against lesser competition but looks solid. These are two guys who can play and help the program out. I’d expect Bizjack to have a more immediate impact and fight for minutes come day one. He’s up there with the best shooters in this high school class, and that says quite a bit. The dude can really play.


One thing that does have me worried though, is it feels like they’re trying to turn Butler into the destination school. Player development has been something this program thrived on.


Like when you look back at Butler rosters from the past, some of the most important pieces weren’t highly-touted recruits. You look at the 247 all-time commits list, and there are only 3 four-stars. Kamar Baldwin and Sean McDermott were three-stars, Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard weren’t ranked recruits, Shelvin Mack was a three-star, etc. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. Player development has been the foundation of this program.


I remember Coach Matta mentioned it in his introduction speech, and I hope it’s something we see. We’ve seen Simas flourish into a legit talent, and Jayden Taylor has looked leaps and bounds better, so hopefully, this is something that continues on and goes for the entire roster.


To wrap it all up, getting big-time recruits with some awesome numbers next to their name is awesome, and always a good thing. If this model works sustainably I will not complain, but I still think player development is important for the future of any program, especially this one, and I think it has to be taken into account. There’s room for optimism as this is the first offseason that Coach Matta can fully utilize the transfer portal to turn around, I just want to make sure that player development is looked at as a key factor in that.


Georgetown:


You have to move on from Ewing. They can’t possibly ignore it anymore. This roster has legit talent. If the next coach can keep even some of these guys, this team can make the tournament. Ewing can continue to blame the players for his inability to teach a defense (you’ve had like 100 guys run through the program, it’s THEIR fault that you can’t teach a defense, the guys that YOU chose to bring in, really?) and his inability to run a program, but now it’s time to put this disastrous tenure behind us. There’s no choice. You can’t give away tickets to the Capital One Arena, the team consistently loses and the only national media attention you get is because the program is an embarrassment.


I think you have to respect Patrick Ewing as an athlete and as a human being, he’s still a larger-than-life figure, and I’ve been told so many different stories about how awesome he was as a player. You can’t deny that. I won’t try to deny that, or his legacy in building this program. But, he’s fully destroyed it now. I don’t think we can ignore that. It’s going to have to be completely rebuilt.


Look at this roster. On paper, you had: a Top 5 transfer with NBA potential, a former 5-star recruit who is finally fully healthy, a center who won his conference tournament, a legit grad transfer wing who averaged nearly 16PPG last season, a guard who averaged double digits on efficient shooting in both the ACC and Pac-12, multiple four-star highly touted freshmen off the bench along with the Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player at the beginning of the season. Oh, this doesn’t even mention the team’s current leading scorer, who’s seventh in the conference in scoring and second in assists. THIS ROSTER HAS TALENT!!! There’s one reason it’s failing, and it isn’t on the players.

But alas, he is gone. They can’t bring him back. You have to have a clean break from the past. As long as that clean break happens, yes that means Ronny Thompson is gone too, there is reason for optimism. Anytime there is a change in a sports organization, fans will be optimistic. It’s a tale as old as time.


This is the most optimistic I’ve been about Georgetown basketball in a long time. This team is ready. The program needs new energy, and it's happening now. I’m excited. Just bring in the right guy. If they can bring in Slick Rick Pitino, a guy who builds winners (and would undeniably be hilarious as Georgetown's head coach), I’m going to have a hard time not picking them to be a Top 5 Big East team. There are pieces here and more will be brought in. There are guys who can build this program out there. You hired the wrong guy last time, bring someone in who can build a winner.



No Johnny Dawkins, no Tommy Amaker, no Mike Brey (though I 1000% take him over the last two), please.


I’m incredibly excited about this Head Coaching Cycle. A cycle where Georgetown, Syracuse (please leave Boeheim, I need this rivalry back in my life), and St. John's could all open up is just electric. The next coach could establish local recruiting. The next coach will know what defense is, and how to coach it. The next coach has so many opportunities that this staff failed at, and that just makes me incredibly excited. Just have to get through this season.


OVERALL: I will become a transfer portal czar, don’t you worry. I will do my part here, I can guarantee you that. This goes for both teams. I will have time over the summer to do full deep dives, look into everything, and do whatever I can to inform the people on how these programs will bounce back. This season was a warm-up, next season will be ruled by victory. Let’s go!


Ok, now this game.


Point Guard Play


Primo Spears has been one of the most underappreciated players in recent Big East history. The dude wasn’t appreciated for the talent he was as a transfer, there are tons of fans that blame him for Georgetown’s lack of success (if you can’t see it being on the coach, and the guy learning on the job how to truly play PG, I don’t know what to tell you) when in reality he’s the leader this team needed to get their lone conference win. On a half-decent team, a guy like Spears is up there for the All-Big East First team.


Eric Hunter has clearly met his fair share of struggles this season. However, if there’s any game where he can bring back that All-Big Ten Defensive Team form, this is the one. If you shut down Spears, Georgetown’s offense will falter. He initiates just about everything. On offense, Butler needs to move the ball. Iso for iso, Spears wins this battle 100/100 times. If Hunter moves the ball well, Butler’s offense will win. Georgetown’s defense will get confused. It’s really that simple.


This is easily the most important part of this game. If Butler can get into their actions and run an actual offense, they will win with ease. If they don’t move the ball and try to stall this game out by doing nothing, they will lose.


I remember a quote from the Virginia team that won the National Title. I don’t remember who said it (if someone can find this please let me know), but to paraphrase it, it was “we [the UVA offense]” weren’t slow, we were just patient.” Well if you look at KenPom’s tempo stat, they were dead last in the country, so yeah you were slow.


But no, what they meant was, they were always, always working to get a good shot, we didn’t ever intentionally stall. They were in their sets the entire time, the ball was never stalling, they just waited for a perfect shot. That’s the difference. Their offense is always working for a decent shot, vs this offense far too often has the PG dribbling the ball outside the top of the key for the first 15 seconds of the clock, then it’s a scramble before anyone actually moves and before the ball is in scoring position. That’s just slow for the sake of being slow, not patient, efficient offense trying to find a good shot. That Virginia team had the second-best offense in the country, despite playing slow. That’s the difference between a good efficient offense and a slow inefficient one.


If you stall in this one, sure the Georgetown defense stinks and they will probably still falter, but if you let them make mistakes earlier in the shot clock, and hunt to find that great shot, you will score much more effectively. That falls squarely on the Point Guard, the Floor General, the Leader.


Three-Point Line:


I wish I was making this number up, and this 100% solely falls on the players and hasn’t been consistent in the Ewing era (this is sarcasm), but Georgetown’s three-point defense ranks 348, in the entire country. That is the fifth worst (out of 352, according to the NCAA website, I guess a couple of teams aren’t eligible for whatever reason), in the ENTIRE COUNTRY. The only teams that are below them are a 5-21 South Carolina State team (second worst in the MEAC), 8-20 McNeese who’s tied for last in the Southland Conference, 5-20 Delaware State who’s third worst in the MEAC and an 11-17 San Diego team, who actually is quite like this Georgetown team. These teams rank 339, 338, 355 and 206 (5 spots ahead of Georgetown) out of 363 on KenPom.



Opponents on average shoot, and I can’t believe this is real, 38.5% from three against them. I don’t know how he’s managed it, but Ewing has somehow underachieved his already ground-level expectation of “not worst than last year.”


Butler when they shoot better than 38.5% from three is 9-2, and when shoot worse than that percentage is 4-12. So as long as the Bulldogs can hit shots against this Georgetown defense, their optics look pretty solid in this one.


Just Have Fun


Idk I didn’t have a third key to this game, but if you are watching either of these two teams at this point in the season, I have so much respect for you. You are a diehard fan (especially if you got this far in this piece) and deserve praise for your loyalty. You’re awesome.


So, at this point, just find something to enjoy in this game and stick to it. Life’s too short to be miserable. Plus, I will be miserable at this game no matter what, so just laugh at me. That’s fine. But if we can have fun here, that’s a win damnit, and that’s all that matters.


Prediction


I would be betraying my brand if I didn’t pick Georgetown to be winning at halftime. They will be winning at halftime. Sure it hasn’t hit the last few games, but it’s coming back today. Georgetown first half is the brand, and I will be sticking to it.


As a part of this brand though, the other team wins the game. That’s also not changing. Patrick Ewing’s last road win Saturday, February 27, 2021. 722 days ago. A lot has changed in that time. I won’t do the whole “what has changed bit,” that’s for if Georgetown ever actually wins a road game. So yeah, I can’t predict them to win this game. Respect to those of you who do, I won’t be joining you.


Though, I will be predicting this to be a Sicko Special. Close game late, like the last few Butler wins, and some dumb thing just happen and Georgetown finds a way to lose. Going to call my shot and say it’s on a terrible Ewing ATO (after timeout play). Or a charge. One of those two. Maybe then I can get to my “SickoCenter” article I’ve planned out, and even said aloud, but just haven’t gotten to.


Final Score: Butler 72, Georgetown 70


Mac McClung is the GOAT. Love that man.









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