Are You Experienced?
Jan. 7, 2011
Are You Experienced?
Generally when I write one of these Hoop Club blog posts, I take a look at the opponent and dive straight into two opposing sources of information. One’s subject to wild interpretation, unsupported hypotheses, and the occasional delusion. The other is cold, analytic, rational, and meticulous. The first is my memory, and the other is KenPom.com. Both are useful for coming up with good blog copy that starts off “The last two times these teams met…” but today, as the Hoyas sit at 1-2 in the Big East and prepare to meet West Virginia on Saturday, they’re both pointing me toward the idea of Experience.
The Them vs. The Us
West Virginia is certainly an experienced squad. While Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks may be gone, the Mountaineers start two seniors and two juniors, with both juniors (Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones) returning starters from last year’s team that won the Big East Tournament on its way to the Final Four. Off the bench, grad student Joe Mazzulla, who John Reagan accurately described as seemingly around since the days of Mike Gansey and Kevin Pittsnogle, remains the Mountaineers’ do-everything sixth-man Overall, West Virginia is the 3rd-oldest team in the conference, and just outside the top 20 in the country. The only two Big East squads with more upperclassman representation? St. John’s and Notre Dame.
As for the Hoyas, while the Mountaineers may have the more recent Final Four pedigree, I still put my faith in a senior-led backcourt with enough big-game and Big East experience to know how to correct the recent shooting slump that has led to the Hoyas’ stumble out of the gate. After three seasons, our seniors know that nothing is given easily in college basketball’s toughest conference, and every game offers something new to learn and improve.
The GU-West Virginia Experience
Hoop Club Blogfather John Hawkes has discussed the unique feeling of attending a game in Morgantown before. In his 2009 column he wrote that West Virginia games don’t live up to the standard of games against Syracuse or burgeoning rival Pitt. While I would agree that nothing could ever match the intensity and passion of Georgetown-Syracuse, recent history suggests that the Hoyas and Mountaineers are capable of producing a memorable experience when they square off. John mentions the 2007 “Grabby incident” between then-WVU coach John Beilein and Patrick Ewing Jr. The following year’s game at Morgantown became even more memorable for Pat’s last-second, game-saving block and the ensuing crowd reaction, as the Hoyas escaped the floor and the Georgetown fans headed quickly for the exits and the safety of a bus back to DC. As one of the Hoya fans in attendance in Morgantown that night, it was the first of two of the most intimidating post-game experiences I can recall in five years of road-tripping to follow the Hoyas (though fortunately it didn’t involve ducking flying trash).
You’d be forgiven for being disappointed in the excitement of the GU-WVU games that would follow: a comfortable 72-55 Hoya win in the semifinals of the 2008 BET, followed by 17- and 13-point Mountaineer triumphs in the 2009 and 2010 regular season matchups. Despite the lack of immediately recent late-game drama, I knew enough to expect an exciting game when the Hoyas and Mountaineers met under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden in the Big East’s biggest stage during the 2010 BET Championship Game. The game didn’t disappoint, with the Hoyas mounting comeback after comeback in the second half to keep the Mountaineers from pulling away, and Austin Freeman (who else) hitting a clutch 3 with 51 seconds left to tie the game at 56-56, a week after his diabetes diagnosis. Unfortunately an eighth Big East Tourney crown was not in the cards for the Hoyas that night, but even in the loss - with Da’Sean Butler knocking down a jumper in the lane with 4.2 seconds left and Chris Wright’s buzzer-beating response inches off the mark - the Hoyas and Mountaineers had delivered another classic.
I would have loved to be in the building for that game and remember looking for last-minute airfare to get to Penn Plaza in time. As a West Coast alum, I had the greatest experience short of being there: with close friends and 50 other Hoyas packing the Bus Stop in San Francisco. It was a great game, the sort of matchup that makes the Big East Tournament one of my favorite sporting events, and demonstrative of the sort of drama and excitement Georgetown-West Virginia is capable of.
Georgetown and West Virginia square off for the 50th time tomorrow at 11 AM at the Verizon Center, where both teams will be looking to improve to 2-2 in the early Big East season. West Virginia’s, shall we say, vocal fan support and large contingent of traveling fans are well known to frequent Verizon Center attendees. With students still on winter break and the team facing a vitally important early game, it will be critical to have the Georgetown faithful out in full voice backing the Hoyas. Make sure to pack the Booth! The louder the crowd, and the more frequently Hoya threes drop through the net, the greater the experience will be for all.
Paul Campbell (MSB 09)