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Ohio Bobcats NCAA Tournament Preview

#14 Ohio vs. #3 Georgetown, Thursday, 7:25 PM


In Athens, Ohio, a popular weekend event is ‘Dance or Die.’ Over the course of Ohio’s magical MAC tournament run it went more like ‘Do or Die if you want to dance.’ Four upsets over the course of a week propelled the ninth-seeded Bobcats to a surprising conference crown. Now the magical run runs into a Big East powerhouse, the Georgetown Hoyas, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

It’ll be a 3 vs. 14 matchup Thursday night in Providence. Georgetown draws a three seed after a strong Big East conference tournament showing. The Hoyas were the powerful Big East’s eighth seed. They upset top seed Syracuse in the quarters, then handled Marquette in the semis before falling victim to another clutch Da’Sean Butler game-winner in the Championship game loss to West Virginia.

Georgetown is a strong three seed, one that many thought could or should have received a two seed. The Hoyas have had their ups (wins over Duke, Villanova and Syracuse) and downs (losses to Rutgers and South Florida). When they are playing well, the Hoyas are very difficult to beat. The problem is that they have been inconsistent. After a 15-3 start to the season, matters began to turn sour. That good start was countered with a 5-6 finish to the regular season. You can’t help but wonder about a team that beats top five Duke at home then follows it with a loss to South Florida. However, Georgetown is once again on a positive streak with four out of five wins in the Big East Tournament.

A team lacking depth, Georgetown is dependent on its big three of Greg Monroe, Chris Wright and Austin Freeman. Monroe is extremely talented and a surefire NBA lottery pick. Coach John Thompson III has gradually given Monroe greater freedom, allowing him to move inside rather than being stuck on the perimeter in the Princeton offense. The 6-11 Monroe does a lot well, averaging 16.1 PPG, 9.5 RPG and 3.7 APG. The interesting statistic is assists. You usually don’t see that number for a big guy but Monroe is a great passer that can stimulate offense, hitting cutters to the basket.

Austin Freeman’s name has been getting a lot of coverage, as the junior was recently diagnosed with diabetes. He is the team’s leading scorer and can get into a groove despite some struggles in the last month. He is a 53% FG shooter and 45% from downtown, so the Bobcats will have to watch him all over the court.

Rounding out the trio is the Hoyas’ point guard and catalyst to success, Chris Wright. In seven of Georgetown’s ten losses, Wright has been held under 15 points. In the other three, he has taken 17 or 18 shots and made about a third. On the other hand, when Wright is playing well and getting to the basket, Georgetown is doing well. Against Duke, he scored 21, going 8 of 9 from the field. Contrast that with a 2 of 8, six-point performance in the worst loss of the season at Rutgers and you can see Wright’s value. If he starts finding lanes and penetrating easily to the hoop, the Bobcats are going to have their hands full.

As Wright triggers the Hoyas, the guards set the tone for Ohio. Junior Armon Bassett is the only Bobcat with tournament experience. With Indiana, he impressed in the 2008 Tournament, scoring 21 points on 7 of 9 shooting and dishing out seven assists in a first round game against Arkansas. In the MAC Tournament, he was again extremely clutch. Bassett scored 25 or more in all of Ohio’s postseason games, highlighted by a 38-point night in the upset of top seed Kent State. His 116 total points set a MAC Tournament record.

The other guard is freshman phenom D.J. Cooper. The MAC Freshman of the Year has been an integral component to Ohio’s good fortune. He has taken on a big role in his first season, playing the full minutes in some contests. Cooper has flirted with triple-doubles multiple times and is an absolute sparkplug. He seems to always be around the ball, whether it be trying to get a steal or going after a rebound. Cooper struggled in the MAC Tournament until the final game, in which he rediscovered his stroke, scoring 23 and hitting 5 of 9 triples.

But Bassett and Cooper are at their best when they are penetrating to the basket. In the four tournament games, Bassett got to the free throw line ten plus times each game. Whether it’s making a layup or getting a chance at the line, Ohio will need these types of easier points.

Two juniors will continue to be key for Ohio. Tommy Freeman is a sharp shooter and one of the most accurate three-point shooters in the country. If he can sink some threes and get in a rhythm, he is very dangerous. Freeman seems to always draw a charge or two but can be a defensive liability. With Steven Coleman sidelined with injury for the majority of the season, Freeman has been thrust into guarding 3s. Throughout the regular season, MAC 3s from Jimmy Conyers to Scott Thomas victimized Ohio. Coach John Groce has given Asown Sayles more minutes, which has helped with defending this position.

The other junior is the big man DeVaughn Washington. The athleticism of Washington can be exciting to watch. If he gets into the open court, he will run and dunk. He has developed a better mid-range jumper but it’s inconsistent. However, Washington has looked like a different player following a February suspension. Ohio will need him to help control Greg Monroe. If Washington gets into early foul trouble again, freshmen Reggie Keely and Ivo Baltic will be thrust into the limelight.

Also inside will be Ohio’s lone senior Kenneth Van Kempen. Over the years, KVK has received some flack from fans but all he has done is gotten better. He is no longer a liability on the court and has put together solid minutes, getting rebounds and even making some open jumpers.

Let’s not make any bones about this though. It will not be easy for Ohio to win this game. In its only game against the Big East this season, Ohio was crushed by Pittsburgh, 74-49. The Bobcats got down early there and if Georgetown quickly runs out to a double-digit lead, I don’t think the Bobcats can surmount that. However, Georgetown is not unbeatable.

Alex Lau, a freshman at Georgetown and columnist for the student newspaper ‘The Hoya,’ gave me some insight onto how Georgetown can be stopped:



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“Basically, the key to beating Georgetown is shutting down one of their key guys, especially Wright, because then that puts more pressure on Monroe to do all the work, and he's not aggressive nor tough enough to do everything down low. Even though people think Monroe is the key to success, it's really Wright. He can get the team going if he gets on a roll, especially if he starts converting on his drives to the basket, which he's been doing a lot lately. If they work the ball into Monroe though and he's not pressured, then he opens the whole game up for everyone else with his great passing. Really, this team just shoots itself in the foot if it can't get the Princeton offense going. There's a lot of time, passing and discipline that goes into the offense, so if they can't find a rhythm it's bad news. “

Ohio will have to contain this Princeton offense and shut down a couple of the big three Hoyas, as well as wild card sophomore Jason Clark, who is a capable scorer. But don’t forget that this Princeton offense will not be an unseen commodity for Ohio head coach John Groce. As an assistant with Ohio State, Groce has twice in the past five NCAA tournaments been involved in preparing for Thompson III’s version of the Princeton offense.

Georgetown and Ohio are both young teams. Only two Hoyas, Chris Wright and Austin Freeman, have NCAA Tournament experience. While I could see that catching up to them down the line, it won’t here. Armon Bassett will do all he can to will Ohio to victory but the Bobcats are going to struggle offensively facing the Hoyas’ size and length. Georgetown is an extremely efficient offensive team and Ohio will have to play high intensity defense the whole game. Ohio can be proud of the effort it exhibited to get here and I don’t think the Bobcats will be embarrassed but Georgetown is simply too talented and tested to go down here in the first round.


Prediction: Georgetown 78, Ohio 59


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By Connor Kiesel
VanDelay Sports Staff Writer
Published March 16, 2010