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Thursday, November 19, 2009
JT3 wants Hoyas to be tested with schedule


You can't stress enough how much John Thompson III has changed the culture of scheduling at Georgetown.

The Hoyas' opener at Tulane, a decent Conference USA team, was better than scheduling some weak 250-plus power-rating puff. Taking on reshuffling Temple, which is always a drain, was next on the schedule. Georgetown won both of those games.

On Saturday, the Hoyas will face a road game at Savannah State. Then it's a supposedly easy stretch of games against Lafayette, Mount St. Mary's and American at home before the brutal part of the schedule hits with Butler in New York at the Jimmy V, Washington at the Wooden Classic in Anaheim and home against CAA favorite Old Dominion. "I put this schedule together because I wanted this team to be tested,'' said JT3. His Hoyas were hot early last year (defeated Maryland in Orlando, Memphis at home and won at Connecticut), but they flamed out in the Big East by finishing with a 7-11 record.

"I wanted to see who we were,'' JT3 said. "It's not the normal opening stretch. What we didn't do at Tulane is better ourselves. The game against Temple was ugly as both teams played good defense. We had to hold on to win. I wanted to see how this team would handle adversity, grow from these situations and how they'd deal with it. This schedule is by design to give us adversity since that's the way our league works.''

What we learned about Georgetown against Temple is that sophomore center Greg Monroe can take over the game when he needs to -- which may be every time out.

Monroe deposited the winning bucket on a drive to the hoop. On the ensuing Temple possession, he snuffed out Luis Guzman's attempt at winning the game with 1.3 seconds left.

Monroe finished with 11 points and nine boards in the 46-45 victory over the Owls. "That's what we can expect,'' JT3 said of Monroe being the guy for the Hoyas on both ends of the court.

The Hoyas had to play defense for 35 seconds and had to be disciplined and patient as points were at a premium.

But that was against Temple. Now, if for some reason the Hoyas can't score more than 50 points when they're not as handcuffed, then there is an issue. Butler could pose that threat, but Washington won't. So, we'll learn more about the Hoyas in the coming weeks. That's something that might not be the case with other contenders in high-major leagues if they're not testing themselves like Georgetown is doing the first month.

• Gonzaga lost five games prior to the NCAA tournament last season. If Robert Sacre was healthy, the Zags may have lost only three.

That's Mark Few's opinion. The Gonzaga coach said Sacre's impact on last season's team, as a complimentary player to Josh Heytvelt, was understated. "People have selective memories,'' Few said Wednesday, following the Zags' near miss at Michigan State the previous night. "We rolled through Orlando last year with him when he was healthy. I really think there were a few games we wouldn't have lost with him last year. We had the counter punch to Heytvelt with him.''

Heytvelt is gone, but Sacre has returned and has more than held his own as the next Zag big man who can handle any assignment. Sacre scored 17 points, made 7 of 12 shots,and grabbed four boards in competing against the rotation of bigs for the Spartans. "He's always been a physical entity who has worked really hard,'' Few said. "The post moves come natural to him. He's a physical entity who we didn't have last year.''

Sacre is a third-year sophomore. German national Elias Harris is a 20-year old freshman. The two "experienced" and new fulltime players in the rotation are making this team seem less green next to senior guard Matt Bouldin. Harris was smooth in scoring 17 points, grabbing nine boards and making 6 of 16 shots against Michigan State. "He's as good as we have had,'' Few said of Harris. "He's a good, tough, hard-nosed competitive dude.''

This Gonzaga team isn't in the Top 25 and is not nearly as hyped as previous teams.

Yet, this one looked like it played harder and smarter than previous ones. I was down in Orlando last year, and that Zag team was more physical than Tennessee (which wasn't as great a claim to fame since last season's Vols team faded).

But the Zags' physicality at the Breslin Center was at another pitch. We'll see if they can sustain that next week in Maui, where they will be, along with Maryland and Vanderbilt, one of the favorites to win the Maui Invitational championship (I wouldn't count out Arizona or Cincinnati, either).

• After watching Butler's 67-54 win at depleted Northwestern, it's hard not seeing the Bulldogs as a legit Final Four contender. They don't get rattled, have veteran leadership and simply make shots. For the Wildcats, scoring is going to be a strain at times without Kevin Coble (out for the year with a foot injury).

• Yet another reason why I don't buy that NC State coach Sidney Lowe is in trouble: His recruiting class is No. 12.

• It's impressive that Cornell won at UMass with Ryan Wittman going 1-for-8 from the floor. The Big Red got a big night from Louis Dale (24 points) in the 74-61 win. Cornell has now won at Alabama and at UMass.

• Memphis coach Josh Pastner couldn't have been happier on Wednesday after his team's near miss against Kansas on Tuesday. Pastner said Elliot Williams has been a solid leader. That was clear in his performance against the Jayhawks. He led the Tigers by making -- and taking -- the big shots. Pastner said Williams' game-winning attempt was a great look. But the coach couldn't get over how much of a load Cole Aldrich was in the middle. If the Tigers are to be successful this season, they must use their speed and quickness to survive because they are depleted up front. It worked for all but one shot on Tuesday night.

• Rough start for Holy Cross' Sean Kearney. The Crusaders' two losses are against Harvard and Saint Joseph's, two teams that might be better than advertised.

• Some new stars emerged Tuesday:

• Michigan State's Durrell Summers: 21 points and 11 boards in win over Gonzaga.

• Elliot Williams as a dominant player, now with the Tigers instead of Blue Devils (21 points against Kansas).

• Louisville guard, and former Mississippi State transfer, Reginald Delk (20 points vs. Arkansas).

• Freshman Brandon Paul continues to lead Illinois (20 points vs. Northern Illinois).

• Boston College's Tyler Roche, who scored 30 in one game and 19 in the next, as the Eagles played the first two without three suspended players.

• Pitt's Ashton Gibbs (22 points vs. Binghamton), who led the Jamie Dixon-coached Under 19 team to Olympic gold in New Zealand.

• Iowa State's Lucca Staiger goes for 32 (including 10 3s) in a win over Drake. If Staiger is a scorer, then the Cyclones have three legit options on offense (including Craig Brackins and Marquis Gilstrap.

• Arizona State's Eric Boateng (21 points and 12 boards in a win over TCU).

• Xavier's Jordan Crawford, the former Indiana guard, scored 24 in a blowout win over Bowling Green.

• New Mexico's Phillip McDonald scored 27 in the win at New Mexico State.

• Iowa lost at home to Duquesne to fall to 0-2 in the CBE Classic (the Hawkeyes also lost to UT-San Antonio). It doesn't matter. Iowa is going to Kansas City next week to play Texas, while Wichita State plays Pitt in the semifinals.