Imagining back in October Mikael Hopkins, Aaron Bowen and Stephen Domingo as keys to a late January clash between Georgetown and Villanova would have seemed loopy. Discussing all three in the context of their outside touch would not be a discussion worth having.
Of course, few could have imagined the Hoyas (11-8, 3-5 Big East) entering the matchup on a four-game losing streak and without two starters. Seeing those three forwards let loose from distance against a suspect 3-point defense is now an option worth exploring.
Tipoff against the highly-ranked Wildcats (17-2, 6-1) goes at 9 p.m. from the Verizon Center.
Following Saturday night's loss at Creighton, the Hoyas barely had enough time to prep for their longtime conference foe, let alone hold media availability. Since the Q&A opportunity didn't take place, we'll use this space to ponder outside-the-box ideas for the struggling Hoyas can do. Let's also acknowledge that at this point the shorthanded roster may simply not have enough pieces to fix the puzzle.
Georgetown doesn't have enough viable shooters, this much we know. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who leads the team with a 45.4 clip, Markel Starks and Reggie Cameron can fill up the basket from long range. Opposing coaches are certainly aware of this. They come armed with plans to crowd the shooters at the line and attempt to steer them inside the arc where other defenders await.
Those other defenders await penetrators or those looking to post-up because they're not guarding the Hoyas' frontcourt, especially when Mikael Hopkins, Nate Lubick or Aaron Bowen drift outside.
"The way teams are playing us, when we throw it inside because they aren't guarding the other guys as hard on the perimeter, whoever gets the ball in the paint has three guys standing in his lap," Thompson said following last Monday's overtime loss to Marquette. "We have to figure out how to play out of that."
Villanova famously allowed Creighton to make 21 of 35 3-pointers in its first conference loss last week. Obviously Georgetown can't match Creighton in terms of shooters. However defending the 3-point shot has been area of weakness for the Wildcats this season. Opponents shoot 35.6 from beyond the arc and six other teams besides Creighton made at least eight 3's against the Wildcats this season.
The basic design of any offense is to create open shot opportunities. Georgetown is having no problem doing that. Well, they're having no issue doing that when it's one of those aforementioned forwards receiving the pass on the perimeter. Defenses know they have little interest in taking such shots.
Without any true low post game with Smith out, Georgetown's best hope for offensive balance is for others to get hot from 3 or at least appear threatening.
As a perimeter threat, nobody will confuse Hopkins with Creighton's Doug McDermott. The junior made 2 of 6 from beyond the arc in conference play. He missed his lone attempt in Big East. Even making one 3-pointer a game can make defenders take an extra step his way on the next one. That one step could allow the 6-foot-9 forward to find better position inside where he's more effective or open a lane for Smith-Rivera and Starks.
Bowen has been less shy about taking such attempts (6 for 25), but those shots are not often taken in rhythm because his first instinct isn't to take them. Seeing as the senior swingman is shooting 40 percent (4 of 10) in Big East games, maybe it should be.
Domingo has barely played enough in his 1 1/2 years with the program for outside observers to know what he can or can't do. The small forward entered college with a positive shooting reputation. He's been erratic at both ends when given time, but his on-court run often ends abruptly following a mistake or two. Given the overall scenario and the opponent, perhaps now is the time to let Domingo play through his mistakes and see if that reputation was legitimate.
Ideally, Hopkins and Bowen would not fire away from deep. Ideally Domingo would have impressed Thompson enough to earn those minutes. Obviously nothing is ideal with the current circumstances. With this particular matchup, perhaps it's time to give them the green light.