Hoyas being aided by strong bench play
Way back when - like early last week - VCU held the head honcho look within the DMV college basketball universe. The Rams held a national ranking, a 13-game winning streak and unlike the other teams in the region, avoided mood swinging results. Some projected Shaka Smart's reign would last and last.
Yeah, we should have known better. Two straight losses later combined with notable results elsewhere knocked the Rams out of the No.1 perch. That's how this season has gone, that's where this season is headed. Even though it will never receive a vote, uncertainty rises above all.
With that said, some teams rocked (Georgetown, Virginia, George Washington), some got rolled (Maryland, Towson) and others typified the random nature of the local 2012-13 season (George Mason, Richmond). All together, certainly enough wiggle room for differing opinions. Indeed, no two ballots submitted by our panel of local and national media types and college basketball bloggers were alike.
For our purposes, we included programs in D.C. and around the Beltway, north to Baltimore, south to Richmond and Norfolk (essentially the Comcast SportsNet region) plus all Division I spots (27 overall) in between. I asked each voter for his or her top five teams and to share the reasons why they picked whom they picked. Ranked teams listed below, followed by total points, followed by first place votes, followed by my musings along with those from my fellow hoop heads.
1) Georgetown (55, 11 1st place votes)
*The standard question floating around the Hoyas is rather simple: how are they doing this without Greg Whittington??? Several factors arguably could be the primary answer, from Georgetown's consistently stingy defense to Otto Porter's aggressive streak to a suddenly deeper bench. Here's a subtle consideration: no longer are the Hoyas starting four frontcourt players, but rather a traditional two-guard look which transforms into a three-guard attack in crunch time (against Louisville, Georgetown even used a four-perimeter player lineup). More ball handlers and natural passers has equated to better ball movement. Combined with more man-to-man defensive looks -- apparent fallout from not having Whittington's length covering the 3-point arc --, Georgetown is now frequently playing with a quicker - and desired - pace. (Ben Standig)
* VCU is still one notch ahead of Georgetown in the RPI (38/39). Maybe the RPI needs to factor in a heat index. (Kevin Dunleavy, Washington Examiner)
* There may not be a team that epitomizes the ups & downs of this college hoops season more than Georgetown. They lose to USF & then beat #24 Notre Dame on the road & #5 Louisville at home. Otto Porter Jr. has been great, scoring in double digits in each of his last five games. With Seton Hall, St. Johns & Rutgers coming up, the Hoyas should regain Top 25 status. (Steven Spector, ESPN 980)
* The Hoyas knocked off two ranked opponents in Notre Dame and Louisville this week to ascend back to a familiar spot in the DMV Rankings. How much does this have to do with JT3 and his Hoyas finding a way to win without Greg Whittington - and how much is due to the return of this poll? It's really too close to call. (Bobby Bancroft, 106.7 The Fan)
* A week that saw VCU lose to both Richmond and LaSalle and the Hoyas crush Notre Dame and vanquish Louisville is enough to put Georgetown back atop this poll, where frankly it should remain for the rest of the season. The Hoyas may struggle to find consistency on offense, but they aren't losing to Richmond or LaSalle. (Andrew Geiger, Casual Hoya)
2) VCU (43)
*This stat (courtesy of CollegeBasketballTalk.com) epitomizes VCU's pressure tactics: When the Rams force at least 15 turnovers, undefeated, 16-0. When they don't, 0-5. (Standig)
* The last time VCU lost two games in Richmond in a span of three days, Shaka Smart was in preschool. (Dunleavy)
*Dropped just one spot despite back-to-back losses to Richmond and LaSalle. If that doesn't show you just how soft the current state of local hoops is right now, nothing will. (Bancroft)
3) Maryland (30)
*Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, I'll simply steer everyone to J.P. Finlay's article on the Terps upcoming game against Florida State. Scuffling offense receives a mention. (Standig)
* No disgrace in losing at Cameron Indoor after Duke needed a win - or witness protection from Coach K! (Scott Jackson, ESPN 980)
*They faced Duke at the wrong time down at Cameron Indoor Stadium and sit at 3-4 in the ACC. They really struggle at point guard and until that problem is solved, their offense will continue to suffer. (Spector)
4) Virginia (16)
*Defense always leads the way in Charlottesville during the Tony Bennett era. That does not mean anyone should be blasé about the Cavaliers ranking second nationally in scoring defense (51.1 ppg). Not sure where they rate in scoring margin over the last three games, but 16.7 points is an imposing number. Virginia aims for a fourth straight double-digit Tuesday night against North Carolina State, the highest scoring team in the ACC. (Standig)
* I know they lost in November to George Mason and in December to Old Dominion, but they’ve now won consecutive ACC games by 20, 16, and 14. No other team in the league has won three straight conference games by double-digits. (Dunleavy)
5) Richmond (8)
*Everyone is aware the Spiders stunned cross-town rival VCU in overtime fashion on the heels of a decisive romp over Charlotte. Fewer are cognizant of Richmond landing on the wrong end of a 14-2 game-ending run in a subsequent loss at UMass. Like just about every team in the A10, the Spiders are in the regular season title chase. Will they be after consecutive games against Temple and Xavier is the question. (Standig)
*I had them in my No. 5 spot last week but even with the huge win at home over VCU, they do not move up. This was a coin flip with George Mason who has a better overall & conference record, but the win over VCU gives the Spiders the edge. (Spector)
6) George Washington (5)
*Last week I wrote about Colonials freshman point guard Joe McDonald and his pressure-packed production. Perhaps the most impressive member of the 2012 class shined in George Washington's stunning 28-point romp over Atlantic 10-leading Charlotte. Patricio Garino scored 16 points and made all six of his field goal attempts including two 3-pointers. Considered the Colonials' top perimeter defender, the 6-foot-6 Argentine also had four steals in the Foggy Bottom-ers third straight win which put George Washington into a five-way tie for second place.
* Saturday against Charlotte the Colonials looked like – dare we say with four freshmen in the starting lineup – a contender for the Atlantic-10 title. They’ve won three straight, including two on the road. (Dunleavy)
Others receiving votes: Towson (4), George Mason (2), Virginia Tech (1)
Voters (with links to their respective Twitter profiles): Nicole Auerbach (USA Today), Bobby Bancroft (106.7 The Fan/CBS), Brendan Darr (106.7 The Fan/CBS), Rob Dauster (CollegeBasketballTalk/NBC Sports), Rich Dubroff (CSNbaltimore), Kevin Dunleavy (Washington Examiner), JP Finlay (CSNwashington), Andrew Geiger (Casual Hoya), Michele Gordon (Comcast SportsNet), Ryan Kish (GMUhoops) Steven Spector (ESPN 980), Ben Standig (CSNwashington)