Where has Georgetown's Defense Gone?

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Too much of it is on two different Verizon Center benches.

Georgetown does not have a good offense this year. Just watching the team for a few minutes is enough to demonstrate this, as the Hoyas are so ugly as to be unwatchable on that end. But, they did not have a good offense last year either. In fact, according to Ken Pomeroy, the Hoya offense is actually better this year than it was last year, having improved from 78th to 56th in the nation.

The Hoyas are so much worse than they were last year because their defense is much less effective than it was a year ago. Last season Georgetown was a defensive machine, ranking second in the nation in points allowed per 100 possessions. This year, they are 74th. If their defense was as good as this year’s second best defensive team (Saint Louis), the Hoyas would allow .12 fewer points per possession than they do this year. Combined with this year’s offensive output, this defensive performance would essentially make them Villanova, otherwise known as the ninth-best team in the nation according to Pomeroy.

So why has Georgetown gone from allowing .863 points per possession to allowing .997? There are several reasons.

Offense Has Gone Up for Everybody – The average NCAA team is scoring four points per 100 possessions more than they did last year. That accounts for about 30.0 percent of the raw difference between the two defenses, but it still does not explain why Georgetown is so much worse compared to everybody else this year.

Opponents are Shooting Better – Last year’s Hoyas allowed teams an eFG% of 43.0 percent (shooting percentage adjusted to account for threes). This was the eighth-best performance in the nation. That number has increased to 46.4%, which at 59th in the nation is still good but no longer elite. Effective field goal percentage has increased about a point nationally this year, so we can say that the difference in defenses has been about 2.4 percent worth of effective field goal percentage. That turns out to about 3.5 more points allowed per 100 possessions.

Almost all of the difference has been in defending two point shots. Last year, the Hoyas were fourth in the nation at defending the two, allowing 41.4 percent from inside the arc. That has fallen to 84th in the nation at 45.8 percent. Again, adjusting for the increases offense this year the Hoyas are still 3.4 percent worse in defending the two. Georgetown has fallen from 30.7 percent three point shooting allowed (39th) to 31.7 percent (50th). Adjusting for the increased offense, the Hoya defense has given up an increase of .4 percent on three point shots, which is well within the realm of random chance. The defense on three pointers is essentially unchanged this season.

Teams are taking slightly more three pointers this year than they did last year (35.6 percent to 34.0 percent).

Opponents are turning over the ball less – Last year Hoya opponents turned it over on 22.0 percent of possessions, which was the 47th highest in the nation. This year’s Hoyas force turnovers at only the 153rd highest rate of 18.7 percent. Accounting for the nationwide decrease in turnovers, the Hoyas are still allowing teams 1.9 fewer turnovers per 100 possessions. This is over one free possession a game teams were not getting last year.

Georgetown gets fewer defensive rebounds – Last year Georgetown got 69.0 percent of rebounds on the defensive end. This year they are getting 67.3 percent. That has moved them from 130th to 239th in defensive rebounding. Offensive rebounding is actually down slightly from last year, so the Hoyas are actually allowing about two extra rebounds per 100 possessions. Again, this amounts to over one free possession per game that the Hoyas were not allowing last year.

Fouls – Georgetown ranked 153rd last year by allowing opponents .353 free throws per field goal attempt. That has exploded this year to .523 free throw attempts per field goal attempt, which is 330th out of 351 in the nation. With the new foul rules this year that number has gone up nationally .047 free throw attempts per field goal attempts but even with that adjustment Georgetown’s fouls are way up, as are the free throws attempted against Georgetown.

Also, Georgetown opponents have shot 70.1 percent on free throws this year. Last year that number was 66.7 percent. This is almost certainly dumb luck, but it sure hasn’t gone Georgetown’s way.

Combined these numbers are worth about 6 points allowed per 100 possessions.

So why has this widespread breakdown occurred? In my opinion there are two main reasons.

First, losing Otto Porter hurt more on defense than it did on offense. Porter was a great defensive player. Beyond that he was versatile. He could anchor a zone, or he could play one on one defense on the perimeter or inside. Additionally, he was a terrific defensive rebounder.

Last year, Porter played 84.4 percent of Georgetown’s minutes. Greg Whittington, another great defensive player, played 35.2 percent of the minutes before he was suspended. Defensive ace Jabril Trawick has played 16 percent fewer minutes this year due to injury, and Nate Lubick, one of the team’s better defenders, has played 6.0 percent fewer minutes.

Those minutes have been taken up this year by Aaron Bowen (35.7 percent increase in minutes), D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera (25.9 percent), Moses Ayegba (9.3 percent), Markel Starks (7.2 percent), Mikael Hopkins (2.8 percent) as well as newcomers Reggie Cameron (34.2 percent of team’s minutes played) and Josh Smith (23.8 percent).

Simply put, as a whole, the guys playing this year are worse defenders than the guys who played the same minutes this year. The bulk of the missing minutes have been made up by Bowen, Smith-Rivera, Cameron, and Smith. Smith-Rivera and Bowen are mediocre defenders at best, Cameron is bad, and Smith is unbelievably horrible.

In addition, while Smith-Rivera is a good rebounder for a guard, Cameron, Smith, and Starks are terrible rebounders.

The shift in personnel explains the decline in rebounding and much of the general decline in the inability to prevent open shots.

The second problem is fouls. They have a cascading effect. Obviously, the increased free throws are hurting the team in and of themselves. But they also hurt the interior defense indirectly. The big man trio of Hopkins, Lubick, and Ayegba have absorbed a disproportionate increase in the fouls committed. In other words, Georgetown’s interior defense is in a state of constant foul trouble. As a result, the Hoyas have had to turn to extremely small lineups for significant stretches. In addition, the foul trouble makes the big men more passive.

This is a huge factor in the collapse of Georgetown’s two point defense.

In the end, the only thing that will help Georgetown’s defense is better players. Unfortunately, that won’t come until next year.

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