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College basketball notebook: Weekend with the George's

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College basketball notebook: Weekend with the George's

Having spent Saturday night with Georgetown at Verizon Center before catching Atlantic 10 rivals George Washington and George Mason battle in Fairfax, here are some thoughts on those and other local men's college basketball teams with the madness of March just one month away...

* Georgetown coach John Thompson provided an important reminder amid the pain following the 73-69 Big East loss to No. 10 Providence.

"We’re at the halfway point," he said in reference to the conference schedule. "There’s a whole lot of basketball left to be played."

The Hoyas (13-9, 6-3), now tied with the Friars for third in the Big East standings, have nine games remaining. Plenty of chapters remain, as do enough games against RPI and strength of schedule helpful opponents to help with the NCAA Tournament at-large scenario. Previous wins over Syracuse and Xavier help the big picture cause. Even some of the surprising losses aren't true killers (no losses against teams outside the RPI top 175).

But there's another way to look at that halfway point comment. That is, overall, the Hoyas are actually 23 games into the season and it's still hard figuring out this team's identity. Are they about feeding big men inside or firing away from beyond the 3-point arc? Are they about speeding up the pace by putting a bevy of wing threats on the court or grinding out wins? The answer to all depending on the game, half or possession is yes.

Forget tactics for a moment. Let's talk personnel. Imagine this goal: simply put out the best Hoyas lineup for five minutes of loosely defined good basketball. Other than that unit including senior guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, it's not clear who else is out there or which players work best together.

Isaac Copeland's scoring punch disappeared throughout January. The offense in theory functions best with freshman center Jessie Govan's perimeter game in the lineup, but his interior skills are lacking. 7-footer Bradley Hayes provides low-post scoring and rebounding, but he's not exactly mobile, which becomes problematic defensively when guards allow consistent penetration. That's where L.J. Peak helps with his ferocious energy, but the swingman can't always control his own pace and decision-making in halfcourt sets. Tre Campbell scored 21 points against Xavier, but just 10 over the next three games.

This uncertainty contributes to the identity problem, as does a stated willingness to, when on offense, take what the opponent gives you. The ability to adjust is valuable, but dictating terms isn't a bad thing. For this season, the question is which players can help get that done. We're way more than halfway through the season as coach John Thompson still searches for the right combinations.

Next up: Winnable road games Tuesday at Butler and Saturday night at Seton Hall.

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* Sunday's matchup between George Mason and George Washington was striking because of specific similarities. The Patriots (7-14, 1-7 Atlantic 10) start three freshmen. While that probably wasn't coach Dave Paulsen's plan for his first-year with the program, roster issues dictated such tactics.

Based on where the Colonials are these days, that's a good thing.

Mike Lonergan knew he would take some hits with wins and losses when he started four freshman for chunks of the 2012-13 season. He also knew that early exposure would help mature those players. Since then, the Colonials reached the NCAA Tournament and NIT in consecutive seasons and are poised for another postseason berth in 2016. Three of those freshmen -- Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen, Joe McDonald -- remain starters.

Otis Livingston, the most impressive of Paulsen's kids, nearly led George Mason to an upset Sunday before GW held on for a 76-70 win. The freshman point guard had 18 points and seven assists without committing a turnover. His shot needs work, but the 5-foot-11 sparkplug knows how and when to find teammates with the pass.

Wing threat Jaire Grayer, the son of former NBA player Jeff Grayer, leads the Patriots with 33 3-pointers. Lengthy 6-foot-7 guard DeAndre Abram looks like a future matchup nightmare. Another freshman, Danny Dixon, played 10 minutes off the bench against GW.

"I said all week, we didn't practice like a 1-6 and now a 1-7 team," Paulsen said. "This group really embraced it, fought, competed, worked on getting better, so it's disappointing not to see our guys rewarded."

Lonergan was once on the building end of that scenario.

"They're going to get better," Lonergan said of Mason, "so we wanted to beat them now."

Next up: Mason plays at Richmond Wednesday before hosting Dayton Saturday.

* As for the Colonials (16-5, 5-3 Atlantic 10), it's fair to believe their next four games - Davidson (Wednesday), at VCU, St. Joseph's, at St. Bonaventure - will dictate which direction their season unfolds. Three of those four opponents are, along with GW, among the top five in the A-10 standings. Davidson is one game behind the Colonials. This stretch will boost GW's RPI and SOS, but too many losses can end its at-large chances, which is Lonergan implored his players to take their level up a notch.

* American (5-15, 3-6) escaped the basement of the Patriot League with three straight wins. Holy Cross (9-12, 4-6) visits Bender Arena Monday night.

* Howard guard James Daniel still leads the country in scoring, averaging 27.7 points, outpacing Oklahoma star Buddy Hield (26.2). Daniel and the Bison (10-11, 4-2 MEAC) play at UMES Monday.

Georgetown gets a boost with Jessie Govan returning to school

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Georgetown gets a boost with Jessie Govan returning to school

After testing the NBA Draft waters, Georgetown center Jessie Govan decided to return to the Hoyas for his senior season.

Govan announced his intention to return on Instagram a week before the final commitment deadline.

Returning to the Hoyas is definitely a boost to the program that will be in their second year under head coach Patrick Ewing.  At 6-10, Govan was the team’s leading scorer (17.9 ppg) and rebounder (10.0 rpg) averaging a double-double last season.

Paired alongside power forward Marcus Derrickson, the Hoyas were nearly unstoppable in the paint. Derrickson though decided to forgo his senior year and signed with an agent after the season.

Had Govan decided to leave that would have meant over 56 percent of the team’s scoring and rebounding would have departed (to graduation or professional pursuits) in a handful of months. Not the best outlook for a 15-win team that went 5-13 in the Big East.

Instead Ewing gets back his leading scorer that many believe he can mold as a young protégée. While in the draft process without an agent Govan had workouts with the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks. Both are valuable experiences that he will bring to a relatively young Georgetown squad.

Having Govan for one more year will bridge Ewing’s second season to transfer big-man, Omer Yurtseven to his first year of eligibility in 2019. They were set up to having a walk-on and two sophomores being the only returning Hoyas over 6-6 for the upcoming season.

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Future NBA prospect Omer Yurtseven transfers to Georgetown from NC State

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Future NBA prospect Omer Yurtseven transfers to Georgetown from NC State

The pieces are starting to come together for Patrick Ewing.

On Monday the Georgetown Hoyas picked up perhaps the biggest (literally and figuratively) target of the transfer market, Omer Yurtseven.

From North Carolina State, the transfer from Istanbul Turkey will have two years remaining of eligibility. Due to NCAA transfer rules, he is not allowed to play for the 2018-19 season.

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Standing at 7-0, the center helped power the Wolfpack to an NCAA tournament bid this past season. Averaging 13.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks a contest, Yurstseven earned All-ACC Third Team honors in the 2017-18 season. He also touted a 58.3 shooting percentage and was not afraid to pull it up from deep either (22 made three-pointers).

NC State lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to No. 8 Seton Hall, but he was limited due to foul trouble with only two points and two rebounds in 14 minutes of play.

Initially, he is the option to fill the void that Jessie Govan will leave, whether that is during this offseason or next. Already the team has lost power forward Marcus Derrickson

Yurtseven will just be another frontcourt talent for Ewing with the Hoyas.

It was widely reported that he was considering playing options, both in the United States and abroad before this announcement. Easily he has the talent to go in first round of the NBA Draft whichever year he declares.

On the same day, the Hoyas also announced the signing of four-star guard James Akinjo.