Sunday, November 22, 2009

Breaking Down Greg Monroe: Versatile Big Needs To Get Tougher

Will Greg Monroe catapult to surefire stardom this year?

Will the versatile 6-foot-11 big man stake his claim as one of the top players in a Big East conference that's lost some of its luster? Will the New Orleans product emerge into a first rounder in the 2010 NBA draft?

After testing the NBA waters this summer, Monroe opted to return to campus (much to the delight of Georgetown's traditional basketball culture) for his second year.

The program's new poster boy now shoulders the role of featured player in John Thompson III's trademark Princeton offense.

Monroe's arsenal of athletic gifts make him a unique threat in a conference overflowing with gritty guards.

Monroe can handle the rock and create offense, as he proved during the Hoyas' 46-45 victory over Temple last week.

The sophomore appears tailor-cut for the Princeton offense.

He's a superior ball handler at his size, and his ability to hit cutting guards/forwards with pinpoint passes makes everyone better. The Princeton offense emphasizes constant motion.

Still, there are some considerable holes in Monroe's game.

Too often against Temple, Monroe looked to dance around opponents with his flashy, guard-like handle.

He belongs in the paint, operating on smaller forward-centers with an arsenal of back to the basket moves. Playing a soft, half-baked brand of ball away from the basket at 6-11 isn't going to help Monroe's 2010 draft stock.

Rather than trying to bang the ball between his legs, the southpaw should be coming off screens ready to drain mid-range jumpers.

Throughout the first half, Monroe fell in love with his handle and failed to finish at the tin. He hiccuped a pair of layups as Georgetown couldn't seem to cushion an early lead.

Temple made a concentrated effort to bottle him up and force him right. The Owls got what they wished for in the end, albeit it didn't work in their favor.

Monroe scored the game-winning bucket on a quick drive to the cup and a lay-in off the window, as the Hoyas avoided an early-season upset.

Lavoy Allen, who turned in a double-double with 12 points and 14 boards while jumping out of the gym, had been neutralizing Monroe throughout the first.

Temple instigated turnovers early and Monroe was out of whack, scoring just two points on 1-for-5 shooting.

Monroe, who finished with 11 points and tacked on nine rebounds in 37 minutes, re-wrote the script in the second.

He was there for that crucial bucket when they needed him to be, albeit Monroe was far from dominant against Allen, who tore down eight offensive boards.

The game exposed some of Georgetown's defensive weaknesses, which hampered them during last year's downtrodden campaign.

-Temple shred a tissue-paper defense. They seized a 39-33 following a Ryan Brooks trey.

-Georgetown seemed to be rolling out a carpet or bearing roses for the Owls on their walk to the basket. The Owls, who have the Hoyas' number in the history of this matchup, were able to outwork Georgetown on the glass.

-Jason Clark, who's primed for a breakout campaign, hit a mammoth three-pointer to knot up the score at 39 apiece. A seesaw battle ensued, with Monroe having the final say.

"He's a great player," said Allen, a low NBA prospect (whose draft stock will likely balloon following this game), of his counterpart.

"That's what great players do, they arrive. We definitely let this one slip away. We had our opportunities and didn't take advantage of it."

-The loss is a tough pill to swallow for Temple, which stayed in the game despite pitiful shooting. The Owls looked more like the Mason Men in the first half, shooting the rock at a putrid 5-for-26 clip.

-Temple came out of the gates hosting the clank clinic, hitting just three of their first 19 attempts.

-Georgetown was only a tad bit more efficient at 7-for-23, but both teams were 1-for-10 from beyond the arc in the first half.

-From beyond the confines of the arc, the two teams were beyond abysmal. They combined to shoot a below freezing 6-for-41 from deep.

-After burying themselves under a barrage of bricks, the Owls scratched and clawed their way back into the contest. They got free for shots in the key, and Allen exploded for a two-handed slam during a 6-0 surge. Temple overpowered the Hoyas in the paint, outboarding them by a 38-36 margin on the game. Stickbacks and second and third opportunities provided a smokescreen for their bricklaying.

The game's marquee individual matchup was between Monroe and Allen. Allen was winning the eyeball-to-eyeball battle for about 75 percent of the game.

That's when Georgetown began pounding the ball inside to Monroe, letting him feast in the post.

Monroe needed that last bucket to make up for his early misshaps.

It was an exclamation point on his performance after quickly busting out of the straightjacket Allen and the Owls had him in.

How much emphasis did the Owls place on Allen's high-order chore of negating Monroe?

A lot.

"He's the best position defender I may have ever coached," said Owls coach Fran Dunphy.

"I thought he was terrific."

In the end, however, Monroe compensated for a spotty first half with some big buckets, including the game winner, down the stretch.

-The Owls upset bid fell short, but they could have ran away with it had they connected from the free throw line. For the game, they shot a meager 6-for-13 (46.2 percent) from the line. More have been slain by the charity stripes than by the chainsaws. Just ask Nick Anderson...