The Hoyas have gone from picked to finish 10th in the Big East in the preseason by conference coaches to ranked No. 10 in the country – and they’ve done it without an above-the-title name.
It’s not “Greg Monroe and the Hoyas” or “Jeff Green and the Hoyas” or even “Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Hoyas,” it’s an amalgamation of guys wearing gray and blue who usually play good enough defense to overcome the offense’s dry spells.
“They were more talented last year,” South Florida coach Stan Heath said after a 30-point loss to Georgetown two weeks ago, but are a “much better team this year.”
It sometimes takes an outside voice like Heath’s to state the obvious, but the Hoyas concur.
With all due respect to departed seniors Freeman and Wright – who last year led the Hoyas to a 21-11 record and another early flameout in the NCAA Tournament – this year’s team has a better chemistry.
“It wasn’t all roses last year,” senior center Henry Sims said. “We’ve grown from that.
“This year we’ve just bought into the philosophy of playing hard, playing defense together,” he said. “Being a team on the court, being able to pick each other up on the court, being able to talk to each other on the court. “
Coach John Thompson III loves it, and it shows.
He’s taken a team heavily reliant on youth – the roster has only two seniors and one junior – and has taught it to play solid team defense and unselfish offense.
The Hoyas (19-5, 9-4) have held five Big East teams to 50 points or fewer headed into today’s game at Providence.
“Not that he wasn’t into it last year, but I think one thing that’s different about this team– not to criticize last year’s team – is that when people break off of the offense this year, it’s to get somebody else a shot,” sophomore forward Nate Lubick said.
“Rather than last year, if somebody was breaking out of our offensive sets, it was kind of to get their own shot.”