Editor's note: March Madness is too much for any one person to handle, so I'm adding help. The guys behind Ballin' Is a Habit, Rob Dauster and Troy Machir, will be contributing throughout March and into the Final Four, both with content from their Web site and original articles for us. This post originally appeared at BIAH.
By Rob Dauster
It was just three possessions in a 40 minute basketball game, but they meant so much more.
Three possessions was all it took for Georgetown to put this game away. Those same three possessions are all you need to see if you're wondering why Greg Monroe is sitting in the lottery on most NBA Draft boards.
With 6:58 left on the clock, Monroe drove baseline from deep in the left corner and finished at the rim with a dunk. On Georgetown's next possession, he buried a three from the wing. On the ensuing possession, Julian Vaughn blocked a shot by Mo Acker. Monroe picked up the loose ball, led a 2-on-1 break, and dropped a pretty bounce pass to Austin Freeman for an and-one layup that gave the Hoyas a 70-52 lead with just 5:32 left.
Should I mention that he also blocked Jimmy Butler's shot on the next Marquette possession?
Monroe finished with 23 points, 13 boards, 7 assists, and 2 blocks in an 80-57 win for the Hoyas. A sterling performance no matter how you slice it, just the kind that has gotten Monroe mentioned in the same breath as the great Hoya centers of the past -- Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutumbo, Alonzo Mourning.
"I'm honored to follow people that were so good here," Monroe told reporters after the game, "but I don't compare myself to them."
"Me being here just two years, I can't put myself in the same category as those players."
Monroe is different than his Georgetown predecessors, however.
Where Mutumbo, Ewing, and 'Zo thrived on their ability to intimidate in the paint, be it via an emphatic dunk or a blocked shot, Monroe's biggest weapon is his versatility. How many players do you know that can get you 13 rebounds and 7 assists on the same night and have it be considered par for the course?
"He is the best skilled big man in the country," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said after his Mountaineers beat Notre Dame in the other semifinal.
"He passes the ball, he finds open people, he can lay it down, he can score in the post."
With that much ability, it would be very easy to let individual success go to your head. But Monroe has stayed grounded, his mentality as unselfish as his passing ability.
"I just come out and try to do things for my team," Monroe said.
It's not just Monroe.
This team first aspect is something that John Thompson III preaches, something that he has ingrained in his players. You ask him a question about a certain player's performance, he will say it is a function of the team, proof that his system is working the right way. The saying goes "there's no I in team", but with Thompson, there's no I, you, he, or me; it's always we, us, or the team.
A perfect example came when he was asked about Monroe's aggressiveness early and whether it helped set a tone for the team and the game.
"I think the same thing happens when Austin comes out aggressively, when Chris comes out aggressively. When we come out aggressively and focus, it sets the tone in general."
That's a pretty standard answer from Thompson.
And it's refreshing. Incredible, really.
In the day and age of early entry, SportsCenter top 10, and YouTube, it's not that easy to find a player, let alone a team, as devoted to the team concept as Georgetown is.
What's more important is that it shows through in their play.
When the Hoyas are playing at their best, it's due to that team-first mentality. Georgetown runs what is known as a continuity offense, meaning they don't run a lot of set plays. You're not going to see Chris Wright and Monroe running pick-and-rolls. Austin Freeman won't be getting isolations on the wing. Jason Clark isn't going to be curling off of double screens.
Georgetown runs a system with a set of rules and reads given the situation. The Hoya players know where in this system they are going to be able to get scoring opportunities. Put another way, it is very difficult for the Hoyas to call a play for a certain player.
JT III can't, or won't, run a play to 'feed the hot hand', so to speak. Where their selflessness shines through is that the players on the court do it themselves. When Freeman gets it going, they look for him. Yesterday Chris Wright was hot, and Georgetown got him the ball in spots he could score. Today, it was Monroe.
The Hoyas have won a lot of games this year playing that way.
After beating Marquette, who hadn't lost by double digits all season coming into tonight, by 23, the fourth straight impressive win by the Hoyas, it's safe to say this team is playing their best basketball of the year.
But they aren't satisfied just yet.
"Its March," Thompson said, "there's no time to take a breath and pat yourself on the back in March."
You can find more of Rob's writing at Ballin' is a Habit and follow him on Twitter @ballinishabit.