Some of that may even manifest itself this year.
It's harder to be as optimistic about the offensive side of the ball, at least in the short term. Both Austin Freeman and Chris Wright were strong offensive players. Their departure leaves a large void for this year, and only Hollis Thompson really stands out statistically as a player who might be capable of assuming a much larger role.
There's another way to look at the offense aside from straight up efficiency, and that's through offensive versatility.
Because defenses can game-plan to stop one or two elements of an offense, truly effective offenses -- those that succeed against quality teams -- have many ways to score in which they are above average. There are roughly six ways to score: dribble drive; perimeter shooting (3's and mid-range); post play; motion/offensive plays; offensive rebounding and transition.
I define above-average loosely, but if a team has to change its basic defense for some aspect of the Hoyas' offense (say, double team in the post or extend the D on three point shooters), that's above-average.
Let's take the Final Four team: they had post play; offensive rebounding; perimeter shooting and motion/offensive plays. The offense had four different ways to hurt you if opponents played them straight up -- a team could double team Roy Hibbert in the post, but that would leave Jon Wallace open for three or DaJuan Summers on the back cut. If the opponent didn't need to bring an extra defender on Roy, then those other options can be more easily defended.
Last year's team was not versatile. The Hoyas had above average motion/offensive plays and outside shooting and... Well, nothing, right? Wright could drive, but he was one player. Transition was mediocre at best. The Hoyas got very few offensive boards. Julian Vaughn was a fine post player against weak teams but against more athletic defenders he could be guarded one on one.
In other words, there were two positives on offense. And when the outside shooting was cold, how hard is it to shut down backdoor cuts? It's not. Is it any wonder that offense died when Chris went down, taking what little dribble penetration and transition offense the team had with him?
So, what about this year? There's surprisingly a bit more hope. My report card as of this moment:
- Dribble Drive: No
- Perimeter Shooting: Maybe
- Post Play: No
- Motion/Plays: Yes
- Offensive Rebounding: Maybe
- Transition: Maybe
It's too early to tell, but the size and athleticism, combined with another shooter stepping up to help Hollis out on the outside, may actually give this team more ways to score than last year's. It may not be as good, but it may be harder to shut down.
Of particular interest is the offensive boards. Transition offense is fantastic because the shooting percentages tend to be so high on fast breaks, but the downside is that is really doesn't open up other aspects of a team's half court offense much.
Offensive rebounding, however, can do a bit more. A really strong offensive rebounding team can take opponents out of a zone, opening up the back cuts and outside shooting and even some dribble drive. It can also take advantage of opponents sagging or helping on those cuts if someone like Mikael Hopkins is gathering weak side offensive rebounds while standing right where the help defender could have been.
Don't get me wrong: this offense still lacks strong versatility. If you had a choice, you'd want to be strong in penetration, post play and outside shooting. The Hoyas really only have a shot at one of those. But given the personnel restrictions, hitting the offensive boards would be playing to this team's potential strengths.