--Spread check: Louisville by 4.
--This game is huge in terms of Louisville's NCAA Tournament hopes and Georgetown hoping to avoid a second-consecutive late-season collapse, but it's also big when it comes to the smaller issue of the Big East conference standings.
The Hoyas (18-7, 8-6) have slipped down the Big East standings during the same span, now tied for sixth. And that would make them the seventh seed in the Big East tournament if the five-day, 16-team slugfest at New York's Madison Square Garden were to tip off Tuesday rather than on March 9.
As such, the Hoyas would get a first-round bye and open play March 10 against the winner of the 10th vs. 15th seeds, which currently shapes up as an all-New Jersey battle, pitting Seton Hall against Rutgers.
But Georgetown would lose out on the double-bye accorded the Big East's top four teams, which sail directly into the March 11 quarterfinals without so much as a dribble or a pass.
Thompson insists he's giving no thought to the math, which makes clear that a late-season surge into the Big East's top four isn't out of reach for the Hoyas, who'd likely have to topple Louisville on Tuesday and West Virginia on March 1 to manage it.
West Virginia (21-6, 10-5) is currently fourth in the Big East standings; Louisville (18-9, 9-5) is fifth.
"You just have to worry about the next game," Thompson said. "If I start looking down the road and doing math, I lose focus on what is in front of us. If you play enough good possessions and good halves and good games, then all of that takes care of itself.
--We didn't respond the Casual Hoya's ridiculously awful attempts at humor pregame questions, and they were not pleased about it.
--The momentary glance at this game is a picture of two teams headed in opposite directions.
The Cardinals' NCAA Tournament hopes were in jeopardy until a recent run, as the team has won three straight and five of its past six outings. Included in that charge was a 66-60 upset of then second-ranked Syracuse and a more recent 68-59 victory at DePaul on Saturday. Louisville is now 9-5 within the conference and a third place finish is within reach.
Georgetown on the other hand, was competing for a Big East title just a few weeks ago. The Hoyas are now no longer in the running, as they are 8-6 in the conference after going just 3-4 over their past seven outings. Two of the losses during that stretch came to a highly-ranked Syracuse squad, including a 75-71 setback on Thursday. Losers of two straight, the Hoyas are still a solid 18-7 overall, but in need of a win to regain some confidence.
--Denny Crum appears on tonight's ticket and will be honored at the game. U of L will also announce its 10-player All-Freedom Hall team during timeouts.
--The Georgetown Voice takes a look at reasons to root against Louisville.
I will begrudgingly admit that Louisville has pretty good home arena in Freedom Hall. And I will fearfully admit that Kentuckians are some of the biggest basketball fans in the country, and that Hoyas are walking into a very hostile road environment. The last time Georgetown went to Louisville, in 2008, they lost 59-51. Tonight is the Hoyas’ chance to avenge that loss, but more importantly it is a chance for them to make a historical statement. Namely, the Cardinals are never winning in Freedom Hall again.
Next year Louisville is moving to a new stadium, and there are just two home games left on the Cardinals’ schedule: tonight’s match-up and the regular season finale against Syracuse. A vengeful Syracuse should have no problem taking out Louisville after being stunned at home (and if this jinxes the Orange, all the better). But first, Freedom Hall’s destiny is in Georgetown’s hands.
--Generic AP preview....POW.
--This is the 72nd straight "must win" game for Louisville in a row. Seriously, dude?
--C-J fan blogger Tom Heiser chimes in with his thoughts.
Pitino today sounded the tocsin about shutting down guard Chris Wright. As he goes, so go the Hoyas according to Rick. Georgetown is 16-1 when he scores in double figures, 2-6 when not. Sounds easy enough, right? A depth-deprived squad dependent on one guy for scoring and leadership? Not when you have Greg Monroe and Austin Freeman (15.7 and 17.0 ppg respectively.) At times Freeman looks like the best player in the Big East, and Monroe can score on any big man. How Samardo Samuels plays against Monroe is key -- Monroe has a tremendous wingspan to complement his power in the post. Samuels has generally fared badly against good shot-blockers, but his new-found jump-hook in the lane might give him the ability to score in the paint without getting down deep into Monroe's swat zone. This may be a situation where Terrence Jennings is better suited to shutting down Georgetown's big guy -- just what starting the two big guys was supposed to solve.
The focus of Louisville's guards has to be to wear down the Hoyas -- and some scoring would be nice. Despite the foul trouble against DePaul, Edgar Sosa once again turned back into Dr. Jekyll and hit four of his five attempts from the field and all of his free throws. Does that mean it's Mr. Hyde tonight? I would still like to see more scoring from Preston Knowles, seeing as Jerry Smith as renounced his role as a primary weapon, but defense is paramount. No one is taking more to that role than Smith, but with Peyton Siva looking as though his hit a wall late in the season, it's up to Smith to make one last run at recapturing some measure of the promise from his freshman and sophomore seasons.
--Brett McMurphy takes a look at Louisville's monster finishing stretch.
--The last time Georgetown came to Freedom Hall...well, it was awesome.