GEORGETOWN HOYAS (19-2, 9-1)
Time: 9 p.m.
Location: Freedom Hall: Louisville, KY
Favorite: Louisville by 2.5
All-Time Series: Georgetown leads 4-2
Last Meeting: Georgetown won 73-65 on 2/7/07
Probable Starting Lineup
G Jonathan Wallace....9.4 ppg
G Austin Freeman....9.6 ppg
G Jessie Sapp........10.0 ppg
C Roy Hibbert.......13.1 ppg
F DaJuan Summers...11.4 ppg
Five weeks of Big East play has made two things, and really only two things, evident: 1)It's better to play games at home than not to play games at home. And 2) Georgetown is still the team to beat.
The Hoyas enter this evening's tilt with preseason co-favorite Louisville alone atop the Big East standings, and winners of 24 of their last 26 league games. But a loss to a depleted Pittsburgh team, and narrow victories over Syracuse, Connecticut and West Virginia have some believing that this squad isn't quite on the same level of the one that went to the Final Four a season ago, despite the fact that it has a more impressive record at this point.
Georgetown lost Big East Player of the Year Jeff Green to the NBA, but returned every other key contributor, and added a pair of McDonald's All-Americans in Austin Freeman and Chris Wright. The offense also looks about the same. The Hoyas' methodical motion-based Princeton offense is the game's most effective in the halfcourt sets that define late-game situations. It works because John Thompson III has both the athletes and the big man to facilitate it.
Big East Preseason Player of the Year Roy Hibbert is still the face of this team, as well as its leading scorer (13.1 ppg) and rebounder (7.0 rpg). In addition to his ability to hit the occasional (one) outside shot, he has very good feet on the block and has developed a baby skyhook that is virtually impossible to defend. Louisville's frontcourt has done a good job of keeping opposing big men from going off this season, but Hibbert scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against the same players almost exactly one year ago in Freedom Hall.
This team's Jeff Green-in-training, if you will, is sophomore forward DaJuan Summers, who is coming off of a 24-point performance against South Florida. He's a long, athletic 6-8 player who can kill you around the rim or on the perimeter. The easily impressionable Earl Clark must avoid getting into 1-on-1 battles with Summers, because he's liable to come up on the short end more times than not.
Rounding out the front court is sixth man Patrick Ewing Jr., who has the potential to have big games when the Hoyas need him. He's a great defender who will occasionally score in double figures. The team doesn't lose much when he's brought into the game.
The exceptional offensive balance really becomes apparent when you look at Georgetown's guards, all of whom are averaging between nine and ten points. Point guard Jonathan Wallace may play the position most opposite to David Padgett's, but his value to his team is very similar. He makes the offense go, and does little things like making sure the ball is stopped on an opposing break that don't show up on stat sheets.
For all their precision in the halfcourt, the Hoyas don't handle the ball particularly well. Jesse Sapp has turned the ball over 54 times, and Summers and Hibbert have also turned the ball over more times than the G-town offense should allow. The U of L press has been utilized solely to slow down the game at times this season, but look for the front of the press (I'm looking at you Jerry) to be extremely aggressive this evening. The Cards will also apply token pressure in the halfcourt, something Seton Hall was able to do and force 21 takeaways on Tuesday.
It's no secret that both teams win with defense. Neither squad is allowing more than 60 points per game. Georgetown leads the country in field goal percentage defense (.355) and Louisville is sixth (.374). This one may could very easily come down to which side hits the few open shots it is allowed.
--Georgetown is next-to-last in the conference in free-throw shooting at 64.5%.
--During Thompson's four-year tenure, the Hoyas are 16-4 in games decided by three points or fewer or in overtime. In games decided by fewer than 10 points since Thompson's arrival, the Hoyas are 29-21. Lower the margin to five points, and their record improves to 21-8.
--Louisville is 1-3 in games decided by three or less points this year.
--Georgetown freshman point guard Chris Wright is likely out for the season with a foot injury.
This doesn't figure to be the day's most aesthetically pleasing contest, but it could still very well be the best. If nothing else, you know that dozens of high school JV coaches will be tivoing the game to show during Monday's film session.
Composure is always an issue with this Louisville team, and even though the game is at home, dealing with the environment may be more of a problem for the Cards than the Hoyas early on. U of L has to remember why they've been so successful in their last two games. Trying to do too much is the recipe for absolute disaster, and Edgar Sosa, Terrence Williams and company have to be just as willing to pass up that challenged shot - regardless of how tempting it is - tonight as they were against Rutgers.
The battle in the post is obviously going to be enormous, which means the officiating is going to be equally vital. Padgett's not going to be afraid to go right at Hibbert, and if Roy isn't careful then Vernon Macklin will see the floor earlier than JT III would like. Also, Derrick Caracter can't let the emotion of the game get to him, or else his minutes will again remain in single digits.
This is going to be fun.
CC Prediction: Louisville 71, Georgetown 66
The fact that everybody else is saying it makes me nervous, but this just feels like a game that the Cards should - and will - win.