GEORGETOWN HOYAS (24-4, 14-3)
Location: Verizon Center: Washington, D.C.
Favorite: Georgetown by 4
All-Time Series: Georgetown leads 4-3
Last Meeting: Louisville won 59-51 on 2/9/08
Probable Starting Lineup
G Jonathan Wallace....10.4 ppg
G Jessie Sapp........9.4 ppg
C Roy Hibbert.......13.6 ppg
F Patrick Ewing....6.2 ppg
F DaJuan Summers...11.3 ppg
It's time folks.
For the first time in 20 years, one game will decide the Big East's regular season champion, but there will be far more than just a trophy on the line inside the Verizon Center this afternoon.
The winner of today's game earns the top seed in next week's conference tournament, and likely keeps alive a shot at a two seed in the NCAA Tournament. Louisville hasn't played a bigger regular season game in quite some time.
We know the names, the faces, and the cutting and ball-reversing offense, so the question now becomes: what will we see in this game that we didn't see a month ago? The answer - I think - is not a whole lot. Georgetown isn't all the sudden going to start running and gunning, and Louisville isn't going to try and make them.
Both teams are going to defend (Georgetown leads the country in field goal percentage defense; Louisville is third), but they're going to go about it differently. Each employs a 2-3 zone, but while the Hoyas like to sit back and defend traditionally, the Cards are going to press and trap in the halfcourt. Each team turned the ball over 15 times in the initial game, but GU is coming off of a game against Marquette in which it's guards struggled with the Golden Eagles' ball pressure and gave it away 20 times. Guards Jonathan Wallace, Jessie Sapp and Jeremiah Rivers made poor decisions with the ball in the second half of the first game against U of L, but are likely going to be more comfortable with what they see this time around. How they handle the pressure and the length of the Cardinal defenders will be as important today as it was a month ago.
Both teams have made slight adjustments since round one, namely in their starting lineups.
Andre McGee has yet to relinquish the starting point guard role that he assumed at the beginning of the second half on Feb. 9, and an increase in production over the last few weeks has led Patrick Ewing Jr. to assume a starter's role for the Hoyas. As energetic as any player in the league, Ewing was highly effective in the first game against Louisville, when he played 25 minutes, hit 3-of-5 shots, and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. He'll do his best to help contain David Padgett and Earl Clark, two Cardinal post players who had big games a month ago.
But the biggest difference between today's game and February's is that this one falls on Georgetown's Senior Day, and this year's graduating class of Hoyas just so happens to be the most important one the program has seen in many years.
The emotion of the day will likely lead to an inspired effort by Roy Hibbert, as well as an inspired effort by his teammates to get the big man the ball. The latter might be the more troubling. Padgett's 18 points garnered most of the headlines after the first game because his team won, but Hibbert also gave a pretty impressive performance, hitting 7-of-9 field goal attempts and finishing the game with 14 points. If the people around him can get him the ball when he's in a position to score, then big Roy's final game could end up being one for the scrap book.
Of course so much of what goes on around the rim is dictated by the officiating, so in a game like this, the crew of Kitts (who also worked the game in Louisville), Driscoll and Stephens has even more power than it would regularly. A couple of quick whistles on Hibbert, Padgett, Clark or DaJuan Summers, and the game changes entirely, and none of what people have talked about in the past few days matters.
The biggest statistic from the first game?
You have to know coming into a game like this that Hibbert is going to get his, but the Cards have to be able to locate Wallace, Sapp and Austin Freeman the same way they were able to a month ago. Summers shot just 1-for-6 from three, but Clark gave him a number of open looks from the corner, something he also struggled with against Notre Dame when he guarded Ryan Ayers. For Louisville to win, it has to get the same type of defensive effort from the guys in the back of the zone (Clark, Williams, Palacios) that it did against Notre Dame and in the first Georgetown game.
Like I said at the outset, this game will be extremely similar to what we saw four weeks ago, so there isn't much we can cover without being repetitive. So what I'm going to do is to end this with three guarantees (read: predictions I feel quite strongly about):
- Neither team will score more than 63 points.
- How Wallace, Sapp and Rivers handle our pressure will decide the game
- If we win, my imagination will officially be running wild, and it won't be wearing any pants.
--"This is a lot of fun, to be in this situation. There's so much at stake that it's a lot of fun and I wouldn't want it any other way. If you gave me a choice to play it at home or on the road I would chose the road because I think that type of pressure is great for a basketball team." --Rick Pitino
--"We both pride ourselves in our defense, and that's what's going to make the game fun. Defense wins championships, and we're going find out which defense wins the championship." --Patrick Ewing Jr.
--"This is what you live for in college basketball. This is the way to go out in my senior year. I feel that 20 years from now, I think we'll be remembered as that group of guys that helped bring Georgetown back.'' --Roy Hibbert
--"This game is huge. There was a lot of pressure when we played them at home, but there will be extra pressure in this one because it's for the championship and we beat them here. So their fans will be going to crazy and (Georgetown) will play with a lot of emotion. We'll have to be clicking on all cylinders to pull this one off." --Edgar Sosa
CC Prediction: Louisville 56, Georgetown 54
I honestly didn't know who I was going to pick until just now. This is one of those games that you can just sense is going to come down to the last possession and take at least 18 months off of your life. I'm not sure that all Cardinal fans are aware of just how impressive a win tomorrow would be. A victory over this team, in front of this crowd, on this day, with this much on the line would be a truly remarkable accomplishment.
Here's to getting it done.