Georgetown's season-ending kick continues Tuesday night in New Jersey, where the the Hoyas will take on Seton Hall. But the Hoyas won't face the lowly Pirates of recent years. This season's Seton Hall squad has pulled a couple of home upsets and will arrive at the arena desperate for a marquee win to help its NCAA tournament profile. While Georgetown likely has ensured its entry into the dance, a win on Tuesday is essential to keep pace in the final push for post-season seeding. That victory won't come unless the Hoyas are sharp on offense and bring the same smothering defense that has typified recent performances. Without further ado, let's get you ready for tonight's showdown.
It's Been So Long Since Last We Met. After a so-so first year at the Seton Hall helm, coach Kevin Willard has rounded the Pirates into form this year. The Pirates followed an 11-1 non-conference run that included good-not-great wins over VCU, Dayton, and St. Joe's with four wins in their first five Big East games, highlighted by home upsets of West Virginia and Connecticut. An appearance in the rankings followed, and "Seton Hall Basketball is back!" briefly became the "St. John's Basketball is back!" of 2012. But faster than you could say "Terry Dehere," the Pirates plunged into a six-game losing streak. Just when hope seemed lost, a late surge has put the Pirates within two wins of finishing with 20 victories and .500 in conference play, and in turn squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble.
Pirates to Know. Like Georgetown, Seton Hall is led by a pair of seniors and bolstered by a slew of underclassmen. Fifth-year senior center Herb Pope (15.4 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.6 blk pg) is once again the anchor in the middle, leading the Pirates on the offensive and defensive glass and protecting the rim, all while popping the occasional three-pointer. The Hall's other elder statesman is Jordan Theodore (15.7 ppg, 6.8 apg, 2.0 stl pg); the slashing point guard leads the team in points, assists, turnovers, and tattoos of the state of New Jersey (one). Sophomore swing man Fuquan Edwin (12.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.9 stl pg) has made major strides across the board, and thrives as a third scoring option and primary defensive stopper. Flanking Theodore in the Pirate back-court is freshman Aaron Cosby (8.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg) who, along with Edwin, provides Seton Hall with outside shooting. A forward platoon rounds out the rotation: freshman Brandon Mobley (4.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg) starts, but the very similar sophomore Patrik Auda (6.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg) often gets as much run.
When Seton Hall Has the Ball.
- Pirates' strength: three-point shooting. The Pirates (not quite literally) live and die by the three. Seton Hall ranks below the median conference mark in most offensive indicators, including subpar offensive rebounding, turnover rate, and shooting. But brick-laying inside the arc (more on that later) obscures a 36 percent figure from three, the third-best in conference.
- Pirate to watch: Aaron Cosby. While Edwin and Theodore each average one-plus trey per game, Cosby makes two of his five-plus attempts from deep per game. Georgetown has rated second-best in the conference in defending the three, but also has left the occasional hot hand open for too long (Sean Kilpatrick, Kris Joseph, D'Angelo Harrison at Verizon).
- Hoyas' strength: defending the paint and the glass. Georgetown's defense has been torrid recently, holding four of the Hoyas' past five foes under 35 percent from the field. That trend should continue Tuesday, at least inside the arc. Georgetown holds its opponents to just 43 percent from two, an area in which the Pirates rank last in the conference. Seton Hall also finds itself in the cellar in blocks allowed (where the Hoyas are third in the Big East) and below average in offensive rebounding (in which Georgetown leads the conference).
When Georgetown Has the Ball.
- Hoyas' strength: running the offense. The Hoya offense has clicked over the past two games, as Georgetown has shot 47 percent from the field and assisted on 33 of 45 made baskets. Honors have been evenly distributed, as six different Hoyas have notched double figures in points in at least one of the games, while Nate Lubick, Henry Sims, Markel Starks, and Jason Clark each have tallied three assists or more in both games.
- Hoya to watch: Hollis Thompson. The junior forward found his outside stroke at Providence, nailing a pair of triples while scoring 13 points. But he still has outscored his average just once over the past seven games. Georgetown may need him to step up offensively on Tuesday.
- Pirates' strength: forcing turnovers. Georgetown has protected the ball well in the last two games, largely thanks to porous defenses. A spike can be expected Tuesday against a Pirate defense that ranks third in the conference in forcing turnovers.
- Pirate to watch: Edwin. The sophomore wing leads the conference in steals, and could feast on any careless ball-handling by the Hoyas. Theodore, who is four spots behind his teammate in the Big East steals rankings, merits honorable mention.
- Looming question: free-throw shooting? Georgetown's recent sharp shooting from the field and improved ball protection has covered up for lousy free-throw shooting, as the Hoyas have made just 30 of their 47 foul shots over the past two games. The Hoyas now lead the league in getting to the free-throw stripe (when taken as a ratio of field-goal attempts), and the Pirates are prone to send their opponents to the line. Add it all up, and Georgetown could have some critical trips to the charity stripe tonight.
Prediction. This game seems awfully hard to predict. Both teams are able three-point shooting squads that defend the trey just as well, which seems to leave the possibility that one hot streak could decide it. While Seton Hall could use a resume-booster for tournament purposes, this game is by no means do-or-die, as the Pirates have Rutgers, DePaul, and a likely winnable first-round Big East Tournament match-up remaining. The Hoyas seemed locked in on Saturday, even with the occasional offensive woes, and haven't shrunk from the moment on the road this year. Expect a close game, but the Hoyas to pull out a nail-biter. Georgetown 62, Seton Hall 57.