Your Georgetown Hoyas try to bounce back from their worst loss of the season Saturday when they face the hated Villanova Wildcats. It is yet to be determined whether the Hoyas will be able to focus amid THE GLOBAL PHENOMENON's CASUAL EXTRAVAGANZA III and, of lesser note, the Verizon Center's Gray Out. More certain is that the Hoyas need this win before regular-season closers against Notre Dame and Marquette. Fortunately, Villanova has been very accommodating this year, including losing six of its past seven. But anything can happen once CBS dusts off the reels from the 1985 championship game. Let's get you ready for Saturday's showdown.
It's Been So Long Since Last We Met. The Wildcats have struggled all year long to replace the production of last year's seniors. Aside from a suddenly impressive victory over Seton Hall, Villanova's best win is over...LaSalle, in overtime? The losses have been plentiful, with a trio of three-game losing streaks dragging the Wildcats down to a 4-11 conference mark. The latest slide has been particularly excruciating for the 'Nova faithful, as promising 20 and 18 point leads over Notre Dame and Connecticut, respectively, evaporated en route to overtime losses. It all adds up to the worst season in coach Jay Wright's handsome tenure.
Wildcats to Know. 'Nova's lineup has been in flux. Point guard and leading scorer Maalik Wayns (17.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.5 apg) has missed the past three games due to knee injury (though Wright said that Wayns is "hopeful" for Saturday). Onetime Georgetown recruit Ty Johnson (3.3 ppg, 2.2 apg) has filled Wayns's spot, while wing Dominic Cheek (13.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg) and forward JayVaughn Pinkston (10.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg) have stepped up their production. Guard James Bell (7.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg) has missed the past two games with a high ankle sprain and is doubtful for Saturday, replaced, in favor of a larger line-up, by junior post Maurice Sutton (2.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg), who has responded with a hint of Henry Sims-like late career development. Villanova's primary option inside has been Mouphtaou Yarou (10.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg), who remains solid but unspectacular down low.
When Villanova Has the Ball.
- Wildcats' strength: offensive rebounding. Villanova is a poor shooting team, posting the worst field goal percentage in the conference. But a large front line helps the Wildcats gather nearly forty percent of their own misses, with Yarou grabbing three-plus offensive rebounds per game and Pinkston two. Georgetown hasn't given many second chances this year (opponents' OReb% is just 31), but will need to redouble its efforts Saturday.
- Wildcat to watch: JayVaughn Pinkston. Edging out Sir'Dominic Pointer by an apostrophe for the tUnEYarDs Award for Excellence in Capitalization, Pinkston has come on in conference play, scoring in double figures 11 times and grabbing double-digit rebounds in five games. He uses his 6'7", 260 lb. frame to bang inside, and, since moving to small forward, has shown perimeter skills, making five of eleven threes against the Irish and Huskies.
- Hoyas' strength: zone. Villanova shoots just 30 percent from three, prefers to initiate offense through guard penetration, especially off of the pick-and-roll, and ranks dead last in the conference in the percentage of baskets that come off of assists. All three portend poorly for scoring against a zone; Notre Dame mixed in zone looks to hold the Wildcats scoreless for long stretches on Saturday.
- Hoya to watch: Nate Lubick. Foul trouble has forced Lubick to sit early and often in the last two games. Georgetown will need size against the Wildcats' front line, and scarcely can afford to have him riding the pine with fouls.
- Looming Question: press? The Irish helped their comeback by picking up 'Nova full court. If Wayns is absent or limited, the freshman Johnson will be the primary ball-handler in a big-heavy lineup. Especially after made baskets and other dead balls, the Hoyas might generate a few easy baskets with the occasional press.
When Georgetown Has the Ball.
- Hoyas' strength: ball movement. The Hoya offense should have plenty of room to breathe, as the Wildcats are one of the worst teams in the country at forcing turnovers. Villanova also frequently seems a step behind on defensive rotations, meaning that crisp ball movement should lead to plenty of open shots, particularly on the perimeter.
- Hoya to watch: Jason Clark. Clark had been remarkably consistent through conference play, scoring in double figures in twelve of thirteen games leading up to the Seton Hall game. But then Clark seemed absent against the Pirates, tying a season low with four shot attempts. As he approaches his last chance at March Madness, Clark will need to be more assertive.
- Wildcats' strength: defensive rebounding. It's the only category in which the Wildcats are above average on defense. When Bell and Wayns are healthy, six Wildcats average four rebounds or better per contest, led again by Yarou and Pinkston.
- Looming question: free-throw shooting? Georgetown has been able to draw fouls, averaging more than 25 free-throws per game over their past five games. And Villanova has proven particularly foul-happy as the season has worn on, sending its opponents to the free-throw line at the second-highest rate in the league. But can the Hoyas, who have been occasionally jittery at the line, come through from the charity stripe on Saturday?
Prediction. Georgetown should win this game: the Hoyas have been better than the Wildcats all season, and Villanova has won just one true road game. The Hoyas also need a victory, both to right the ship after Tuesday's embarrassing loss and to stave off the prospect of yet another late-season swoon. (A win is also needed because the good vibes of the Casual Extravaganza are squarely in doubt after last season's loss to Syracuse at the Verizon.) Expect a sizable bounce-back as a motivated bunch in gray (on the court and in the stands) stifle the Wildcats defensively and pull away as the game wears on. Georgetown 65, Villanova 54.