Your Georgetown Hoyas return to action Wednesday night with a bright new outlook on the season. With consecutive wins over ranked foes in their rear-view mirror and a national ranking once again within reach, can the Hoyas keep the good times rolling against Seton Hall?
It's Been So Long Since Last We Met. Last season had few embarrassing moments, but the Hoyas' dead-legged loss at Seton Hall, an 18-point shellacking, was one of them. That win put the Pirates at .500 play with just two winnable games separating them from a possible NCAA Tournament bid, a huge potential boost for Kevin Willard's attempt to turn around the Seton Hall program. But an overtime loss to Rutgers was followed by a shameful 28-point beat down at DePaul, and Seton Hall couldn't muster enough in the Big East Tournament to merit a Dance invitation.
With the departures of last year's twin pillars Herb Pope and Jordan Theodore, this year was supposed to be a step back for the Hall, particularly once the NCAA denied a hardship waiver for Texas transfer and presumed starting point guard Sterling Gibbs. The Pirates kept things respectable during non-conference play, going 11-2 with losses to Washington and LSU. But after a narrow win at DePaul to open conference play, they've lost five of their last six, leaving Seton Hall at 2-5 in conference play and apparently hoping for a slot in the NIT.
Pirates to Know. Georgetown fans who have seen a two-year transition from Austin Freeman, small forward to Greg Whittington, shooting guard know that roster balance can be precarious. So it is that Seton Hall's roster seems very heavy on shooting guards and forwards but very light on point guards and posts. Leading the wing rotation is junior Fuquan Edwin (17.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.9 apg, 2.5 stl pg, 45.9 3FG%), a junior small forward who began as a defensive force and has become an offensive one over time, particularly from three. Also firing away is sophomore guard Aaron Cosby (11.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.1 apg), a natural scorer who learned on the job last year and looks a bit more comfortable this time around. The only true post to get heavy minutes is Gene Teague (12.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 55.2 FG%), a transfer from Southern Illinois. Teague is a fairly efficient scorer and rebounder down low, draws a lot of fouls, but alas is not a very good free-throw shooter. Brandon Mobley (9.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 52.9 3FG%), another holdover from last year, is a good rebounder and a threat to stroke the occasional three. Rounding out the rotation are a pair of transfers-swing man Brian Oliver (8.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 37 3FG%), spot shooter Kyle Smyth (5.2 ppg)-and a freshman, point guard Tom Maayan (2.4 ppg, 3.9 apg), who's been pressed into service because of the absence of any other available point guard.
When Seton Hall Has the Ball.
- Pirates' strength: three-point shooting. The Pirates turn the ball over a lot, don't get to the line often, and rarely grab their own misses. The only thing saving Seton Hall from being the worst offense in the conference is several very good shooters. Five different Pirates make at least one three per game on at least a 35 percent clip. Edwin and Cosby are particularly dangerous from behind the arc, each netting nearly two triples per game.
- Hoyas' strength: defensive rebounding. After yielding a porous 13 offensive rebounds to Providence, Georgetown has tightened things up over the past three games, giving up second chances on under 25 percent of opposing misses, bringing its defensive rebounding up to second in the conference. This has been a bit of a surprise, given the absence of Whittington; the Hoyas' glass protection against Louisville, a formidable team down low, was particularly a relief. For its part, Seton Hall rarely chases down its own misses, meaning Georgetown shouldn't give up many second chances Wednesday.
- Three things to watch:
- Edwin. The junior forward has improved each season at Seton Hall, retaining his defensive identity while developing his outside shot into a legitimate weapon. Just as remarkably, he's remained a very efficient player while stepping up from complementary to featured player. He should make one of the all-Big East teams, though the Pirates' poor performance may relegate him below the first squad. While any of the Pirate shooters could burn the Hoyas if unattended, Edwin is the biggest threat.
- Turnovers. Seton Hall is the anti-Louisville, losing games because of its inability to generate more shots than its opponents. As detailed above, the Pirates rarely plunder for offensive rebounds, but they're also very generous with the ball, committing turnovers on nearly 25 percent of possessions in conference play, the second-worst mark in the Big East. Cosby, Edwin, Teague, and Maayan all average more than two turnovers per game. Will the Hoyas seek to force the issue against an error-prone Seton Hall squad?
- Press. If the Hoyas want to force miscues, dusting off their press might be the ticket. Georgetown hasn't guarded full court much during conference play, but Seton Hall's shaky point guard play may prove irresistible.
When Georgetown Has the Ball.
- Hoyas' strength: patiently finding a shot. Georgetown's offense continues to be its weaker half, but the Hoyas should have plenty of chances to find an open shot Wednesday. Seton Hall isn't very good at defending opponents' shots, but is downright horrific at limiting the number of those shots, as the Pirates rank last the in conference in forcing turnovers and tenth in defensive rebounding, meaning the Hoyas should have plenty of opportunities to find the right shot.
- Pirates' strength: defending inside the arc. Seton Hall has yielded 67 or more points in six of seven conference games thus far (the exception being a slow-down slug fest against South Florida), giving them the second-to-worst defense in the league. The Pirates have become a bit stingier closer to the basket, allowing opponents to make just 44 percent of two-pointers, a number that has risen to 47 percent in conference play.
- Three things to watch:
- Secondary options. Seton Hall isn't a great defensive team, but Edwin is a very good individual defender, one that steals the ball from his opponents at an elite rate. Edwin likely won't bottle up Otto Porter, but could give him problems. The other Pirates have been far more suspect defensively, leading to the question of whether another Hoya will provide a scoring boost. Providence was the last opponent to permit three Hoyas to score in double figures; will Seton Hall be the next?
- Bigs. Mikael Hopkins, Nate Lubick, and Moses Ayegba didn't get many open shots against a tough Louisville interior Saturday, scoring just eight points in 50 combined minutes (though, to be fair, on a relatively accurate 4 of 5 shooting). Against a somewhat smaller Pirate front line, will the Hoya posts find more scoring opportunities?
- Lineups. When forced by foul trouble or allowed by opponents, JTIII has thrown out some interesting lineups, including three guards for a few possessions on Saturday. Seton Hall often features smaller, three-guard lineups as well. If the bigs continue to struggle offensively, will we see some smaller looks against the Pirates?
Prediction. As the last three games have shown, neither Georgetown nor any of its opponents can take a game for granted. This upcoming stretch is no different. Entering Wednesday, Georgetown is one of seven Big East teams with three conference losses, with just 1.5 games separating third place and tenth in the Big East standings. Against that backdrop, the upcoming stretch of four games, with the Hoyas likely favored in all four and home for three, is particularly critical. Wednesday's game may be the most difficult, not in terms of opposition but in terms of motivation, as Georgetown returns to action after two thrilling wins over ranked opponents. Expect a bit of early sluggishness but just enough fire in the belly from last year's blowout to spur the Hoyas to their third straight win. Georgetown 61, Seton Hall 55.