Pregame Party: Rutgers v. Georgetown

Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

Hoyas shoot for eleven (11!) straight and season sweep against Rutgers.

Amid all this talk of seeding and conference realignment, there's March basketball to be played! Your Georgetown Hoyas return from a thrilling pair of road wins to host the revenge-minded Scarlet Knights in the rare Saturday night home game. Georgetown beat Rutgers just three weeks ago in a in a game that the Hoya guards kept close for much of the first half before Otto Porter took over down the stretch. Can the Hoyas complete the sweep Saturday at the Phone Booth? Let's get to it.

It's Been So Long Since Last We Met. Superficially, Rutgers's four games since the first Georgetown game were much like the first eleven conference games: one win for every three losses, predictably better results at home, fading hopes of a leap to the middle of the conference. The truth is worse: two of the three losses were against DePaul and Providence, the latter of which has snatched up the surprised-to-be-near-.500 spot. What's worse, leading scorer Eli Carter broke his leg in a loss to DePaul, and so is lost for the season. For a team looking to end its season on a positive note, a road win at the conference's first-place team could be the ticket.

Scarlet Knights to Know. Without Carter, still more of the scoring burden falls on guard Myles Mack (13.5 ppg, 2.7 apg, 1.7 stl pg, 44.9 3FG%), a pint-sized pest who is a perimeter threat on both ends of the floor. Flanking Mack in the back-court is still Jerome Seagears (5.8 ppg, 2.4 apg, 38.7 3FG%), another long-distance shooter who struggles inside the arc. Replacing Carter in the lineup is swingman Mike Poole (4.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg), though wing Dane Miller (7.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.5 apg) splits minutes with Poole and is more productive.

Up front, head coach Mike Rice rotates a trio of big men. Wally Judge (6.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 50.3 FG%) shows flashes of talent but still has not quite lived up to the potential that made him a McDonald's All-American in high school. Sophomore Kadeem Jack (5.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.1 blk pg) seems a bit more promising on the boards and protecting the rim, especially of late. Senior Austin Johnson (5.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg) was active in the first game but mostly is just a big body.

When Rutgers Has the Ball.

  • Three things we learned in the first match-up:
    • The Knights can shoot. Rutgers shoots nearly 36 percent from three, placing it in the top third of the league in that category. In the first game against Georgetown, the Scarlet Knights made 8 of 18 attempts, though that was fueled in part by Carter's uncharacteristically hot shooting from deep. Mack is the biggest threat, and Seagears can stroke it as well.
    • The Knights will attack the glass. Rutgers grabbed 17 offensive rebounds in the first contest, including three out of five Scarlet Knight misses in the second half. The Hoyas have been more porous of late on the defensive boards, but must prevent second chances Saturday.
    • Protecting the lane works. Georgetown overcame Rutgers's outside shooting and offensive rebounding by allowing almost nothing inside the arc, where the Scarlet Knights shot just 13 of 36. The four Scarlet Knight bigs particularly struggled, making just 3 of 14 shots.
  • Three more things to watch:
    • Lineups. Rice has had to replace Carter but doesn't have another lead guard with which to do so. That's resulted in fewer three-guard arrangements and more big guards and swing men like Poole and Malick Kone, though neither option packs the injured star's scoring punch.
    • Foul trouble. Nate Lubick battled foul trouble in the first Rutgers game, and the Hoya offense struggled when he was off the court. Wednesday against Connecticut, Lubick fouled out in the second overtime, and Mikael Hopkins battled foul trouble throughout. What will foul roulette bring in the rematch with Rutgers?

When Georgetown Has the Ball.

  • Three things we learned in the first match-up:
    • Driving lanes. Both D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks found plenty of scoring opportunities in the first Rutgers game, taking advantage of undersized Scarlet Knight guards to find opportunities going to the rim. The two guards shot 13 of 19 from the field overall, including 9 of 13 from two.
    • The Rutgers guards are pesky. When they could stay in front of the Hoyas, the Scarlet Knight guards were able to force some miscues, leading to four Starks turnovers and three steals combined by Mack and Seagears.
    • Attack the offensive glass. Georgetown grabbed just nine offensive rebounds, but that figure becomes more impressive when you consider Georgetown missed just 20 shots. The Hoyas have sold out offensive rebounds to get back on defense, but Rutgers may present an irresistible opportunity.
  • Two more things to watch:
    • Three-point shooting. Georgetown kept pace with Rutgers from deep, particularly Starks, who buried three triples. Will the Knights' shift to a larger lineup allow them to cover more ground on the perimeter, or is another hot-shooting night from outside in store?
    • Pace. Having moved toward a more traditional lineup, will Rutgers be more vulnerable to an increased pace? And will Georgetown try to exploit that vulnerability with a three-guard arrangement and Porter at the power forward? Hmmm.

Prediction. These Hoyas seem smart enough to know that they can't beat anyone without a concerted effort. That effort seemed to lapse at the end of regulation against Connecticut, only to return in the extra sessions. Saturday, Georgetown runs the risk of looking ahead to a big finishing week, with a road trip to Villanova and the big finish against Syracuse. The Scarlet Knights may be depleted but they'll still be looking for a win to redeem an otherwise disappointing season. For the Hoyas, each win has made the next game more critical than the last. Expect that road-weary legs will get the Hoyas off to a slow start before a strong finish. Georgetown 64, Rutgers 57.

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