Games That Matter - March 6, 2013 (Georgetown at Villanova Preview)
With two games to go in the final regular season of the old Big East, Georgetown finds itself in the driver's seat. Two victories will secure Georgetown's first outright regular season crown since 2007-08. One win will guarantee at least a share of the title and the #1 seed in the last go-round of the old Big East Tournament (or, rather, the last iteration of the Big East Tourney as we know it).
The Hoyas' string of eleven consecutive victories has been as improbable as it has been gratifying. Featuring captivating wins against Notre Dame, Louisville and Syracuse, along with hard-fought battles against Cincy and Marquette, and an epic showdown in Storrs, Georgetown has won every which way possible. Sometimes the Hoyas caught fire from the perimeter, sometimes we used our 2-3 zone to keep teams at bay, sometimes we took advantage of getting to the free throw line, sometimes Otto Porter just took over, and sometimes we got lucky. No matter the reason, the Hoyas now seem to be clicking on all cylinders at exactly the right time.
For the next few weeks, the challenge, as always, is to focus on the next game on the schedule. Thus far, despite being one of the four youngest teams in the country, Georgetown has done a good job of taking things one step at a time. On Wednesday night, the next team to beat is Villanova. Let's get right to it.
A Few Quick-Hitters
- I really can't stand Jamie Dixon. Minutes after Pittsburgh eked out a win against Villanova on Sunday, Dixon said: "You wonder how it can get any better than this in playing in the best conference in the country. But our hopes and our plans are to make the ACC the best conference in the country. That's why they came after us and Syracuse. They didn't come after us to pull it down. They came after us to build it up." Right, the ACC came after you because you're so amazing at basketball. It had nothing to do with your football team or money or your shameless begging or BC's staunch refusal to bring UConn into the mix. Let's not forget that Dixon, a TCU alum, is one of the key people who steered the conference to the point of no return when he and his AD pushed for TCU to join the league, then played an instrumental role in spurning the ESPN contract, and finally jumped ship when the timing was right. Just go away, Jamie Dixon. Please move back to California, take the USC job, and be out of our lives for good.
- To all of the Georgetown students, and even some alums, who are debating whether to storm the court on Saturday: it's not Saturday yet, we haven't beaten Syracuse at home, and we still have another game to play before we even get to Syracuse. So everyone just relax. Save the whole "act like you've been there before" versus "but it's the last Syracuse game ever!" debate for what will hopefully be the final few seconds or minutes before you have to make that decision. For now, settle down. Please.
- Our game against Nova on Wednesday night is not Nova's senior night. For some odd reason, they decided to have that game last week. Thanks guys. And congrats to Mouphtaou Yarou and ninth-year senior Maurice Sutton and both of your families. Mazel tov.
- After our loss to South Florida, I wrote the following: "I've thought a lot about what makes this year's squad different than many of JTIII's other teams.Four big things: this is the youngest team of the JTIII era; this is the first team without a legitimate big man (both in terms of height and the ability to pass the ball effectively); this is the first team without one or two really good shooters; and this is the first team without at least one player who can break down a defense and create his own shot (Markel is close, but he's not as good as others have been).We're losinggamesbecause of all four of these factors.The lack of a solid big man is probably the most important reason."Since I wrote this, Georgetown has won eleven straight games.
- And, for the sake of completeness, I also said: "We are a bubble team.Deal with it.We thought we had impressive victories against Texas and Tennessee and UCLA, but as it turns out, those teams aren't very good either.The only teamthatwe have defeatedthatis likely to go to the Tournament is UCLA (andthat's not even guaranteed)....This year's team just has the feel of an Esherick team.Our defense is solid (except when it comes to defending the three), and we rely on our press to score easy buckets.Our offense is stagnant, we lack quality shooters, and we don't shoot free throws well." Yup.
- I really want to try the new McDonald's McFish Bites. I know, they sound disgusting. And why would I opt to put old pieces of chemically-treated fried fish in my mouth? Short answer: I have no idea, but I want one right now. They will either be delicious or absolutely terrible (and akin to the Long John Silver's equivalent selection). Either way, I must find out.
- How the hell are we still in first place?
- The fact that we have won eleven in a row is nothing short of astonishing, and for this amazing turnaround, Otto and JTIII and the rest of this team deserve all the accolades in the world. And yeah, it's pretty exciting to be in contention for a top seed. Given all of this, why am I still terrified that the wheels might come off the wagon at any time? Why are so many Georgetown fans cringing at the thought of being a #1 seed? Are Georgetown fans just naturally paranoid and cynical? Have late-season flame-outs over the last five years trained us to expect the worst? Or are we all just miserable, ungrateful jerks? I have no idea, and at this stage, I really don't care. What I will say is that I'm enjoying every second of this, and even if we lose our next three games before the NCAA Tourney (which, let's be honest, is a very real possibility), this season has already largely been a success. But we all want more.
Preview of Wednesday's Game: Georgetown at Villanova (7pm)
Villanova enters Wednesday's game as one of the most topsy-turvy teams in the country. Losses against Columbia, Temple, Alabama, LaSalle and Providence (twice), and wins against Purdue, Vanderbilt and the crème de la crème of the Big East (Syracuse, Louisville and Marquette - all at home). With a crucial matchup against the Hoyas, Nova will attempt to sweep four of the conference's top teams at home, while at the same time locking up an at-large bid in its last regular season game of the season. If you're looking for the more desperate team, it is clearly Villanova.
The key to Nova's success in the last five weeks has been incredible balance. Whether it's JayVaughn Pinkston's (12.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg) playmaking ability, Ryan Arcidiacono's (12.2 ppg, 3.4 apg) steady leadership at the point, or Mouph Yarou's (9.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg) gritty post play, the Cats have had a number of different players step up at different times this season. Darrun Hilliard (11.4 ppg) and James Bell (8.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg) have also both been key contributors throughout the year.
If you want a quick synopsis of what you need to know about Nova, here it is: they don't shoot very well, they turn the ball over more than any other team in the conference, and their perimeter defense is subpar; BUT, they get to the free throw line at a higher rate than any other team in the country and they have a balanced scoring attack (relying predominantly on high ball screens and pick and rolls).
Here's the longer version of the previous paragraph, with a few other tidbits:
- Nova is #1 in the country in the percentage of total points it receives at the free throw line (27.8%) and #2 in the country in free throw attempts per game (26.2). And Nova doesn't just get to the line; it has plenty of guys who make their foul shots. Yarou (79.6%) and Ryan Arcidiacono (83.2%) are the two best shooters from the stripe, while Pinkston has averaged nine free throw attempts per game in his last five outings.
- Nova averages 15.1 turnovers per game, which is the worst mark in the conference and #301 in the country. Pinkston and Arcidiacono combine for over five turnovers per contest.
- Although Nova has some decent three-point shooters, including Arcidiacono (34.4%) and James Bell (37.5%), its overall field goal percentage is not very good (41.3% -- #257 in the country).
- Nova's interior defense is pretty solid, but it gives up far too many uncontested threes to opposing teams. Nova's competition shoots a very high 36.9% from three-point range, and Nova gives up a high proportion of threes (#296 in the country in opponents' points per game coming from three-pointers).
- Pinkston has scored in double figures in each of his last eight games, but he has only attempted two three-pointers since the start of January (he is less effective the farther away from the basket he is).
- Mouph Yarou has scored in double figures in eleven of his last twelve games, and he has pulled down at least ten rebounds in each of his last ten games (including 16 rebounds against Syracuse and UConn). Playing in the final home game of his career, he could be a force to be reckoned with on the interior. Led by Yarou, Nova is a very strong defensive rebounding team.
Keys to the Game
1. Perimeter Shooting: Given how many open looks Nova tends to allow in most games, the Hoyas are likely to take their fair share of long-range bombs on Wednesday night. Will we see a repeat of the second half of the UConn game, when DSR, Markel and Jabril put on a shooting clinic? Or will our outside shooting finally let us down when it matters most? Markel could be the most pivotal player in this game.
2. Winning the Free Throw Battle: You've seen the numbers. Nova knows how to get to the line. Pinkston, Yarou and Arcidiacono draw fouls just about as often as they go to the bathroom each day. Against a Georgetown interior that LOVES to pick up cheap fouls, especially early in the first halves of games (i.e. Mikael Hopkins and Nate Lubick), this game could prove to be a real challenge. If Georgetown can somehow match Nova's free throw total, and go toe-to-toe at the line, the Hoyas chances of winning will increase significantly. Be smart. Don't fall for the bait.
3. Stopping Ryan Arcidiacono: Yarou is Nova's best rebounder and Pinkston is Nova's best all-around player, but Arcidiacono is arguably Nova's most important player. The guy is basically the next version of Mike Nardi. Averaging just under 18 points per game in his last five outings, Arcidiacono has increased the number of shots he takes from the perimeter. No longer deferring to the upperclassmen, Arcidiacono is serving as the table setter, but is also not afraid to shoot whenever he sees an opening. My guess, and frankly, my hope, is that Jabril will get the defensive assignment. If Georgetown can lock down Nova's point guard, Nova will be in trouble.
4. Forcing Turnovers: Nova turns the ball over a lot. Given the Hoyas' occasional scoring droughts, they need to take advantage of Nova miscues and try to force the issue whenever possible. Since losing Cool Whitt to academic ineligibility, Georgetown hasn't really used its press all that much. Now might not be a bad time to ratchet up the pressure, especially if G Whittington is planning to make his triumphant return just a week away from the Big East Tourney. In related news, FREE GREG WHITTINGTON.
5. The Jabril Factor: Jabril is going home to Philly to play at the Wells Fargo Center for the first time since coming to the Hilltop. This could be a really good thing or a really bad thing. I can see Jabril being really fired up, playing lockdown defense on the new Mike Nardi, and knocking down a couple of big threes. Or I can see him picking up two quick fouls for being overly aggressive and becoming a non-factor. Here's hoping all of Broad Street Brilly's followers on Twitter make the journey to cheer him on.
The next game on the schedule is yet another road test against one of our biggest rivals. Villanova needs this game more than we do, and should come out fired up and ready to play. This is Nova's final regular season game of the season, and a victory should put them in excellent position to receive an at-large bid (a huge result for a team that finished near the bottom of the conference last season). But this game is also important for Georgetown. Despite the wins by Louisville and Marquette earlier in the week, Georgetown is still a half game in front of the pack. A victory against the Cats guarantees at least a share of the Big East title, along with that coveted #1 seed in the BET.
So what will happen tonight? We could win, or we could lose. I wouldn't be surprised either way. Nova needs this game more than we do, and they've already beaten some really good teams at home, so there's no shame in losing. But as we have seen time and time again this season, Georgetown is pretty good too, and the Hoyas don't back down from a fight. We won at Notre Dame. We won at Cincinnati. We won at Syracuse. We won at UConn. Villanova is next on the schedule. It's time to win there too. The Cats need this one bad, but Jabril and his friends will be waiting.
Let's go Hoyas. Beat Villanova.