Games That Matter -- Georgetown v. UCLA Preview

Games That Matter – November 19, 2012 – Georgetown v. UCLA Preview

Three Questions:

1. Missing Pieces: Does anyone else think that Georgetown seems to have too many guys playing the same positions? JTIII is notorious for recruiting "basketball players" and doesn’t like assigning specific positions, which makes sense when you run an offense in which your big men are often your leading distributors. But still, after watching the first 100 minutes of game time, something seems off (and yes, I know it could just be because our team is very young and Otto has been out). We have multiple guys who can play the 1, 3 and 4 positions, but no solid options at the 2 or the 5. Hopkins and Nate are a little too short for the 5, while Bolden and Hayes are too raw. And without Hollis and Jason, I guess right now our starting 2 guard is Whitt, and I love watching him play, but he’s probably more of a 3. Will DSR and Jabril switch off at the 2? Will Stephen Domingo emerge as the Hollis Thompson that we all know he can be? There are a lot of open questions.

2. Lack of Point Forward: Georgetown’s offense relies on big men who can pass and shoot. Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert, Greg Monroe and Henry Sims all did excellent jobs in this role. But who will be that guy this year? Will we see Otto catching the ball at the foul line, serving as that triple threat? Or is JTIII grooming Hopkins as the next anchor? This is clearly a work in progress, but without a traditional "hub", I wonder if we should expect a lot more pressing and a more open style of play.

3. Regular Rotation: Now that we’ve seen a few games, which guys see less playing time? We know the Hoyas can go about ten deep, but will Moses Ayegba and Aaron Bowen continue to see action? Will we ever see Brandon Bolden? Will Domingo play more than ten minutes per game?

Preview of Monday Night's Game: Georgetown v. UCLA (Legends Classic Semifinals, 8pm):

Two and half games into the season, the Georgetown University Fighting Bulldogs roll into Brooklyn without knowing how well they stack up against elite competition. After two nights of battling in the Legends Classic on Monday and Tuesday nights, they’ll know a whole lot more.

Like Georgetown, UCLA is a relatively young squad that has not yet completed a single game against a high-level opponent. Like Georgetown, UCLA has been without its best player for the beginning of the season (Shabazz Muhammad was conveniently reinstated at the end of last week). Like Georgetown, UCLA brought its team to China (in 2012, not 2011; and interestingly enough, UCLA watched footage of the The Great Brawl of China prior to departing).

But the comparisons stop there. The Bruins enter Monday’s game with huge expectations, including legitimate hopes to revive a UCLA program that has floundered in the last few years. Key transfers, such as Larry Drew and the Wear twins, and one of the best recruiting classes in the country, have increased expectations in Westwood. For those in LA, anything short of a PAC-12 title and a serious run to the Final Four will be a disappointment. UCLA is basically a more talented version of last year’s Georgetown team: lots of highly-regarded freshmen (Anderson, Muhammad, Parker and Adams), plus a core of experienced upperclassmen (Smith, Drew, the Wear twins). The Bruins have begun the season with three wins against mediocre competition (Indiana State, UC Irvine, and James Madison), but they actually almost (and should have) lost to Irvine. It took a few Irvine missed free throws for UCLA to eke out a surprising overtime win.

Here’s a quick rundown of UCLA’s key players:

Larry Drew II: A 6’2’’ redshirt senior, Drew is the Bruins’ primary ball handler and distributor (8.3 apg). He doesn’t score very often (6.0 ppg), but is dangerous when he puts the ball on the floor and gets into the lane. Drew transferred from UNC a few years ago when it became clear that Kendall Marshall was going to cut into Drew’s playing time. After only three games, Drew leads the team in minutes played. As of Monday night, however, Drew was listed as a game-time decision after he sprained his ankle in practice last week. (Fun fact: Drew is from Encino, CA. He was born two years before "Encino Man" came out. No word on whether he used to wheeze the juice.)

Kyle Anderson: A 6’9’’ freshman, Anderson is a do-everything McDonald’s All-American who spurned Georgetown for UCLA. It’s easy to see why JTIII wanted him so badly. Anderson plays like Lamar Odom used to: he can score (7.3 ppg), distribute (2.7 apg), and get it after it on the glass (9.7 rpg). He was always a great rebounder in high school (mainly because most of the players he was competing against were much shorter than he was). But it’s a bit of a surprise that he leads UCLA in rebounding thus far into the season, especially when you consider that UCLA’s frontcourt includes guys like Josh Smith, Tony Parker and the Wear twins. Anderson has a bone contusion in his right wrist, but he seems to be fine. (Fun fact: Given that Anderson is from Jersey, he’ll have 50 of his family and friends in attendance. It’s also possible that several hundred disgruntled St. John’s and Seton Hall fans will show up, just so they can throw rotten fruit at him.)

Jordan Adams: A 6’5’’ freshman who was a scoring machine at Oak Hill, Adams is perhaps the least heralded of UCLA’s awesome freshmen, and yet he is already the Bruins’ leading scorer (24.0 ppg). His scoring prowess has a lot to do with his free throw shooting. Adams has done an impressive job of getting to the free throw line, where he has already nailed 28 of 29 free throws. He also leads the team with six threes on the season (6 of 15). With the return of Shabazz Muhammad, Adams will likely have to defer a bit more, but Adams’s play gives you a sense of how deep UCLA is at the small forward position. (Fun fact: His father’s name is John Adams.)

Norman Powell: A 6’5’’ sophomore, Powell is a good scorer (12.7) who has developed a decent mid-range game. Despite going 0 for 7 against UC Irvine, Powell rebounded with a career-high 27 points against JMU in UCLA’s last outing. Like Adams, Powell will almost certainly lose some minutes when Muhammad returns. (Fun fact: Powell was the only freshman on last year’s team to play in all 33 games last season.)

Shabazz Muhammad: A 6’6’’ freshman shooting guard, Muhammad is the next big thing. The MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game, Muhammad also won the dunk contest and is a scoring machine. He can shoot, he’s great at attacking the basket, and he’s a solid defender. Due to some eligibility issues concerning recruiting visits to Duke and UNC, Muhammad was initially held out of UCLA’s first three games, but he was reinstated on Friday, so Georgetown will have the honor of being his first collegiate opponent. (Fun fact: His favorite meal is chicken alfredo.)

The Wear Twins: A pair of 6’10’’ junior transfers form UNC, the Wear twins (averaging a combined 23.7 ppg and 13.7 rpg) are basically the same player. They’re tall, athletic white guys who rebound well and have decent mid-range games. They’re not much of a threat from long distance, and they’re not likely to put the ball on the floor. Last year, lots of UCLA fans complained that they were shooting too often. They’re kind of like the Winklevoss twins, except they’re not venture capitalists, they didn’t compete in the 2008 Olympics, and they didn’t screw Mark Zuckerberg out of millions of dollars.

Josh Smith: A 6’10’’ junior, Smith is a wide load in the middle. Weighing over 300 pounds, Smith has actually slimmed down in the last year and has developed his footwork a bit down low. Smith (7.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg) is the guy who cleans up on the inside. He’s a solid rebounder who is probably UCLA’s best interior defender, not only because he can body almost anyone, but also because he has good hands (he actually leads UCLA with six steals). (Fun fact: He has lost over 60 pounds. He used to have 25% body fat. It is now down to 17%).

Tony Parker: A 6’9’’ freshman, Parker (6.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg) is another young guy who turned down an offer from Georgetown. Parker likely won’t play more than 10-15 minutes per game because UCLA is so deep in its frontcourt, but when he’s on the court, he shouldn’t be ignored. He’s not much of a shooter, but he’s skilled down low. (Fun fact: Like Anderson and Muhammad, Parker was also investigated by the NCAA for alleged recruiting improprieties. Draw whatever conclusions you like.)

Tyler Lamb: A 6’5’’ junior, Lamb (4.0 ppg) is a pretty good shooter. He has missed time this season with a knee injury and will likely be a game-time decision. He played in all 33 of UCLA’s games last season (started in 32 of them). (Fun fact: His parents’ names are Terry and Cherry.)

Keys to the Game:

1. The Impact of Shabazz: It’s clear that Shabazz Muhammad will be one of the best players on the court on Monday night, but will he be rusty? And given the solid play of Norman Powell and Jordan Adams, how will Howland use Muhammad? Will UCLA have a smaller line-up (with Drew, Anderson, Shabazz and either Powell or Adams), or will they go big? If Drew is out, will Shabazz see any time at the 2? And who on Georgetown will guard Shabazz? If Whitt is on Anderson, my guess is either Jabril or Otto, but Otto is likely too slow for Muhammad.

2. Perimeter Shooting: This may be one of Georgetown’s keys to every game this season. DSR showed us something against Duquesne, and maybe he will end up being the Hoyas’ best perimeter threat. But someone else needs to step up. One would think it has to be Markel or Jabril, but if their shooting woes continue, Georgetown will be in for a long night. Also, don’t forget about Whitt. With Otto likely returning to the lineup, Whitt will spend a little more time roaming on the perimeter. If he can hit that DaJuan Summers-esque baseline jumper on a regular basis, I will be happy. On the other side, Georgetown’s best hope of winning this game may be to force UCLA to shoot threes. Anderson, Drew and Muhammad can score, but they’re better off the dribble. The Hoyas would do well to keep the UCLA guards as far away from the basket as possible.

3. The Battle in the Paint: There’s a chance Georgetown could get bullied down low. Smith and Parker are too big for Hopkins, and the Wear twins are bigger, taller versions of Nate. Otto will certainly help, but the Hoyas will need to stay tough in the paint and not get pushed around. Nate’s been a warrior thus far, and I’d love to see him get off to a good start.

4. The Matchup of the Night: Something tells me that Kyle Anderson and Greg Whittington will get matched up against each other for key stretches of the game. The Kyle/Cool Whitt battle should be an exciting one to watch. Both are excellent rebounders. Both run the floor very well. Both are solid defenders. The key difference is that Whitt picked the right school. And Georgetown fans at the Barclays Center should remind young Kyle of that fact all night long. (Also, a key question is whether Drew will dress for this game. When he plays, UCLA uses Drew and Anderson as dual point guards, but Anderson can afford to spend more time closer to the basket. Without Drew, Anderson may have to fill a more traditional point guard role. Will be interesting to see how the absence of Drew forces Anderson to adjust.)

5. The Princetown Offense?: With Otto returning, will the Princetown offense return from hibernation? Will we finally see some successful back cuts? Is Nate Lubick our savior at the point forward position? Or will Otto start to resemble Jeff Green in 2006? Show me something, fellas.

This is the third game of the year for the Hoyas, and the fourth for the Bruins. But in many respects, it’s the first real game for both teams. It’s the first time each team will complete a game against a high-level opponent (the Hoyas’ scrimmage against Florida doesn’t really count), and it’s the first time each team will have its best player on the court to run the show. For UCLA, it’s a chance to take a key first step in what is already a season with very high expectations. For Georgetown, it’s a chance to shock the world and put a damper on Kyle’s homecoming and Shabazz’s first big game.

Let's go Hoyas. Beat UCLA.

Stay Casual, my friends.

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