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Pregame Party: Georgetown v. Cincinnati

REVENGE TOUR 2012 rolls on when the mighty Georgetown Hoyas, fresh off a cold-blooded take-down of Pitt, face Cincinnati in another Madison Square Garden matinee. You may recall that the Bearcats, like their feline conference mate Panthers, beat the Hoyas earlier this season in Georgetown's lone defeat at the Verizon Center. Doubly embarrassing, Georgetown snatched defeat from the jaws of victory through an awful series of missed free-throws and sloppy turnovers. So, the Hoyas won't be lacking for inspiration when they suit up for the second time in as many days. Speaking of which, time is a-wasting until tip-off, so let's get you right to it.

More pregaming after the jump.

It's Been So Long Since Last We Met. Since Cincinnati beat Georgetown in January--the Bearcats' third straight over the Hoyas--they continued to occupy the conference's upper half. While a three-game losing streak including a defeat to Rutgers was a temporary setback, wins over Connecticut, Louisville, and, in the week's final season, Marquette moved the Bearcats up the standings. A season-closing streak of five wins in six games, along with the January win over the Hoyas, helped the Bearcats slip past Georgetown on tie-breakers and into the double-bye.

Bearcats to Know. Anyone who watched the first match-up will remember the Bearcats' two lead guards, Sean Kilpatrick (14.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.2 stl pg) and Dion Dixon (13.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.6 stl pg), who tortured the Hoyas on both ends of the floor. Kilpatrick is a bit more of an outside threat, netting 36 percent of his three-point attempts, and they both use their burly frames score off the bounce. Cincinnati also relies on two more guards, for what often amounts to a four-guard line-up. Cashmere Wright (10.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.5 apg, 2.0 stl pg) is the closest thing to a point guard in this non-traditional alignment, and an amateur hand-breaker, while Jaquon Parker (9.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg) is a streak scorer that's as likely to be shut out as to go for 20. Inside, the Bearcats turn to Yancy Gates (11.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg) and, off the pine, Justin Jackson (5.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg).

When Cincinnati Has the Ball.

  • Cincinnati's strength: guard play. Because of their guard-centered attack, the Bearcats protect the ball exceedingly well (the lowest turnover rate in the conference) and score a disproportionate amount from three-point range. The Hoyas contained the Cincinnati three-point barrage the first time around (4-13 from deep for the Bearcats), and held Pitt in check yesterday (5-21, including a couple of answered prayers). They'll need to keep the perimeter on lock-down again Thursday.
  • Bearcat to watch: Sean Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick and Dixon went off against the Hoyas in round 1, scoring 27 and 22 points, respectively. While they're each threats the second time around, keep a particular eye on Kilpatrick, who can punish defenses from deep in a way that Dixon rarely does.
  • Hoyas' strength: defensive rebounding. With Cincinnati giving up very few turnovers (just 14 percent of possessions generally, and just 9 giveaways in the first game), the Hoyas will need to limit Bearcat second chances. Cincinnati is a middling offensive rebounding squad, with Gates and, to a lesser extent, Jackson as the principal menaces. Georgetown has been excellent on the defensive glass recently; more of the same is in order Thursday.
  • Hoya to watch: Greg Whittington. Whittington was excellent against Pitt's guards on Wednesday. The Hoyas will need another lock-down performance Thursday from him to help contain the Bearcat back court.
  • Looming question: free throws? Cincinnati doesn't get to the line all that often, and the Bearcats shoot the league's worst percentage once they're at the stripe. But in the first game against Georgetown, they went to line 22 times in first game and made 18. Winning the free-throw battle will go a long way toward revenge.

When Georgetown Has the Ball.

  • Bearcats' strength: forcing turnovers. Cincinnati isn't exactly a turnover-forcing machine, but, with four players who average a steal or better per game, the Bearcats are a threat to take the ball away at any moment. In the first Hoya game, Georgetown gave the ball away 17 times, a mark equaled by Marquette in its one-sided loss to Cincinnati last week. Against the Hoyas, those miscues resulted in 20 points. Dixon and Kilpatrick, who destroyed the Hoya defense, also inflicted pain on the other end of the floor, where they had four steals apiece. The problems worsened down the stretch, as five Hoya turnovers resulting in four Bearcat points came in the last five minutes, when the Hoyas surrendered a six-point lead.
  • Hoyas' strength: establish the post(s). Cincy prefers to play just Gates and Jackson as bigs, often featuring undersized line-ups that are vulnerable inside. So it's no surprise that Cincinnati is in the bottom half of the conference in defending two-pointers and protecting the defensive glass. Yesterday, the Hoyas patiently established the posts; as the Hoya Prospectus wizards pointed out, Georgetown took nearly as many lay-ups as jumpers against Pitt. Similar discipline will be needed to get inside against the Cincinnati defense.
  • Hoya to watch: Otto Porter. Assuming Gates guards Henry Sims, the Bearcats will start with one of their guards on Porter, giving him a four-inch or better size advantage. (If the Bearcats sub in the taller Jackson for defensive help, all the better, as he's offensively inert.) Porter abused smaller Pitt defenders and figures to be poised for more of the same Thursday.
  • Looming question: outside shooting? Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson were both less than their perfect selves against Pitt, with Clark failing to register a field goal and Thompson making just one of six field goals. Hollywood had a big first half in the first go-round against Cincinnati, raining threes en route to 14 points before intermission. Getting him and Clark some open looks over the Bercat defense should open up opportunities inside.

Prediction. The first match-up between these teams was strange. The Hoyas shot a scorching 59 percent from the field, but forked the ball over so many times that their offensive production was just so-so. They also crumbled at the free-throw line down the stretch, making just 3 of 7 attempts in the last 5:30, and in so doing giving away a very winnable game. Yesterday, they paid the price, having to suit up on Wednesday after failing to secure the double-bye. Today, they get another chance at payback. Look for the Hoyas: (1) to hold their turnovers below 15 (and, ideally, 12); (2) to keep the Bearcat guards out of the lane and, as a team, below 45 (and, hopefully, 40) percent shooting from the field; (3) to win the battle of the boards; and (4) to get to the line more often than the Bearcats. Expect the Bearcat guards to keep things close, both with their sticky fingers on defense and their quickness off the dribble, but Georgetown's defensive discipline and superior size to lead to win out. Georgetown 61, Cincinnati 58.