Game 8: Georgetown Hoyas (5-2) vs No. 10 Kansas Jayhawks (6-1)
Series: Jayhawks lead 2-1, two game winning streak
Where/When: Verizon Center, Wednesday 7PM
TV: Fox Sports 1
This is it.
This is THE game.
Thanks to conference realignment, tonight's game against Kansas is the biggest game - non conference or within the BIG EAST - to be played at the Verizon Center since Georgetown destroyed Syracuse 61-39 to end the 2013 regular season.
Even during last year's unusually poor home non conference slate of games - which wasn't exactly perfect timing given the watered down nature of the new BIG EASTS, fans would point to next year's date with the Jayhawks.
Next year is here. It's TODAY.
Let's hope that the fact that this game - of all games - is being played on a weeknight during exam week doesn't matter to the students. You can always stay up later studying but you'll never be able to get this Game Day experience back.
So what do we know about the Jayhawks?
Well, Bill Self wakes up in the morning and wins Big 12 championships. In basketball, unlike football apparently, that actually means something.
The last time Kansas missed the NCAA Tournament was in 1989. Things were different then. Alonzo, not Trey, was playing for the Hoyas.
Jayhawks lowdown: Kansas doesn't have the household names - if that's even still a thing in college basketball anymore - of last season when they had Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid but they still have star power if you follow recruiting.
Cliff Alexander is the headliner as a freshman although his minutes haven't been exactly where most would have expected. In less than a half of basketball a game he's averaging impressive numbers - 10 points and over six rebounds per game. Oddly enough a one game suspension to Jamari Traylor might result in more minutes for Alexander which would likely be bad for the Hoyas.
Perry Ellis is back for a third year. He's leading the team in scoring with 14.6 per game and grabs nearly seven boards per game. He didn't play much of a factor in last year's meeting after Nate Lubick knocked him out of the game.
Wayne Seldon and Frank Mason are sophomores in the backcourt that both average around 10 per game and have positive assist to turnover ratios.
Last time out: Down by 15 at the half to Florida at home last Friday night, the Jayhawks outscored the Gators by 21 points in the second half for a 61-55 victory.
Kansas has now won five straight since a very humbling outing against Kentucky in which the Jayhawks were on the wrong end of a 72-40 decision.
RPI: Clearly you don't need me to tell you that this will be an incredible game from a metrics standpoint, win or lose. That being said, winning against a top 5 RPI team would be the better road to travel towards possible March seeding.
Now on to your undefeated (on US soil) Georgetown Hoyas.
Big Stage: Just as he did in the Battle 4 Atlantis, expect the preseason BIG EAST Player of the Year D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera to show up. Making his job easier right now is the emergence of both Paul White and Isaac Copeland.
Yes after the first few games it was all about L.J. Peak - and he's still a vital part of everything as he gets points in nontraditional JT3 ways - the bigger freshmen are also needed.
White has been doing a bit of everything from ball handling to shooting while Copeland has finally joined the party after needing a few games to get his feet wet.
DSR is 35 points away from joining the 1,000 point club. Nobody will ever forget it if he gets to that number against Kansas. He just might you know.
Fouls: There's not much any Hoya fan wants to remember about last year's 86-64 loss in Lawrence but it's easy to remember the foul trouble. It's not the reason Georgetown loss but it surely didn't help.
Coach John Thompson III has much more depth than last year but it's imperative that both Joshua Smith and Mikael Hopkins stay out of foul trouble. The frontcourt duo knows it. JT3 knows it. Now it's just a matter of staying away from ‘bad' fouls. This is probably truer for Hopkins than Smith with the reason being that over the first seven games we've seen enough evidence from referees to realize that they simply don't know how to call fouls on Smith. We've probably reached the point where JT3 needs to pick up some techs just lobbying for his guy. I'm not calling for a full Esherick on Sweetney level rant, but maybe something during the game.
But for Hopkins, he needs to know better as his foul trouble stems mainly from poor decisions as opposed to being the biggest body in the game.
Last Chance Saloon: I guess this depends on how you currently view Indiana, but from a practical standpoint tonight's game against Kansas is the Hoyas last chance to notch a big OOC win. Yes the Florida victory might look better later on down the road but right now Georgetown is still in search of the resume boosting non conference win after letting then-No. 2 Wisconsin off the hook.
All you have to do is look back to last year to remember what a big non conference win (Michigan State) can do for the perception of the program even in the midst of a bad spell.
A loss tonight and that BIG EAST record is going to have to look pretty darn good in order to not only get into the NCAA Tournament but to earn a favorable seed. Am I looking ahead? Sure. I can do that. I don't (thankfully) play.
Lucky No. 54: Georgetown can run its Verizon Center non conference winning streak up to 54 games if they get by Kansas tonight. The Jayhawks are the first team outside of the BIG EAST to show ranked in the Top 10 since Duke (No. 8) back in 2010. Hopefully Self is as accommodating as Coach K and plays strictly man-to-man.
During the first 53 games of the streak, the Hoyas have only had to knock off two ranked opponents in the aforementioned Blue Devils and Memphis (No. 16) in 2008. The Tigers showed up unranked in 2011 after losing to the Hoyas earlier in Maui.
In all, forty one different teams have fallen victim during the streak with American leading the way with five losses. Other notable opponents include Michigan, Temple, and Tennessee.
Reason to be cynical: There isn't a reason to cynical during the Holiday season, especially if you are a student about to go on a few weeks break. Some come out tonight, wear a stupid costume and get on TV.
Reason to be delusional: After losing to Wisconsin in a game that would have surely put the Hoyas near the Top 10 by now, Georgetown lost their concentration against Butler and could only think about this revenge game. Now that we are here, the Hoyas will go out and execute on their homecourt and finally return to their rightful place in the national rankings for the first time in over a season.
Final thoughts: This game is going to come down to Georgetown's ability to play defense without fouling. Maybe that will be said a lot this season but it will likely never be truer than against Kansas as the Jayhawks live off of going to the line.
I know it was only Towson but you have to like the way the Hoyas seemed to have a gameplan of forcing it inside to open up the outside shooting. We need more of this.
I'm sure this won't happen, and I know it's not his preferred position, but I'd make a switch and sit Hopkins for either White or Copeland. I'd like to see Hopkins come off the bench as the first guy to spell Smith. This isn't really a knock on Hopkins, it's just that White and Copeland offer something different offensively - namely the ability to stretch the floor and provide more spacing. Smith and Hopkins are classic posts and this offense works better when you have to guard guys away from the basket rather than sag off of them.
Of course the risk in my suggestion would be in terms of lost rebounding and defense. Neither White nor Copeland is rebounding at the needed level just yet.
I like the Hoyas in this one but I think we'll be sweating it out until the very end.