The Georgetown Hoyas (17-12, 8-9 Big East) will travel to the Wells Fargo Center Saturday to face Villanova (27-3, 15-2 Big East) in what will be the final regular season game for both teams.
The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 at 2:00 pm EST.
The Big Picture.
Villanova clinched the outright Big East regular season championship with Thursday's win over Xavier, as well as the top overall seed in the Big East Tournament. This no doubt comes as welcome news to the Hoyas, as the ramifications to Villanova of a potential loss have been reduced. Still, Villanova will be playing for a potential number one seed in the NCAA tournament, as well as honoring the team's seniors playing in their last home game. Georgetown, though, has quite a bit more at stake.
The Hoyas propelled themselves back into the conversation for a potential at-large berth by virtue of Tuesday's decisive victory over Creighton, and will head into Saturday's regular-season finale with another critical opportunity to impress the committee. Joe Lunardi currently predicts Georgetown as one of his first eight teams to miss the cut, but that would likely change with a victory over highly ranked Villanova, who Lunardi has as a strong two seed. Also at stake for Georgetown is a potential first-round bye in the Big East Tournament, which would come only with a victory over Villanova and a win from Marquette (vs. St Johns).
Since escaping the Verizon Center with a narrow 65-60 victory over Georgetown on January 27th, Villanova has cruised through its final stretch of the conference schedule with a 9-1 record. The Wildcats have won five straight and 11 of 12 heading into Saturday's game. Villanova is a near-perfect 14-1 at home this season while Georgetown is 2-7 in road games. Georgetown holds an 8-2 record in the teams' last ten meetings.
Villanova is top-to-bottom one of the most complete, well-rounded teams in the nation, giving them an elite team both offensively and defensively. ‘Nova, with its platoon of shooters and playmakers, grades out as the ninth best offense in the nation according to KenPom. Not far behind is Villanova's hardnosed, man-to-man defense that forces turnovers on 20% of opponents' possessions and grades out as a top-20 defense, again according to KenPom.
Villanova's guards receive a lot of national attention, and for good reason. 6'6 senior James Bell (15.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, .813 FT%) is a stat sheet stuffer and the undisputed leader of the team, playing in the final home game of his collegiate career. 6'6 junior Darrun Hilliard (14.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.7 apg, .484 FG%) led Villanova in scoring in Thursday's victory over Xavier with 19 points, and 6'3 sophomore point guard Ryan Arcidiacono (10.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.6 apg) added 11 points and 7 assists. All three of these starting guards are shooting over 41% on 3-pointers and over 75% on free throws in conference play.
6'7, 260-pound JayVaughn Pinkston (14.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, .520 FG%) is likely the most recognizable name in Villanova's frontcourt, but don't count out the value added by 6'11 sophomore Daniel Ochefu (5.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.6 bpg) who has been a presence on defense all season while getting through the entire conference schedule only fouling out of one game (a statistic near-and-dear to the hearts of Hoya fans who have become accustomed to frontcourt foul problems).
Villanova's reserves are talented and will provide the Hoyas no relief. 6'5 Freshman wing, and erstwhile Georgetown recruit, Josh Hart (7.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, .500 FG%) and 6'2 guard Dylan Ennis (5.8 ppg, .805 FT%) see 15+ minutes apiece off the bench. 6'6 Freshman forward Kris Jenkins (3.6 ppg, .864 FT%), a product of Gonzaga in DC, stepped up big against Xavier with one of his best shooting performances on the season, going a clutch 3-4 from 3-point territory.
What to watch when the Wildcats have the ball.
- Wildcat: James Bell. Villanova has no superstar per se, just a well-coached team of very good to great players, so it's hard to say who will go off in a given game. I'll go with the senior in his last game. Darrun Hilliard, who is averaging 22.5 points over Nova's last two games, is likely to have a solid outing as well.
- Hoya: Aaron Bowen. Georgetown is going to need a big defensive effort from Bowen, who played an instrumental role in holding Doug McDermott to a 9-23 shooting night. Bowen is one of few Hoya players with the athleticism to stick Villanova's wings. He had two steals and one block in Tuesday's win over Creighton, and was excellent at denying entry passes to McDermott.
- Number. 3-pointers. Georgetown's ability to take away Villanova's 3-point shot while at the same time containing dribble penetration will be critical to its defensive success. The Wildcats take the 5th most 3-pointers of any team in the nation, as trey attempts account for 35.1% of their total O. The Wildcats have upped their collective 3-point percentage to 38.7% in conference play, an upgrade over the already-strong 36.2% they shoot in aggregate for the season. It will take a complete team effort to close out on their shooters and provide help defense without rotating out of position. Jabril and Bowen will be critical in this regard.
- Feeling delusional because... Georgetown did very well to slow down Villanova's offense when the teams met earlier in the season, holding them to almost 14 points, 6 assists and 6 FG percentage points lower than their current season averages. And; that was with 12 minutes from Jabril Trawick, in his first game back since breaking his jaw, and back when the team was in complete turmoil.
- Feeling cynical because... Villanova is 16th in the nation with 15.9 assists per game and assist on just under 60% of their scores. This is a selfless and versatile team that can beat you in so many ways. It will take a nearly perfect game from Georgetown's defense to pull this off, and there is significant risk that the fouling and turnover woes will return in this one (when the teams played in late January Georgetown racked up 23 fouls and 18 turnovers).
What to watch when the Hoyas have the ball.
- Hoya: Jabril Trawick. The Hoyas are 6-3 since that last Villanova game, including two wins over teams ranked in the top-15 at the time, and one of the main reasons for this is that Trawick has been playing the best basketball of his career since then. Jabril has averaged over 12 points per game, and, critically, has shot 42% from three-point range during this streak- the best figure on the team for that period. And you know tomorrow's game will be of special importance to him since he will be playing in front of family and friends in his hometown Philadelphia.
- Wildcat: Josh Hart. Hart plays with hustle and grit every minute he is in the game, and, coming off the bench with a full tank of energy, he will frustrate whichever Hoya guard Jay Wright sticks him on. His non-stop energy also could well result in a key rebound or two down the stretch.
- Number. Turnovers. A lack of turnovers has paved the way to two of Georgetown's last three victories; including a 3-turnover, 22-point victory over Xavier and Tuesday's 7-turnover, 12-point victory over Creighton. When the Hoyas protect the ball it goes beyond simply having more offensive possessions, it gives them a lot of confidence in other aspects of their game. Villanova, however, is a national top-75 team in forcing turnovers, with about 20.1% of opponents' possessions resulting in turnovers. Georgetown will need to find a way to limit its turnovers, or else risk letting another winnable game slip away.
- Feeling delusional because... I don't think Villanova matches Georgetown's intensity in tomorrow's matchup. Markel will leave everything he has on that court, and it may be enough for a victory.
- Feeling cynical because... Villanova is quietly a top-20 defense and matches up very well against the Hoyas. Georgetown's big men will struggle to score inside on Villanova, and could again get into early foul trouble.
Conclusion. The first matchup between the teams this season was ugly to say the least, with turnovers and missed opportunities being major themes. Georgetown has come a long way since then, though, so this should be a great matchup between two long-time rivals.