Game 18: Georgetown Hoyas (11-6, 4-1) vs No. 6 Villanova (15-2, 5-0)
Series: Hoyas lead 43-32, split last season
Where/When: Verizon Center, 1 PM Saturday
Line: Villanova -7
It's really difficult to call a college basketball game being played in the middle of January a "must-win" situation but that's basically where the Georgetown Hoyas have put themselves after a very puzzling and disappointing November and December.
The great part about the BIG EAST - even version 2.0 - is that the opportunity for quality wins await and it looks like the Hoyas have saved the best for first with Villanova coming to town this weekend. Unfortunately we don't have a blizzard awaiting their arrival like in 2010.
The good news is that despite that slow start for the Hoyas, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and co. have the Hoyas right where they want to be in the conference with a chance to leave the weekend in first place. Yes, winning at Creighton would have been great but it turns out that the Bluejays are probably better than we thought they were two weeks ago.
Jay Wright's small-ball style has been ridiculously successful since conference realignment left the BIG EAST with ten schools a few years ago.
Coming into Saturday's matchup Villanova is 37-4 in regular season conference games over the past two plus seasons. To put that win total in perspective both Georgetown and Providence come in second behind Villanova with just 24 wins.
Since losing by 20 to the Hoyas nearly a year ago on MLK Day, Villanova has reeled off 20 straight victories against BIG EAST foes - including last season's conference tournament.
For as good as Villanova has been this season, when they do lose, they go down hard. Oklahoma absolutely drilled the Wildcats to the tune of 78-55 in Hawaii while Virginia scored an 86-75 home victory over the BIG EAST leaders.
Here's some basic info on Villanova:
Last time out: Villanova actually trailed at the half against Marquette on Wednesday night before pulling away for a comfortable 83-68 win. It was the seventh straight win for the Wildcats and only one of those wins - at Butler - was in the balance heading down the stretch.
RPI: Villanova has the best RPI in all the land. This would be a GREAT win.
Who to watch for: Just as one would expect from a team off to such a great start, there are many Wildcats having solid seasons so far. Seven guys are averaging between 15 and 7 points per game while they all get at least 20 minutes per outing.
Josh Hart leads five Wildcats in double figures with 15.5 points per game. I can't wait until he's exhausted his eligibility because it seems like one of the bigger recruiting misses over the last few years given the fact that he's local and he was at so many Georgetown games during his final two season of prep ball.
Daniel Ochefu is another former Hoyas that's thriving at Villanova. Although some reports that the senior might be questionable for tomorrow's game I think we can all expect him to give it a go. So much of what Villanova does revolves around Ochefu being in the middle. He nearly averages a double double and he's an above average passer for a big man.
Ryan Arcidiacono is again back for Wright in the backcourt. He barely edges out Hart in minutes per game and is second on the team in scoring. He was one of the lone bright spots in last year's loss for the Wildcats. He connected on four of Villanova's seven 3-pointers that night.
Ok let's talk about the Hoyas.
Sophomores Must Stand Up: Now that we officially know that Paul White has been shut down for the season it's time for the rest of the regulars in the sophomore class to step up.
Last season Isaac Copeland has breakout game in that win over Villanova. Copeland needs to come out and play to his potential while playing under control. Copeland, the Hoyas second leading scorer at 11.2 points per game, hasn't reached double figures in three straight games. That's a stark contrast to the beginning of the season as the sophomore started by scoring in double figures in 12 of the first 14 games. Copeland is due to come out of a bad streak in which he has hit just 6 of his last 31 shots from the field.
Despite being the only Hoya that played and didn't score in the rout of St. John's, L.J. Peak's numbers have been great in conference play. He's shooting both overall and from 3-point range are around 60 percent. JT3 needs Peak to be instant offense off the bench but he also needs him to cut down on the fouls so that he can play more. Against Villanova would be a great time for Peak to show that he's ready to defend and drive to the hoop without picking up fouls.
As if right on cue, Tre Campbell had his best game of the season leading into the Villanova game by scoring a season high 12 points against the Johnnies. It was his highest output since he scored nine in the NCAA Tournament win over Eastern Washington last season. Campbell needs to do more with his starter minutes so let's hope this is a trend that continues.
Will Marcus Derrickson Play? Without Derrickson available in the Hoyas last game against St. John's, JT3 was forced to give heavy minutes to Trey Mourning and Riyan Williams. It worked out well but that may have had more to do with the opponent than anything else. Against Villanova, the Hoyas will definitely need Derrickson stretching the floor and playing solid defense. Derrickson has hit a 3-pointer in eleven straight games.
Repeating Last Season: Of course many of the players have changed but we can still learn the blueprint in how to beat Villanova by revisiting last season's 78-58 win. Georgetown played inspired defense in limiting the Wildcats to just 34 percent from the field. Villanova hit on just 7-of-23 3-pointers and had both Hart and Ochefu foul out. Georgetown took a limited amount of 3-pointers (12) and made half of them. The Hoyas also excelled from the line, particularly in the second half by going 19 for 24 (79 percent). Unfortunately we can't watch Jabril hit step back 3-pointers this year. I guess we'll settle for Peak to do that dirty work
Allow the Three? Surprisingly enough for a team that is guard heavy, Villanova isn't the best 3-point shooting team. I know it will give you nightmares to picture Nova chucking up a ton of 3-pointers tomorrow afternoon but that might be a good thing.
On the flipside, the Hoyas are shooting the nets out from deep within conference play. DSR is at hitting at nearly 50 percent which puts him well behind Govan and Peak through five games.
Start Hayes, Give Govan Starter Mins: What I'd like to see is for the Hoyas to go to Bradley Hayes early on and see if that sweet hook is gonna find the bottom of the net. If that's not falling it's not the end of the world as Govan changes the game in the way that other teams have to guard the Hoyas. I think going forward Govan should keep on eating into BJ's minutes.
Reason to be delusional: This team apparently gets up for the big names on the schedule. After leading it the second halves against both Duke and Maryland, it's time for the Hoyas to get a Top 10 win.
Reason to be cynical: After being embarrassed in the Verizon Center last season, Villanova will be carrying around a bit of extra motivation this season.
Final Thoughts: This Georgetown team is too good not to pick up some quality wins along the way. Since it looks as though neither Syracuse nor Wisconsin are going to count in that category, the Hoyas are still searching for that first one. I'm not sure if they will pick up enough of them to get into the tournament but this is just about this game and I'm going with a 68-60, HOYAS WIN!