When: Sunday, noon
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Series: Georgetown leads 43-39, Villanova won both meetings last season
TV: FS1 (Tim Brando & Steve Lavin)
Radio: The Team 980 (Rich Chvotkin)
KenPom Ranking: Villanova 18, Georgetown 86
NET Ranking: Villanova 21, Georgetown 82
KenPom Projection: Villanova 83, Georgetown 71 (6 percent)
Line: Villanova -10.5, o/u 155.5
It may be Super Bowl Sunday but there’s a lot on the line in the BIG EAST as Georgetown travels to Philadelphia to renew its long time conference rivalry with No. 14 Villanova.
The Hoyas have won back-to-back games to get back to .500 in league play and in the process have given hopes to a fan base that is hungry for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015.
In order to get over the hump and really get some national attention, all Georgetown and coach Patrick Ewing have to do is figure out a way to snap a program worst eight game losing streak to Villanova.
Yes, that Villanova.
The program that has won two of the last three National Championships and has been carrying the torch for the reconfigured BIG EAST since 2014.
Ewing talked about the role reversal between Georgetown and Villanova after Thursday’s win over Xavier.
“They’re the class,” Ewing said when asked about getting ready to face Villanova.
“Back then it was reversed we were at the top but now they’re at the top. We’re looking up at them. They’re a talented team, they’re well coached and they’re paying extremely well. They share the ball, they knock down 3’s, they drive, so we’re going to have bring our A game like I said both defensively and offensively to be able to get a win there.”
Villanova started the season 2-2 but has is now rolling thanks to a 9-game winning streak that has the Wildcats climbing back up the national rankings.
Phil Booth leads three in double-figures, scoring 18.7 ppg with Eric Paschall (17 ppg) and Collin Gillespie (11.2 ppg) not far behind.
Local product Saddiq Bey has started 14 games, averaging eight points and five rebounds per game.
Villanova is getting it done on both ends of the court. The Wildcats are the best shooting team in the league and hold opponents to the fewest points. Coach Jay Wright has pulled his team together after that bumpy start as five of their eight league wins have been by double digits.
Georgetown continues to be led by Jessie Govan, James Akinjo, and Mac McClung. Akinjo turned in one of the best second half performances in a long time by scoring all 23 of his points in the second half of the win over the Musketeers.
Akinjo snapped out of shooting slump at just the right time to make Sunday’s Villanova game one of the bigger games for the Hoyas in the last few seasons.
“Believe it or not we want to try to just focus on ourselves and getting better because we’ve got enough talent we can compete with anybody in the country,” Akinjo said on Thursday.
“I feel like that, we all feel like that so we just try and focus on ourselves. We’re just going to come up with a game plan try our best to execute it on Sunday.”
Georgetown has lost nine straight games to AP Top 25 teams since a win at Butler in 2017.
The Hoyas pulled away late in each of their last two victories to even their conference record heading into Sunday’s big clash at Villanova. That doesn’t take away the fact that those victories at St. John’s and then home to Xavier were in the balance down the stretch. Georgetown has struggled to go just 2-5 in games decided by six points or less. James Akinjo thinks all of the experience in tight games is starting to pay off.
“Yeah I think that’s what we struggled with early in the BIG EAST,” Akinjo said Thursday about his teams’ 2-4 start in league play.
“We had a couple games that we struggled to close out but now I think we are gelling as a unit. We’re growing up pretty fast.”
No matter what happens against Villanova, Georgetown will be in 3rd place in the BIG EAST come Monday. With a win the Hoyas would improve to 5-4 and remain all alone in third, still well behind both Villanova and Marquette.
With a loss, the Hoyas would drop to 4-5 and be tied for third with St. John’s – who stepped out of conference to get blasted by 30 to No. 2 Duke on Saturday – and remain a half game up on Seton Hall, DePaul, and Butler who are all 4-6.
As mentioned earlier, Georgetown has struggled as of late against AP Top 25 foes, losing nine straight.
Ewing has been in charge for the last six.
Let’s take a look at how the last three coaches started their careers against ranked opposition.
John Thompson Jr started 0-5 against ranked teams before knocking off then No. 12 St. John’s early into his fourth season.
Craig Esherick started 0-10 against ranked foes before earning a memorable win against then No. 12 Syracuse in the BIG EAST quarterfinals. The Orange were the top seed in the tournament.
John Thompson III didn’t take long to earn a Top 25 win with the Hoyas, doing it in his second chance at Pitt. JT3 would lose his next nine games against ranked teams before earning the program’s third ever win vs No. 1 when the Hoyas defeated Duke in his second season.
Prediction: Georgetown 91, No. 14 Villanova 87 – The Wildcats aren’t going to go undefeated in league play and it’s going to take an offensive outburst to knock them off. The Hoyas can score the ball.
Boom, there’s your upset.