After flying to the other side of the globe and suffering a loss to the 18th-ranked Oregon Ducks in the Armed Forces Classic in South Korea, John Thompson III’s Hoyas look to rebound against the Horizon League’s Wright State Raiders. The Raiders, who won their opener in convincing fashion against Mount St. Joseph, have the ability to give Georgetown problems. Last season, the Raiders were picked to finish last in the Horizon League. But head coach Billy Donlon led the team to a 21-12 record and a trip to the Horizon League Tournament finals where they lost to Valparaiso. This year’s Raiders squad is a well coached, experienced group who have been picked by many media outlets to win the Horizon League.
This matchup has all the makings of a trap game for the Hoyas. Coming back from Korea and playing another game less than a week later raises concern about fatigue. The Hoyas also play their next game in Puerto Rico as part of the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off and JTIII has to make sure the team doesn’t get caught looking ahead. Wright State dropped 82 points in their opener (granted it was against a team that I have never heard of) proving that they have the ability to put up some points. Georgetown undoubtedly has the advantage in both athleticism and length and need to jump out to an early lead to quell any thoughts of an upset by the Raiders.
The key matchup will be in the post. Georgetown's Josh Smith dropped an incredibly efficient 25 points on 10-for-13 shooting in 27 minutes against the Ducks in the opener. At 6-foot-10, 350 pounds the UCLA transfer is built more like an offensive tackle than a center. Smith, who has had issues with his fluctuating weight, put an end to all doubts (for now) about whether or not he is in game shape with his performance in South Korea. As good a scorer as Smith is, he is an equally awful rebounder. Despite dominating inside on the offensive side, Smith grabbed just four rebounds against Oregon and has trouble getting to the ball if it's not in his direct vicinity.
At 6-foot-10, 245 pounds, Wright State big man AJ Pacher is no slouch himself. Against Mount St. Joseph, Pacher scored an equally efficient 21 points on a perfect 9-for-9 shooting in 22 minutes. If the Raiders are to have any shot, Pacher will need to slow Smith down. The Hoyas will feed Smith early and often as JTIII will try and get Pacher in early foul trouble. It's unlikely that Pacher has played against anyone as big and talented as Smith in the Horizon League, so he will certainly have his hands full (both literally and metaphorically) in this one.
Georgetown did a horrible job of crashing the boards against the Ducks and were outrebounded 40-32. The frontcourt duo of Smith and Nate Lubick grabbed a combined 10 boards and will need to do a better job going forward if G'Town has hopes of contending. Fortunately for the Hoyas, the Raiders were also unimpressive on the boards during their opener, as they grabbed 35 rebounds. If anything, this matchup will be a lesson in how not to rebound.
In the backcourt, Hoyas guard Markel Starks looks to keep the momentum rolling after a strong 16 point, four assist, two steal performance against Oregon. The senior guard is the catalyst for the offense and should have another big game against an overmatched Wright State backcourt. The Raiders rolled out Miles Dixon and Kendall Griffin in the opener, and the two combined for 12 points, seven assists and three rebounds -- numbers Starks nearly eclipsed by himself against far superior guards. Where Georgetown must improve is in three-point shooting as they shot a woeful 1-for-15 from beyond the arc against the Ducks. Starks was the lone Hoya to hit a three-pointer while sophomore guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera went 0-5.
Playing in their home opener, the Hoyas should not have much trouble with the Raiders. Though the makings of an upset are definitely in play, the Hoyas are simply too big, strong, and fast for their opponent. Look for Smith to dominate inside, while Starks puts together another solid game on the perimeter. Where Georgetown must improve is on the boards and from three -- but we all know that by now. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Raiders come out with a lot of energy and hang tough with the Hoyas, but in the end talent will win out and the Hoyas will cruise to an easy victory before heading off to Puerto Rico.