Providence and Georgetown enter tonight’s game firmly on the bubble. According to ESPN’s bracketologist Joe Lunardi, Providence enters tonight’s game as the fourth to last team currently in the tournament, while the Hoyas are the last team out. I have the two teams as the third (Providence) and fourth (Georgetown) teams currently out. This is an important game with huge implications for the NCAA Tournament bubble, and the winner will most likely find themselves, temporarily at least, on the right side of the line while the loser will be on the outside.
When these teams first met in Providence on January 9, the Friars handed out a good old fashioned thumping in blowing away the Hoyas 70-52. Providence featured a nice four man offensive attack featuring Kadeem Batts (21 points), Bryce Cotton (20), Josh Fortune (13), and LaDontae Henton (10). On the other side, Georgetown could only offer a strong game from D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (19 points on 6 of 10 field goals), as no other Hoya did much of anything on offense. The Hoya attack was doomed by the deadly combination of poor 39.5% field goal shooting and 15 turnovers.
Georgetown enters this one having won three in a row and looking better since the return of Jabril Trawick. The winning streak has been accompanied by a notable decrease in the amount of fouls the Hoyas have committed, which has been perhaps the team’s biggest problem all year. This presents an especially large challenge for the Hoyas tonight, because the Friars are the top free throw shooting team in the nation at 78.5%. It is unlikely, therefore, that the Hoyas will be able to withstand a Providence parade to the free throw line.
If they can keep the Friars off the line, the Hoyas should be able to contain them defensively. Georgetown premises its defense on forcing teams to shoot poorly from the field, which is already a Providence weakness (290th in the nation in effective FG%).
On offense, look for the Hoyas to attack the basket and attempt to draw fouls. In his post-game comments after Saturday’s win over Butler, Hoya Coach John Thompson III talked about his team’s need to attempt fewer threes and make more drives to the rim. This makes sense. Georgetown has shot dreadfully from long range all season and Providence makes a keen attempt to run teams off the line (13th nationally in three point attempts allowed).
The key player tonight for Georgetown is Markel Starks. He had a terrible offensive game against Providence in the first meeting, and that was huge reason that the team’s offense completely stalled. In addition, he will be called on to do much of the defensive heavy lifting against Friar star Bryce Cotton, one of the top point guards in the nation.
To win, Georgetown as always needs strong games from Starks and Smith-Rivera, and must make a strenuous effort to attack the basket and avoid fouling, making Providence beat them from the field. If they can do these things I like Georgetown’s chances to even up their conference record.