Georgetown’s first game against Marquette this season, on Jan. 20 in The Nation's Capital, was probably the team’s lowest moment in what has been a very difficult season.
Behind monster games from guards Markel Starks and D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera, and little else, the Hoyas led most of the way and seemed to have the game iced with a seven-point lead with three minutes left. But Georgetown faltered. Starks missed a free throw that would have iced the game, and on the miss former walk-on John Caprio committed a boneheaded over the back foul that gave Marquette two free points with the clock stopped.
Marquette went on to tie the game with a last second three, which was wide open thanks to a blown defensive assignment by Caprio. The Golden Eagles then walked over Georgetown in overtime, winning the game 80-72.
The rematch could not be more important. Both teams enter this game on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, albeit most likely on the wrong side of the line at the moment. To summarize the situation: whichever team loses this game is highly unlikely to get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Georgetown has played horribly in true road games. They have two road wins this season, over Big East weak sisters DePaul and Butler, the latter in overtime. In the team’s other five road games this season, they have yet to come within thirteen points in the final margin.
Georgetown does have an advantage over the last meeting with the return of Jabril Trawick, who missed the first game with a broken jaw. A defensive stalwart, Trawick is playing the best offensive basketball of his career since his return. Additionally, his return should keep Caprio glued to the bench. Caprio played 22 minutes of horribly ineffective basketball during the first meeting, and his two late brain freezes almost singlehandedly cost Georgetown the game.
These two teams are very evenly matched on both sides of the ball. In the first meeting, the Hoyas generated efficient offense from the three point line (8-20, 8-13 for Starks and Smith-Rivera, 0-7 for the rest of the team), but were dreadful inside the arc (37.0 percent). Over the last few games Georgetown has been quite effective pounding the ball inside and I expect them to do it again tonight against a Marquette team that does not have an especially tough inside presence on defense.
The Georgetown offense has improved, and they should be able and need to score against a Marquette ranked 64th in the nation in points allowed per possession. That stat actually overrates Marquette a bit, as they have been fortunate to see their opponents should just 66.0 percent against them on free throws, one of the lowest rates in the nation.
The real key for Georgetown is whether or not their defense shows up. The team has generally been poor on defense, and in most of their losses this season the Hoya defense could best be described as that of a matador. The strength of the Hoyas defense, relatively speaking, is the ability to keep teams from making shots.
Marquette happens to be a poor shooting team, particularly from three range where their 31.0 percent marksmanship makes them one of the worst in the nation. Georgetown has been brutalized on the defensive boards this year, which is a strength for Marquette. The Golden Eagles also draw a good number of fouls, which mirrors Georgetown’s biggest weakness this year.
In addition, Marquette rarely allows steals, which should help to limit the transition opportunities Georgetown has used in recent games to jumpstart their offense.
Large human Davante Gardner poses a special problem for Georgetown. He is a very efficient player on offense who grabs boards and draws fouls by the bushel. The Georgetown big man brigade of Mikael Hopkins, Nate Lubick, and Moses Ayegba has simply proven themselves unable to stay out of foul trouble all season.
If they can’t stay in the game, Gardner will destroy Georgetown’s mini-lineup inside.
We should expect Marquette to get free throws and offensive rebounds. Thus, if they can shoot a high percentage the Hoyas will be extremely hard pressed to win.
The teams are evenly matched and the stakes could not be higher, so we should expect a good one tonight in Milwaukee.