Creighton has the best offense in the country. Georgetown has struggled on defense. Thus, it came as no surprise that the Hoyas couldn’t stop the Bluejays in Crieghton’s 76-63 win in Omaha on January 25.
The Bluejays have a classically simple formula for their great offense. First, they rarely turn the ball over. They do so on only 15.1% of possessions, good for 21st lowest in the nation. This ensures they are getting shots on almost every trip down the floor. They don’t miss those shots either, as they are the best shooting team in the nation. They are especially deadly from three, leading the nation with an absurd 42.2% shooting from beyond the arc. Consensus National Player of the Year Doug McDermott at 44.1% from downtown, but he is hardly the only weapon. Jahenns Manigat (42.7%) and Grant Gibbs (42.4%), are deadly as well. Ethan Wragge may be the best three point shooter in the country (49.2%), and he is an extreme specialist at the task. He has shot 191 three pointers but only 7 times inside the arc, which is by far the most extreme split I’ve ever seen.
In the first meeting between the two teams, McDermott "only" had 14 points and Creighton "only" hit 7 for 21 from threes. But Creighton still scored at will anyway, primarily by shooting a sizzling 17 for 31 inside the arc. That isn’t a surprise, as Creighton is very efficient scoring closer to the basket as well. McDermott, Gibbs, and big man off the bench Will Artino are all very effective at scoring inside, and as has been well documented, the Hoyas have had problems stopping teams inside all year.
You might think that Georgetown actually matches up well with Creighton, because the Bluejays don’t offensive rebound or draw fouls all that well. This is misleading, though. For one thing, when you miss as few shots as the Bluejays do weak offensive rebounding becomes a moot point. Secondly, this didn’t stop Creighton from grabbing 10 offensive rebounds and shooting 28 free throws in the teams’ first meeting. Clearly, Georgetown is bad enough in these areas to where any team can take advantage.
Georgetown will have Jabril Trawick this time, and that should help tremendously. Trawick is the team’s best defensive players and one imagines that he will spend his fair share of time shadowing McDermott. He also has been the team’s only consistent non-Markel Starks/D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera option since his return from a broken jaw.
Georgetown has had real trouble forcing turnovers this year, leaving little hope that they can force turnovers and transition opportunities against Creighton’s top notch ball security. It is unreasonable to expect them to force Creighton into poor shooting from the field. To win the game, Georgetown MUST stay out of the foul trouble that has plagued them all year. Not only do the team’s big men need to stay in the game in order to give the Hoyas a prayer of an interior defense, but they cannot afford to let an excellent free throw shooting team like Creighton get free points.
On the other side of the court, Creighton also doesn’t force many turnovers on defense. It is imperative that the Hoyas take advantage of this weakness and not give away possessions. They simply cannot afford to do so. This is particularly the case because Creighton is very good at protecting their own defensive glass. If Georgetown turns the ball over they simply won’t get enough shots to win.
Beyond that, again look for Georgetown to eschew the three point shots they haven’t been able to hit all year and drive to the basket. Creighton has very little inside presence on defense, so this Georgetown strength plays to the Bluejays defensive weakness.
It will be interesting to see if Bradley Hayes plays in this game for Georgetown. John Thompson III turned to him in desperation in the last ten minutes of the Marquette game, because Davante Gardner was killing them inside and team’s big man contingent had fouled out. Hayes outplayed Mikael Hopkins, Nate Lubick, and Moses Ayegba, but he wasn’t all that good. With Creighton lacking a devastating post player, I’d expect to see more of the small lineup.
This is Senior Night for the Hoyas and they absolutely need this game if they are to have any chance of making the NCAA Tournament. We should expect them to play the best game of which they are capable. I wouldn’t pick Georgetown to win this one, but if that best game involves limiting fouls and protecting the ball it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Hoyas take this one at home.