Game Preview: Villanova vs. Georgetown
The Teams: Villanova (27-3, 15-2 BIG EAST) 5 Game Winning Streak
Georgetown (17-12, 8-9 BIG EAST) 1 Game Winning Streak
The Date: Saturday, March 8
The Time: 2:00pm ET
The Location: Wells Fargo Center; Pennsylvania, PA
TV: Fox Sports 1
Radio: CBS Sports Radio 610 (Villanova) or ESPN 980 AM (Georgetown)
The Story of the Season (Villanova)
The outright regular season conference title, but there's no reason for Villanova to slow down now.
The Wildcats clinched their first outright BIG EAST title with a 77-70 win over the Xavier Musketeers, but there's now a much larger task at hand: claiming the program's first one-seed in the NCAA Tournament since the 2006 season. That year, Jay Wright lead his team to an Elite 8 for what was the first time in his career (they reached the Final Four in 2009).
As long as they don't play Creighton, the Cats shouldn't have to worry about losing the rest of the regular season or in the BIG East Tournament. In their two matchups against the BlueJays this season, Jay Wright and Co. have lost both times by an average of 24.5 points. Against every other team in the conference though, Nova has won all 15 games by an average of 20.5 points. As long as the Cats can stay as far away from Greg McDermott and the Jays, Villanova should have no problem securing that coveted no.1 seed in the Big Dance.
For the Cats to secure a victory in their final regular season game, it'll be key for them to turn this contest into a shootout. This year, Villanova has been fantastic on offense, averaging 79.1 ppg., which is good enough for second in the BIG EAST Conference. Georgetown, on the other hand has been averaging a feeble 71.1 ppg., which pushes the Hoyas down to seventh in the conference in scoring. In the first matchup, Villanova was only able to muster 65 points, allowing Georgetown to stick around, and thus the Cats escaped with only a five-point victory.
Villanova also needs senior leader James Bell to break out of the recent funk that he's been in lately. After averaging at least 15 ppg in the entire month long span, from January 18 to February 18, Bell has unable to reach that scoring average in the past four games. This includes one the worst offensive outputs of his career, a zero point performance on March 2 against the Marquette Golden Eagles. On the season, Bell leads the team in scoring (15 ppg), so he'll need to turn it around to prevent another low-scoring battle against Georgetown.
The Story of the Season (Georgetown)
Can anyone explain Georgetown? Bueller? Bueller?
Just when you think that the Hoyas played themselves of a possible bid to the Big Dance, they follow it up with another marquee victory to put themselves back in the conversation. It occurred back on February 1 after the team ended a five-game losing streak against the then no. 7 Michigan State Spartans. The same occurred only four games ago when John Thompson III's team beat nationally ranked Creighton after losing a heartbreaker at the hands of Marquette.
Now off of the upset over the BlueJays, Georgetown will attempt to carry the momentum into the team's first two-game winning streak since February 10.
If the Hoyas want to stick around with Nova, the Georgetown big men once again must play out of their minds. Without Josh Smith patrolling the center of the key, the Hoyas have devolved into the second worst rebounding team in the entire conference. Due to the loss of Smith, forwards Nate Lubick and Mikael Hopkins have had to step up to fill the hole in the middle. Both have been just alright, but they haven't been great on offense (a combined 12 ppg) or in rebounding (11.1 rpg). Neither have been considerably dominant, and will have to play above their normal output against the Nova, the best rebounding team in the conference. To put it in perspective, three players on the Wildcats average at least six rebounds a game compared to zero for Georgetown.
Therefore, due to the ineptitude inside, John Thompson III will rely heavily on his guards. The main two that Villanova will have to focus on are Markel Starks and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera. Both players were built to score, and are one of the most proficient offensive backcourt duos in the nation (a combined 33.9 ppg). Against a team, in the Wildcats, which can light up a scoreboard, the play of Starks and Smith-Rivera will make-or-break this game for the Hoyas. Much like a team such as the Missouri Tigers (With Jabari Brown, Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross), if one of Georgetown's guards doesn't show up on offense, the Hoyas stand no chance of escaping Philly with a win.
The Players to Keep Your Eyes On:
Villanova: Plain and simple, there's been no other player on the Villanova roster that has been playing better than junior Darrun Hilliard. He is only third on Nova in scoring, but he's been on an absolute role in the past four games. While leading scorer Bell, as previously mentioned, has been struggling mightily in that stretch, Hilliard has stepped up with his scoring output. He has been averaging 18.5 ppg during this latest stretch, and has led the team in scoring in all four of those games. He's also been a lot more active from deep, shooting 52% from 3-point range over the past four games, on 25 attempts. If Bell once again struggles from the field, it may once again be on Hilliard's shoulders to pace the Wildcats' high-powered scoring attack.
Georgetown: Despite being relatively unknown, junior Jabril Trawick has been a huge difference maker for the Hoyas as of late. Trawick only averages 8.9 ppg on the year, he's been one Georgetown's most consistent scorer in the past month. Most recently, he has been averaging 12.8 ppg in the past eight games, resulting a 5-3 record over that stretch. He's reestablished himself as an important part of the Hoya offense after missing five games in January due to a broken jaw. Trawick has done a wonderful job of reaching the charity stripe over this period, recording at least seven free throw attempts in four of the past eight games. One way to take him out of his offensive groove is to force him to shoot from beyond the arc. Trawick is not a frequent 3-point shooter, hasn't taken more than five in a single game all season, and if he's forced to take a high number of 3-point attempts he will really be put of his comfort zone.
The Prediction: Georgetown is really in desperate need of a huge win over yet another top-10 team to boost its struggling NCAA Tournament resume. Meanwhile, Villanova essentially needs to win out for the rest of its schedule in order to clinch a no.1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Usually, I'd give the edge to the more desperate of the two teams (Georgetown), but I just can't see the Hoyas winning this one. Until the Wildcats drop a game to an in-conference team that doesn't reside in Omaha, I just cannot pick against them in this one, especially in Philadelphia.
Villanova 74 Georgetown 63