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Big East First Round Essentials: DePaul vs. Georgetown

Surely the Hoyas can take this one. Right?

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Loser Day at the Big East Tournament, so it’s no shock to see DePaul. Georgetown hoped for better this year, but this is where two suspensions, a losing streak sparked by Jabril Trawick picking a fight, terrible road play, and two losses to Seton Hall get you. It would be easy to dismiss DePaul. The league’s perennial doormat, the Blue Demons were having their normal bad season when they dismissed their best player, senior Cleveland Melvin, from the team. Since then they have been careening out of control, losing 12 of their last 13 and finishing up with an embarrassing 33 point home loss to Butler. They have fallen all the way to 182 in the Pomeroy rankings, keeping company with Robert Morris and Colgate.

Of course, Georgetown is working on a streak of losing to double digit seeds in March, and this is probably going to be the only chance they get to extend that streak this season. Georgetown has been so inconsistent this year, Hoya fans can’t afford to look past even DePaul.

Georgetown won both meetings between the two teams this year. The first meeting in Washington on December 31 was actually quite competitive. Both offenses were dreadful, as Georgetown picked up the win 61-54 despite it being a fast 73 possession game. DePaul couldn’t hit any kind of shot in that game (13-36 2FG, 5-19 3FG, 13-26 FT), and turned it over 18 times to boot. Georgetown shot better, but kept DePaul in the game because they took ten fewer shots thanks to a pathetic two offensive rebounds. DePaul freshman sensation Billy Garrett shined (17 points, 5-10 FG) while D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera had a poor game for the Hoyas (12 points, 4-14 FG, 4 turnovers).

Georgetown played better on February 3 at Rosemont, beating the Melvin-less Blue Demons 71-59 on their home floor. DePaul was again plagued by poor shooting and 13 turnovers. Georgetown shot 41 free throws, cut their turnovers to 7 from 16 in the first meeting, and vastly improved their performance on the offensive boards, grabbing 14. Smith-Rivera played a strong game the second time around, going just 3-11 from the field but getting to the line for a perfect 11-11 and 17 points. Markel Starks had 26, and Jabril Trawick began his strong run of offensive play with 15 points on 5-8 from the field. The Hoyas still had problems with Billy Garrett, who sneaked his way to the line for 7-8 free throws, but otherwise held the Blue Demons in check.

DePaul is not good at much of anything. They have a poor offense and an especially atrocious defense, averaging a porous 1.16 points per possession in conference play. DePaul allows teams to shoot the ball extremely well, as they are one of the worst teams in the league in opposing shooting percentage, particularly from inside the arc where opponents hit 53%. They also foul nearly as much as Georgetown. Other than blocking shots, which the Blue Demons do 12% of the time, everything else on defense is a weakness. Georgetown’s offensive strengths are getting to the line and hitting two point shots, which they do at a 52.1% clip. Expect them to attack DePaul’s weak interior defense and have success getting easy shots and getting to the line, as they did in the second game. That has been the formula for the team’s improved offense in the second half of the season, and it should work especially well against DePaul.

Georgetown’s defense has struggled inside all season. Their big men have been plagued by foul trouble, not only giving up tons of free throws but also causing them to play soft defense on the interior for fear of more fouls. The Hoyas have also struggled on the defensive boards. If DePaul is going to stay in this game, they will have to crash the offensive boards, as it’s their best quality on offense and an area where they match up well with the Hoyas. To win, they will have to get second chances and take advantage of Georgetown’s proclivity for fouls. The Blue Demons turn the ball over at a very high rate and struggle to hit shots, particularly inside. Georgetown absolutely must take advantage of this weakness. If DePaul can get easy shots on Georgetown inside, they could very well win the game.

Billy Garrett has been the star for DePaul in the two games against Georgetown this year. Look for some combination of Starks, Smith-Rivera, and Trawick to try to take him defensively. DePaul will need strong performances from big men Tommy Hamilton and Sandi Marcius inside if they are going to win. Marcius was effective in the first game against Georgetown. Hamilton has struggled in both games against the Hoyas.

Still, if Georgetown can stay out of foul trouble and get effective performance from their offensive trio of Starks, Smith-Rivera, and Trawick, the Hoyas should be able to nurse their NCAA hopes for another day.