Which team's highly touted freshman class has had the most success so far in their rookie campaigns?
Mike Hopkins: It has to be Georgetown's. Providence has two freshmen starting, but the production of Georgetown's freshmen like L.J. Peak, Paul White and Isaac Copeland has been better than what Ed Cooley has gotten from the likes of Jalen Lindsey, Ben Bentil, Paschal Chukwu and Kyron Cartwright. I don't think that's an indictment on Providence's class. Georgetown's guys have just given more to this point in the season. Especially Peak. This could be a fun battle between these two groups as they become upperclassmen and battle in the Big East the next few seasons.
Chris Fairfield: Georgetown and its not even close. Although three of the Providence freshman entered the starting five (Jalen Lindsey, Kyron Cartwright, and Ben Bentil) none of them have lived up to the hype for their Top 100 recruit ranking status. I agree with Mike that L.J Peak is truly separating himself from the other freshman in the conference and Paul White and Isaac Copeland have been more critical to their teams, which makes sense considering they were considered two top twenty recruits coming out of high school. This game provides the opportunity to for the Providence freshman to prove that they are more talented at Georgetown's.
DevonTe Brooks: It's Georgetown by a bunch. They have L.J. Peak, who scored 20+ points in his first game of the season. He has been establishing himself as one of the most important players on the team. Georgetown has three Top 100 recruits plus Tre Campbell, who has been important for the team on the defensive side of the ball and also can run Georgetown offense when D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera is not going. White is a very versatile player, too. Georgetown is overall the best class and will prove that against Providence.
Georgetown will have to focus on Kris Dunn and LaDontae Henton, what do you think Georgetown will do to limit the production of both?
DB: Georgetown has done a great job at limiting players from eclipsing how many points they have averaged per game, but Providence has two prolific scorers that can really hurt a team. Henton is used on more than 28 percent of the possessions, while Dunn is used on more than 24 percent. Georgetown will need to communicate with one another because both can score a lot. In their last game against the Butler Bulldogs, Dunn scored 25, while Henton netted 18. The scoring production will be high, but if the Hoyas clog the paint and defend the perimeter well, it will a lot easier to win this game. However, they're on the road so the focus needs to be much better. They cannot allow a lot of dribble and drives because that can open the offense up.
MH: The thing that has seemed to work best when trying to slow down LaDontae Henton this season has been to throw a bigger player on him. Most teams don't have a player that is bigger than Henton who can also keep up with him but I think the Hoyas have at least one and maybe two. I expect to see a mix of Mikael Hopkins, Aaron Bowen and maybe either Paul White or Isaac Copeland take turns trying to slow down Henton. Dunn's Achilles heel this season has been turning the ball over. Georgetown's best bet to limit Dunn's impact on the offensive end will be to throw pressure at him and force him into turnovers. The Hoyas have physical guards that can matchup with the 6-foot-3 Dunn but the key will be to not allow him to operate in his comfort zone and get into the paint.
CF: It seems like a zone would be the best option for the Hoyas to defend Dunn and Henton. Both of them have the potential to be first team all Big East and they can score from pretty much anywhere on the court. I would want them to shots from the three point line instead of Kris and LaDontae driving into the lane and getting layups or getting fouled. Both of them are improved three point shooters but thats the risk the Hoyas are going to have to take in order to win a game on the road.
Can Providence slow down Josh Smith? If so, how will they accomplish that feat?
DB: Well, if a team wants to slow Joshua Smith down, get him foul trouble early in the game because he is not as effective when he is foul trouble. Also, Providence has two 7-footers with Carson Desrosiers and Paschal Chukwu. It would be a bad idea for Ed Cooley to have Chukwu on Smith because he will get destroyed. Against Marquette, Smith was trapped a lot, so doing that will slow him down also and bringing different looks, so he will not be able to pass out of the double-team.
MH: Providence has the size to matchup with Josh Smith between their two 7-footers Carson Desrosiers and Paschal Chukwu. However, I think Chukwu is still too skinny to play on Smith that much and the load will likely fall to Desrosiers and Ben Bentil. Bentil has a big boy body but he will be giving a couple of inches to Smith in the paint. Georgetown's offense has looked at it's best when Smith is involved early and often so slowing him down will be a key to victory. I think the Friars may try to push to the tempo while he is on the floor and try to get him into foul trouble to take him out of the game for long stretches.
CF: I completely agree with Mike on everything he said, especially about how Chukwu is too skinny to guard to the big offensive presence of Josh Smith. Ben Bentil on the other hand is a huge body that will be able to take Josh Smith's beating and Carson Desrosiers can help and double team and get a few blocks throughout the duration of the game.
How important is it for Providence to defend the middle of the paint?
DB: A lot of Georgetown's points comes when they drive the ball in the middle of the paint or from the wings because a lot of opportunities are there when teams the defend. If Providence goes zone against the Hoyas, they will really get hurt because the Hoyas are a good mid-range shooting team. L.J. Peak and DSR are the drivers of the team and when they get an opening, they will attack. Providence always needs to have someone in the paint because it is hard to contain both of them at the same time.
MH: Defending the paint is normally a prerequisite for a good defensive game plan. It's even more important against a team like Georgetown who has a player in the middle like Josh Smith. The Friars have struggled on the offensive glass which has resulted in a higher points in the paint number than might be accurate on a regular one-shot possession. If Providence can keep Georgetown around the perimeter on offense I like the Friars' chances.
CF: Its very important considering the middle of the paint is where Georgetown gets the majority of their points from. Providence needs to force the Hoyas on the perimeter and make them take mid range and perimeter shots which is risky, but in my opinion will be the best way to win especially because Providence is playing at home. Home teams have been so successful so far in Big East Conference games and it seems that the away teams have always had trouble shooting the ball. If Providence get's them on the perimeter and prevents them from getting in the paint its going to be a good game.
Who will win?
DB: Georgetown will win this game. They really did not defend the perimeter well and the intensity was not the same against Marquette. Even though Providence has scorers, Georgetown has a deep bench and anybody at anytime will be able to affect the game in positive ways. Aaron Bowen, who has been struggling the past two games will need to come alive because Georgetown will need his energy coming off the bench. This will be a classic Big East game just like it has always been between these two teams.
MH: It will be interesting to see how the three starters who got benched in the second half of the Butler game will respond to that. Ed Cooley has said he will have some of them on a short leash in this game. I think Providence will come out playing tough after being on the road their last two outings and will punch Georgetown in the mouth early. The Hoyas aren't a team that will stay on the mat for long and I expect this to be a classic Big East slugfest as Devonte said above. I predict a two point Providence victory with the Friars getting that edge due to being at home.
CF: I going to say that Providence will win in a close game because of the message sent by Ed Cooley by benching Jalen Lindsey, Carson Desrosiers, and Ben Bentil for the entire second half of their last game against Butler. I think the message about effort and hustle will set a fire under the Friars and they will win an impressive home game against a very good Georgetown team.