Sunday, January 17, 2010

Preview -- Georgetown University

The Wildcats and Hoyas meet for the 67th time at the (Wachovia) Center in downtown Philadelphia at noon on Sunday. Georgetown holds the edge, 39-27, and have won the last five meetings, four of those games by five points or less. The Hoyas, ranked #12 by the AP poll, bring Wooden Award nominee junior forward Greg Monroe to counter #4 ranked Villanova's own Wooden Award nominee, senior guard Scottie Reynolds. And the big question is, "Where is Bob Donato on Sunday?"...

Common Opponents, Good Wins, Bad Losses...
The 'Cats (15-1, 4-0, #9 RPI) and Hoyas (13-2, 4-1, #18 RPI) share several opponents this year:

TempleL (A)-10W (H)+1
DePaulW (H)+25W (A)+17
MarquetteW (H)+2L (H)-3
MarquetteW (A)+2

Georgetown hosted Temple in their second game of the season, taking a 46-45 decision. Villanova played the Owls in mid-December (12/13), dropping a 75-65 decision. Temple (A10, 15-3, 3-0 #9 RPI) is Georgetown's best win to date, though Butler (Hzn, 13-4, 6-0, #19 RPI) and Connecticut (11-5, 2-3 #16 RPI) will most likely draw some attention from the Selection Committee as well. The Hoyas have no bad losses, Marquette (10-6, 1-3, #76) is the lowest (RPI) ranked opponent they have lost to to date. Villanova has a number of solid wins, counted among them Louisville (12-6- 3-2, #39 RPI), Dayton (A10, 13-4, 2-1 #32 RPI) and Mississippi State (SEC, 13-3, 1-1, #49 RPI) the best so far. Mississippi State and Dayton were beaten on a neutral court at the Puerto Rico Tip off in November. Villanova's sole loss is to Big 5 rival Temple on 12/13.

Lineups, Rotations...
Coach Thompson set his starting five in the first game of the season, and has stayed with a three guard set of Chris Wright (junior, 6-1, 208 lb) at the #1, Austin Freeman (junior 6-3 ½, 227 lb) and Jason Clark (soph, 6-3, 170 lb) on the wing, anchored in the front court by Julian Vaughn (junior transfer, 6-9, 247 lb) and Greg Monroe (soph, 6-11, 247 lb) ever since. Monroe may draw the attention (assorted NBA scouts & the Los Angles Athletic Club), but Freeman and Wright power the Hoyas' offense. Freeman has a scorching 44.5% accuracy on three point shots (25-56), while Wright, with a forward-like FTrate of 34.4%, drives the lane, gets to the line (2nd on the team behind Monroe) and converts, at a 81.5% rate. Niki Mersheriakov's transfer (to Wake Forest?!) makes an already short rotation even shorter. Hollis Thompson (a freshman 6-6, 180 pound forward) has consistently logged double digit minutes, posting a career-high 16 points against Lafayette in late November. He will most likely be first off the bench, followed by Henry Sims (a sophomore, 6-10 226 pound center), who has logged time in all but one (Connecticut) game this season. Sims best effort came against American Univesity (12 points, 4 rebounds) in early December. Jerrelle Benimon (a freshman 6-7, 210 pound forward) has appeared in the Hoyas' last four games, logging double-digit minutes in the last two (Connecticut & Seton Hall). Way down at the end of the bench Coach Thompson may find three more guards, 6-3 freshman Vee Sanford, 6-6 freshman Steven Stepka and 6-0 junior Ryan Dougherty. There may be more productive days ahead for Sanford and Stepka, but unless the Hoyas are up (or down) by a lot, I don't expect to see them after warmups, as the starting three guards, Wright, Freeman and Clark take 84%, 84% and 82% of the minutes respectively. The Hoyas circulate their front court, Vaughn and Thompson get a bit over 50% of the minutes apiece, with Sims taking a bit less than 25%. Should any of the guards need to sit (for fouls or a blow), expect to see another forward on the court.

Coach Wright will most likely start a pair of guards, 6-1 junior Corey Fisher and 6-2 senior Scottie Reynolds alongside a pair of 'tweeners/wings, 6-5 senior Reggie Redding and 6-5 junior Corey Stokes, anchored by a bfc, 6-8 junior Antonio Pena. The staff has an embarrassment of richs off the bench, beginning with 6-1 freshman guard Maalik Wayns, who has already been cited twice for Big East Freshman of the Week. For substitutions on the wing/front court, the staff can look to 6-6 sophomore transfer Taylor King, a strong sixth man candidate, who can play on the wing but has anchored the #4 in some rotations, freshman 6-6 Dominic Cheek, New Jersey's POY last season for St. Anthony's in Jersey City, or 6-7 freshman Isaiah Armwood, who hit the winning shot against George Mason in the Wildcats' opening game in Puerto Rico last November. In the paint/low post the staff can call on Mouphtaou Yarou, a well regarded 6-10 freshman who started two games before being sidelined with a viral infection (since treated and controlled) and 6-11 red shirt freshman Maurice Sutton, who filled in for Yarou earlier in the season and started seven games in the out of conference leg of the season.

A Few Thoughts...
...Pomeroy calculates a three point (78-75) Villanova win in a game to be played for 71 possessions. 71 possessions would work well for Villanova. The 'Cats like to run and Georgetown may be playing a bit more uptempo, game-for-game, than they have for several seasons (their adjusted pace this season, per Pomeroy's Scout Report Page is just over 66 possessions (ranked at #244 in D1). For their four road games however, the Hoyas really take the air out of the ball, playing for something closer to 60 possessions. Georgetown can keep pace with 71 possessions, if they hit their shots and limit turnovers. Georgetown has a relatively high turnover rate in conference games (over 20%) and a low number of offensive rebounds. Historically those two shortcomings were not fatal to the Hoyas' chances to win. Last season, and carrying into this season, a bad game in one ares has usually been more than off set by a strong game elsewhere -- against Butler, Georgetown lost 28.7% of their possessions, but shot well (51% eFG%) and had an unusually strong offensive rebounding percentage (42.9%); against Temple the Hoyas had a disasterous day from the field (eFG% of 39.3%) and lost over 25% of their possessions, but they compensated by getting to the line more 45% and stifling Temple's shot efficiency. That the Owls had difficulty rebounding was a benefit too. A high percentage of turnovers (and poor offensive rebounding) can be balanced by strong three point shooting. The Wildcat's perimeter defense may be severely tested by Freeman and Clark.

Reading List
For those looking for some background on the two teams, try these links...
1. Villanova Game Notes
2. Georgetown Game Notes
3. A Washington Post update on Georgetown.
4. Villanova Viewpoint's history of the series.
5. ESPN's Weekend Watch writeup.
6. NY Times background piece on Mouphtaou Yarou.
7. IBBW's Preview.
8. The Casual Hoya and IBBW collaborated on a mutual Q&A session.

I will be at the Center, hosting a live blog for the folks at Rush the Court. After you open the game thread on your favorite message board, open a second tab, come over to Rush the Court and contribute to the commentary and dialog live from the game.

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