Preview: WVU - Georgetown

Preview: WVU - Georgetown

West Virginia adds its chapter to "Requiem For the Big East" as the Mountaineers travel to the nation's capital to face Georgetown.

SCOUTING THE HOYAS

Georgetown played a respectable non-conference schedule, defeating VCU, Michigan State and Kansas State while dropping games to Kansas and Oregon. GU finished that portion of its schedule with a 9-4 record, but then proceeded to struggle in the Big East, posting a 8-10 conference mark that left it short of the NCAAs. A five-game losing streak in January left the Hoyas at 3-6 in the league, and while it did rally to win four in a row, a first round exit at the hands of DePaul in the Big East tournament made it an NIT team -- much as West Virginia's blowout loss to Texas did the Mountaineers.

Markel Starks (Sr., G, 6-1) has been the unquestioned leader for GU this year. He has started all 21 games and has played alomst 37 minutes per contest while scoring at a 17.2 ppg clip. He also dishes out four assists per game, and will provide a tough challenge for Juwan Staten defensively. Fellow guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (So., 6-2) provides even more scoring in the backcourt, checking in with 17 points and nearly five rebounds per contest.

Forward Nate Lubick is another familiar name to Mountaineer fans, and the 6-8 senior continues to be a productive, if unspectacular, force at forward. He averaged 5.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per outing, and along with Starks is the only Hoya to start every game this season. Mickael Hopkins (Jr., F, 6-9) and Jabril Trawik (Jr., G, 6-5) round out the expected starting lineup, with the former contributing 6.2 points and 5.2 rebounds, while the latter has averaged 8.8 points while starting 19 games. Those starts, and a somewhat shuffled Georgetown lineup, came about when Josh Smith, a hulking 6-10 center, was ruled academically ineligible in January. Up until that time, Georgetown had been running much of its offense through Smith in the post, and had gotten at least somewhat away from the cutting and screening offense that it has run in the past under head coach John Thompson III. The suspension made Georgetown more guard- and perimeter-oriented, although it can still rebound and defend well.

Aaron Bowen (Sr., F, 6-6), Reggie Cameron (Fr., F, 6-7) and Moses Ayegba (Sr., C, 6-9) get the bulk of reserve minutes, with Bown adding 5.9 points and 3.7 rebounds in 20 minutes of action per game.

OUTLOOK

Like a mid-tier bowl game, NIT contests are often decided by which team wants to be there the most. Will that be the Hoyas or the Mountaineers?

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
Tue Mar. 18
7:00 PM E

McDonough Arena
Washington, DC
Records
WVU 17-15, 9-9
GU 17-14, 8-10
Series
GU 26-25
TV
ESPN
Sirius/XM: NA/NA
RPI
WVU - 87
GU - 59
With both teams suffering ignominious defeats in the first rounds of their respective conference tournaments, the question of motivation has to come into play. The Hoyas seemed positioned for an NCAA tournament bid until the five game losing string knocked them all the way through the floor of the bubble, while West Virginia lost every "must" game that it needed to earn its way back into the tournament conversation. Given the disappointing endings to their regular and tournament seasons, which one will have the motivation and drive to play hard in the bandbox gym on the corner of the Georgetown campus? Will WVU "play" like it did in a horrible 70-56 loss to Richmond in 2001, or will it muster the energy and enthusiasm it did in 2004 and 2007, when it compiled an 8-1 record.

Getting into the heads of the players is a guessing game at best, so this is one factor that won't be determined until the teams are in action on the court. The Hoyas figure to get a boost from what will be a packed house (capacity 2,500), and both teams would seem to want to show that their play the league tournament is not representative of their overall abilities.

West Virginia will have to figure out a way to get shots from the wings against Georgetown's tough defense, but might this be a game in which the Mountaineers get something going inside? The Hoyas are good, but not outstanding, in the frontcourt, and only have one shotblocker in the form of Mikael Hopkins. Brandon Watkins was the sole bright spot for WVU in the loss to Texas, and was able to get the ball up from the lane and score some points gainst the Longhorns' perimeter-conscious defense.

Pace of play also figures to be an important factor here. West Virginia must get into transition offensively and speed up Georgetown defensively. If it can't, the Hoyas will likely screen, cut and backdoor the Mountaineers until a defensive breakdown occurs. Georgetown averages just more than 65 possessions per game (277th nationally), and WVU doesn't want to see that slow pace in this game.

FAST BREAKS
According to the Georgetown Basketball History Project, the Hoyas have played on 16 different home courts in the D.C. area. Only two of those have been on campus, with one of those being McDonough Arena, site of tonight's game.

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The series between the two teams has featured numerous winning streaks. Only once in the last 27 games has each school failed to win at least two games back to back. That occured in 2004 and 2005, when the two teams each won on their home court. Over that span, Georgetown has winning streaks of four, eight and three games, while WVU has won three, two and five consecutive contests.

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West Virginia is making its 16th appearance in the NIT. The Mountaineers won the NIT in their last appearance in 2007 and also won it in 1942. WVU has a record of 21-15 in NIT play. Georgetown is playing in the NIT for the 12th time, and is 14-12 all time in the tournament.

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West Virginia lives and dies with perimeter shot. Georgetown defends well at the arc. There's a huge gap between the lines of the teams' two performances at the 3-ppoint boundary this year, as shown in the following chart. WVU has hit a good percentage of its threes all year, while the Hoyas haven't allowed many teams to make a living from there. Which way will the lines move in this game? The winner will be the squad that can hold the numbers closer to its season-long performance.

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