Xavier started last conference season on an impressive run, ripping off four wins before tanking and finishing 9-7 in the Atlantic 10. After that four game run ended on January 19th, Xavier didn't get a chance for another good win until VCU on February 20th. (That game, you may remember, didn't end so well). Xavier hadn't handled business to that point, but the fact remained that there was no chance to impact the season positively for nearly a month. That, and playing really inconsistent basketball, doomed a team that had some good wins.
That's all a lot different this year. Xavier stands at 3-1 after four games and just missed a chance for a truly massive win on the road. Rather than stew on that for a month, Xavier gets a chance for a good win in their very next game. Georgetown comes in at 11-4 on the season, 41st in KenPom, 46th in Massey, and 57th in the BPI. (If you really must know the RPI, you'll have to find it elsewhere). Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm both have the Hoyas in the tournament if it were to start today. Rather than try to bounce back against teams ranked 128th, 244th, and 248th. This year the Musketeers have a chance to score an impact win right away.
That impact win won't be easy though. With the possibility of great reward comes the risk of back to back losses. Georgetown and John Thompson III have beaten Kansas St, VCU, St. John's and Butler already this year. The Hoyas have done that mostly on the strength of an excellent defense. Currently ranked 33rd overall, Georgetown is forcing an EFG% of 43.1% (13th), a 3PT% of just 27.5% (9th), and have blocked 12.4% of opponents shots, 74th in the nation. Combine all that with a 2PT% allowed of just 44.2% and greatly limits three point attempts and you have a squad that is hard for most teams to score against.
Offensively, the Hoyas haven't really found their way yet. They enter the game 82nd in the nation, so they aren't dreadful, but after facing Creighton they represent a significant step down. Bad from both deep (33.2%, 196th) and the line (67.3%, 256th) Georgetown takes just over 70% of their shots from inside the arc, where they shoot 55% and record 55.4% of their points. The Hoyas move the ball well, registering assists on 55.7% of their made field goals.
What the Hoyas don't do terribly well is rebound. Despite being +2.1" in effective height, (48th) they don't get on the glass efficiently (32% OReb%, 68% DReb%, 164th and 199th). Georgetown also isn't very deep, getting only 30.2% (212th) of their minutes from their bench. Georgetown is experienced, coming in at 48th in the nation when minutes are weighted by class.
The Hoyas have been dealt a blow in losing starters Josh Smith (11.4/3.5/.7) and Jabril Trawick (7.1/2.5/1.6) for this game. Below are the five who started in Georgetown's win over Butler.
The player: 6-3, 218 sophomore guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera.
The numbers: 17.3/4.9/3.2 on .485/.467/.831 shooting.
More numbers: 123.4 ORtg, 64.2% true shooting, 19.8% assist rate
The words: Was DSR always supposed to be this good? If so, it's borderline tragic that he broke his verbal with Xavier. The kid is filling it up from everywhere, has a positive A/TO, is on the floor for 83.9% of the Hoyas minutes, and is nationally ranked in nine offensive categories. There are no real holes in his game right now unless you expect your team leading scorer guard to also block shots.
The player: 6-1, 175 senior guard Markel Starks
The numbers: 15.1/2.1/3.9 on .402/.307/.845 shooting.
More numbers: 89.7% minutes (29th), 21.8% assist rate
The words: Starks is having a down year compared to his junior season, but that is almost solely down to his performance behind the three point line, where he is taking more shots and making fewer. When those shots start dropping (and they will) he's going to go off. Until then his 108.1 offensive rating roughly makes him a Dee Davis who takes much better care of the ball.
The player: 6-7, 225 freshman forward Reggie Cameron.
The numbers: 3.2/1.3/.3 on .333/.323/.727
More numbers: 10 minutes per game, 11.5 TO rate
The words: Cameron is a starter because of injury, and his season line shows it. Against Butler he went for 9/3/0 and was 1-7 from behind the arc. Cameron is something of an unknown quantity at this point.
The player: 6-8, 219 senior forward Nate Lubick.
The numbers: 5.8/6.1/1.8 on .571/.000/.412 shooting.
More numbers: 19.6% defensive rebound rate, 57.1% EFG.
The words: Lubick patches over the cracks for Georgetown quite nicely. He's not spectacular anywhere and he doesn't try to be. The most shots he's taken in a game is nine in a win over FIU and the fewest rebounds he has grabbed in a game is four. He's steady, reliable, and unlikely to really take a game over. The loss of Smith and Trawick may force him to do more than he's comfortable with.
The player: 6-9, 223 junior forward Mikael Hopkins.
The numbers: 6.5/5.1/1.3 on .440/.333/.538 shooting.
More numbers: 10.2% offensive rebound rate, 20.1% defensive rebound rate.
The words: Hopkins is another solid is unspectacular player for the Hoyas. Along with the excellent rebounding, he swats shots at a 7.4% clip, which lands him inside the top 100 in the country. He does have a touch of Jalen Reynolds in him, committing six fouls per 40 minutes.
The loss of Smith to size/academics and Trawick to a broken jaw have cut into the Hoyas depth. Expect to see a lot of Aaron Bowe, a 6-6 senior forward who averages 5.1/3.7/1.1 in 17 minutes per contest. Bowen blocks (3.2%) and steals (3.4%) at rates that earn him a national ranking. The only other player who has played even a quarter of the available minutes is 6-9 senior Moses Ayegba. Ayegba gets 2.1/3.0/.1 in just 10 minutes of play per game, but he blocks 7.1% of opponents shots in that time. If you attend the game, play close attention to Ayegba, as he may foul you. It seems incomprehensible, but the Georgetown big fouls even more than Jalen Reynolds.
- Can Xavier wear down DSR and Starks? If Xavier can attack Georgetown's two leading guards with their backcourt depth, the Hoyas are in trouble. Stephen Domingo has appeared in 10 games and averages 6.3 minutes but didn't see the court in an overtime win over Butler. John Caprio has played 12 times for a grand total of 48 minutes. Those are the backup guards on the Georgetown roster.
- Can Xavier stop someone? The Musketeers have been filling it up lately, but the defense hasn't really zipped someone up since Wake Forest. Marquette went for 79, Creighton nearly scored 100, and Butler somehow managed to score 68. Georgetown's offense isn't exactly explosive and is missing their top player in terms of usage rate (Josh Smith, also tops in burritos consumed rate). DSR is going to get his, locking down his teammates would go a long way toward making this a win.
- Can someone stop Xavier? The Musketeers have cracked 70 points in four straight games, something they haven't done since a stretch in February of 2012 in which they went-2-2. Georgetown is the best defense that X will have faced in that stretch, but the second best was a Marquette team that got gashed for 86. KenPom currently ranks Xavier as 29th on offense, another performance like the recent ones and this team hits heights not seen since Jordan Crawford walked the campus.
- Score early and often: Georgetown doesn't, currently, have the talent in depth to score with the Musketeers. An early ten point lead puts a lot of pressure on a team that forces few turnovers and scores only 21% of their points from deep. Put the Hoyas in catch-up mode early and this one could get away from them.
- Establish the paint: Xavier should win the matchup on the boards easily in this game, but that's not always enough. Crushing Georgetown on the glass on both ends forces them farther and farther into their margin for error. Likewise, there's not a compelling amount of evidence to suggest that the Hoyas can stop Matt Stainbrook in the post. Even if Hopkins (who seems the likely matchup) can limit his scoring, Lubick and Cameron will struggle to contain Philmore/Farr and Martin.
- Come back from a loss: While the loss to Creighton was hardly a bad one, it still carries with it the stain of the first mark in the L column since November 30th. The Musketeers haven't tasted defeat in a long time and hopefully will come out intent on making sure they don't again.