|TV:||FOX Sports 1|
|Radio feed:||700 WLW|
Other than coffee, nothing stirs my blood quite like conference season in college basketball. The non-conference slate can be a chance for a mid-major to bag a couple of big wins or a warmup period for the big boys, but league play is where the teams you've spent late December through early March of every year fighting come back to make you prove it again.
I love everything about what the Big East is doing right now. I love having opening day on New Year's Eve. I love that everyone has to play everyone else home and away. I love that the league didn't curl up and die when the football programs left. I love that we're going to be facing eight legitimate programs and DePaul for the next ten weeks. First up is Georgetown.
Georgetown is 12th in the nation in average height and 42nd in effective height. I mention that because what jumps off the page about the offense is their 39.6% OReb% (12th). They are about average in TO%, but they shoot the ball well from inside and outside the arc (52.4% and 36.3%, both comfortably in the top 100 in the nation). Keeping possessions alive on the glass makes up for being less than elite in avoiding turnovers, allowing their offensive efficiency to rank 23rd in the country.
Perhaps surprisingly, they are 245th in the nation in DReb%. They do just about everything else well on defense, forcing turnovers at an elite rate and holding opponents to an EFG% of 45.3%. They block 14.2% of two-point attempts, good for 39th in the nation, and come up with steals on 12.4% of opponents' possessions. Only their propensity for sending teams to the line and the aforementioned slackness on the glass have held this defense back this year.
|D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera||POINT GUARD||Dee Davis|
|6'3", 214||Measurements||6'0", 160|
|Smith-Rivera is one of the top guards in the nation. He rebounds hard, creates shots for himself and others, and plays tough defense on and off the ball. A recent shooting slump has artificially deflated his numbers a bit; he can score it from anywhere. To top it all off, he's also built like a brick outhouse and doesn't look any more or less tired at the final horn than he does at tip off.|
|Jabril Trawick||SHOOTING GUARD||Remy Abell|
|6'5", 220||Measurements||6'4", 195|
|Trawick is a low-usage rate guard whose efficiency stems from his commitment to get all the way to the rim on offense. He seldom shoots from three and even more rarely takes mid-range shots. Like Smith-Rivera, he's a good rebounding guard. He gets to the line fairly often, but hasn't helped himself from there a whole lot this season.|
|L. J. Peak||WING||Trevon Bluiett|
|6'5", 215||Measurements||6'6", 215|
|Peak is not a great shooter - 29.6% from three, 20% on two-point jumpers - but he will definitely get his shots up. He doesn't rebound particularly well and has some freshman moments on defense, but he was a highly-regarded recruit and has the potential to explode if left unattended.|
|Mikael Hopkins||FORWARD||James Farr|
|6'9", 239||Measurements||6'9", 237|
|A matchup of guys who can't shoot but can really board it. Hopkins is shooting only 39.5% at the rim this year and is a slightly inferior rebounder to Farr. If either of these guys is near the top of the box score in usage rate, the game has gone wrong, but they'll both earn their keep on the glass.|
|Joshua Smith||CENTER||Matt Stainbrook|
|6'10", 350||Measurements||6'10", 263|
|Smith is supremely skilled and incredibly fat. For scale, older Xavier fans might remember A-10 legend Ron Rollerson; he was never over 300 pounds. Smith is listed at 350, so his actual weight is anyone's guess. He somehow plays 22 minutes per game, scores efficiently, and is an absolute animal on the offensive glass. More than a quarter of his made baskets are on stickbacks.|
Senior Aaron Bowen sees time at both forward positions - mainly PF - and posts a game line of 8.6/2.4/1.2 on .678/.556/.500 shooting. He also hits the offensive glass hard and leads the team in steal%. Paul White is a freshman big man good for 7.3 and 3.1 per game. He is a cool 10-19 from behind the arc this year, but what are the odds Xavier would let a reserve four with good range kill them? Freshman PF Isaac Copeland and his 4.9/1.6/.0.4 round out the interesting reserves for Georgetown.
-How do Stainbrook and Smith match up? I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that Stainbrook can count on zero hands the times he has given up a hundred pounds to an opponent. His first job will be keeping Smith from dominating the post, but keeping him from the offensive glass will be just as important. Smith draws and commits a lot of fouls; whoever gets the other guy into early trouble with the refs might claim the upper hand here.
-Who guards DSR? Even the staunchest Dee Davis apologist - i.e., me - looks at Smith-Rivera's skill set and his three-inch, fifty-pound size advantage and has to admit that Dee is going to have trouble handling him. Moving Remy Abell onto DSR means Dee has to guard 6'5", 220-pound Jabril Trawick or 6'5", 215-pound L. J. Peak, neither of whom is an ideal matchup for him. Choosing the perimeter matchups could be a problem for Coach Mack; perhaps some sort of zone might be in order.
-Which bench will produce? Both teams are in the top 100 in bench minutes, and both bring multiple players they count on for production off the pine. Will the first wave of Macura, M. Davis, and Reynolds v. Bowen, White, and Copeland fight to a stalemate, or will one set provide a much-needed boost for the starters? If the coaches have to dig deeper, will O'Mara and Randolph prove more influential than the down-roster detritus of Georgetown?
-Control the glass. Georgetown's offense goes from good to great when they get second chances, and their defense does just about everything except rebound well. If Xavier can keep the Hoyas off the boards on the defensive end and can keep possessions alive on offense, those extra looks at the bucket could make the difference in the game.
-Win the turnover war. Xavier's offense is 60th in TO%; Georgetown's defense is 67th in TO%. On the other end, Georgetown's offense is 188th while Xavier's defense is 97th. A turnover robs the offense of the chance to get a shot up, and even the worst shot is better than just handing the ball to the opposition. There are free possessions at stake here, and losing them carelessly is a recipe for disaster.
-Play for 40 minutes. One burst followed by just enough ball to maintain the lead is enough to get it done against (all but three of) the lesser teams Xavier faces, but the Big East is a different animal altogether. Even if X gets out to an early lead, it's all but scientific fact that Georgetown is going to fight back. The Muskies can't take their collective foot off the gas for even a second; such a lapse might well find them finishing second in a two-team game.