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Xavier v. Georgetown: Preview, matchups, and keys to the game

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Xavier returns home to take on the formerly world-beating Georgetown Hoyas.

NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Creighton
Say what you want, but those shoes are fresh to death
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Georgetown hit Big East play at 10-1 on the back of a non-conference schedule so soft, it would make Mick Cronin blush. Since then, the Hoyas are 3-7 and looking a lot more like the team that most people predicted would scrape the bottom of the conference barrel. Still 108th in the KenPom, Georgetown is on the outside of the NCAA tournament looking in without an automatic berth from a Big East tournament win.

Xavier, meanwhile is up to sixth in the nation in the polls and fresh off winning (and covering!) on the road against St. John’s. The Hoyas represent a home stop before a brutal road swing to Butler and Creighton and then Seton Hall and Villanova at home. Those next four games represent the toughest stretch of the schedule, and Georgetown bookends it.

Personnel

  • Many Xavier fans have been frustrated with Paul Scruggs’s looseness with the ball in Big East play; the Hoyas have five rotation players - Jamorko Pickett, Jagan Mosely, Trey Dickerson, Jonathan Mulmore, and Kaleb Johnson - putting up TO%s worse than Scruggs’s 27.9%.
  • Coach Ewing gets 31.2% of the team’s minutes from the bench; this is basically national average.
  • Only Jagan Mosely and Trey Dickerson are hitting under 73% from the line in conference play.

Starters

Starting matchups
Jonathan Mulmore Point Guard Quentin Goodin
Senior Class Sophomore
6'4", 185 Measurements 6'4", 190
6/2.6/3.6 Game line 8/2.9/5.3
0.472/0.52/0.75 Shooting line 0.429/0.25/0.83
Mulmore doesn't shoot a lot, but when he does shoot from distance, he's lethal. He's shooting 52% from deep on the year, including 58.3% in conference play, but it's on just 7-12. He's a decent ball distributor, but his TO% of 43.6% in conference is catastrophic. He commits 5.1 fouls per 40 minutes, which isn't helping him stay in games long enough to find a rhythm.
Kaleb Johnson Shooting Guard J.P. Macura
Junior Class Senior
6'6", 205 Measurements 6'5", 203
9.2/4.8/2.1 Game line 13/4.3/3.2
0.553/0.359/0.782 Shooting line 0.463/0.361/0.831
Johnson was 13-27 from deep in non-conference play; he's 1-12 in the Big East. He's still hitting at a 60% clip from inside the arc, but he's (obviously) less of a threat when the three isn't falling. If he takes it inside the arc, he'll almost always go all the way to the rim rather than pulling up. He's a good defender who does a fairly good job of getting to the glass on the offensive end.
Jamorko Pickett Small Forward Trevon Bluiett
Freshman Class Senior
6'8", 190 Measurements 6'6", 202
8.5/3.5/2 Game line 18.7/5.7/2.7
0.355/0.352/0.733 Shooting line 0.45/0.413/0.813
Pickett is picking his shots more selectivey and hitting them more frequently in conference play, posting a 54.2% EFG% in Big East games. He has shot 16 twos and 55 threes in conference, so don't look for too much beyond sticking long jumpers. He's not much of a rebounder, doesn't pass much, and rarely gets to the line.
Marcus Derrickson Power Forward Naji Marshall
Junior Class Freshperson
6'7", 250 Measurements 6'7", 218
15.6/7.3/1.7 Game line 7.6/3.3/1.5
0.51/0.418/0.889 Shooting line 0.553/0.36/0.709
The only player on Georgetown with an ORtg above 95. He scores at all three levels, rebounds at both ends of the floor, and draws a ton of fouls. He's a solid defender, and he'll play about 32 minutes a game. He's basically the horse Georgetown is riding hard in Big East play.
Jessie Govan Center Kerem Kanter
Junior Class Senior
6'10", 270 Measurements 6'10", 240
16.2/10.3/1.9 Game line 10.2/5.4/0.6
0.488/0.333/0.755 Shooting line 0.567/0.343/0.765
Govan was earning a lot of hype early in the year, but he has taken a huge step back in conference play. He's got an EFG% of 39.3% in Big East games, and he's barely hitting 40% of his two-point attempts. Despite being physically monstrous, he can easily be pushed off the block on offense, greatly decreasing his effectiveness. He still will block a lot of shots, and he's still money from the free throw line.

Reserves

Jahvon Blair is a high-usage guard who comes off the bench looking to shoot. He’s gunning his way to 9.4/2.5/1.7 on just .346/.327/.848 shooting. He shoots more than anyone on the roster; it might not hurt him to be a bit more selective.

Jagan Mosely is the other guard coming off the bench. He’ll play all over the perimeter, but his shooting line of .496/.400/.673 is undermined by a nasty habit of passing to the other team.

Antwan Walker is the big man who will see the most minutes from the second unit. He’s posting a game line of 2.7/2.1/0.3 and not doing anything to make anyone forget Antoine Walker.

Trey Dickerson still exists as a reserve guard option, a fact that Patrick Ewing apparently intermittently forgets.

Team fingerprint:

Georgetown’s main offensive plan is, apparently, to turn the ball over. On the roughly 78% of the possessions where they don’t just throw the ball to the other team, the Hoyas shoot it pretty poorly. 35.6% behind the arc and 50% inside the arc isn’t impressing anyone. Their 78.6% from the line, however, is excellent, as is the way they get to the line and the way they collect their myriad misses. That sounds like a grind it out offense, but the Hoyas are actually pretty quick with the ball, finishing their possessions in exactly 16 seconds. They combine all of that into the 141st best offense in the nation.

On defense, Georgetown is better, coming in at 97th nationally in efficiency. The Hoyas try to shut off the offensive glass and get out on three point shooters and do both pretty successfully. They don’t force many turnovers and they can be had inside. One thing that Georgetown does well is keep teams from getting to the line, something worth watching as a large part of Xavier’s offense is predicated on getting to the line.

Three questions:

  • What, exactly, is going on with Trevon? It’s been three games since Xavier’s leading scorer scored 20. In conference play his offensive efficiency is only 108, the second lowest mark of his career. Trevon’s inside the arc shooting mark of 44.8% in conference play is the lowest of his career. It’s not yet worth serious worry, but Trevon isn’t himself right now.
  • Can Xavier turn the Hoyas over? Georgetown wants, desperately, to turn the ball over. Xavier’s defense is 312th in the nation in forcing turnovers at a paltry 16.2% rate. Part of the reason Georgetown’s offense is the worst in the Big East in conference play is because they’ve turned the ball over on almost a quarter of their possessions in conference play. Xavier now sports the best defensive efficiency in Big East play, but not on the back of forcing turnovers.
  • Can Xavier keep Georgetown off the glass? In conference play the Hoyas rebound 31% of their misses. Xavier only allows opponents to gather 21%. Something is likely to give. Georgetown isn’t scoring a lot off running offense and making shots, but they can do work on second chances. The Musketeers greatly increase their odds of winning if they keep Ewing’s charges off the glass.

Three keys:

  • Knock down jumpers: The Hoyas are decent at shutting down the arc, but Xavier is shooting 34.5% from deep in conference play. If X is scoring from outside, Georgetown can’t hang with Xavier’s triumvirate inside.
  • Slow Marcus Derrickson: Derrickson has 40 pounds on Naji Marshall and is more fleet of foot than Kerem Kanter. That seems to call for Tyrique Jones and his freakish combination of skills, but Derrickson is a 41% three point shooter and Jones is at his best near the rim. Kaiser Gates may make a return to the starting lineup to counter Georgetown’s best offensive weapon.
  • Handle business: You never look past any opponent and you never take anything for granted, but this is a game Xavier should be winning. Georgetown isn’t bad, but they aren’t good either. X needs to win this game and then buckle down for a rugged stretch.