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Xavier v. Georgetown: Preview, matchup, keys to the game.

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It’s time to play spoiler.

NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Xavier
Totally normal size disparity.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

This season is a lost cause for Xavier, but that doesn’t mean the drama is over. In the grand tradition of sports fans everywhere, it is time to get really spiteful. Per Eamonn Brennan, now sadly behind a pay wall at The Athletic, has made the case that Georgetown is still very much in with a chance for an at-large. What they cannot afford is to drop games to teams like Xavier, painful as that is to type. There’s not a lot left in this season for the Musketeers, it’s time embrace the spite.

The problem is that Georgetown isn’t an easy team to hate like, just for example, Butler. They have a somewhat tongue in cheek fan base, Patrick Ewing has already graced us with a sound clip for the ages, and the team itself has been so kind as to allow two incredible Xavier comebacks. None of that matters, though. Tap into that ugly part of your personality, the one you let out on Twitter, and cheer for nothing more than the destruction of someone else’s dream.

Team fingerprint

Georgetown has the second-best offense in the league, and they love to run. Their offensive success comes from two seemingly opposing places: they shoot (and make) a ton of threes, and they get to the line well. They lead the league in three-point percentage and frequency as well as free throws per FGA. They play an attractive brand of offense and share the ball well.

Their defense is not nearly as notable. They’re actually solid at forcing tough shots and cleaning up the glass, but a complete inability to force turnovers has then 7th in the Big East in overall defensive efficiency. They’re second in the league in defensive 2P% and first in three-point frequency.

Personnel

Starters

Starting matchups
James Akinjo Point Guard Quentin Goodin
Freshman Class Junior
6'0" 180 Measurements 6'4", 194
13.4/2.7/5.4 Game line 12/2.6/4.9
0.357/0.381/0.815 Shooting line 0.381/0.307/0.691
Akinjo leads the Big East in assist rate in conference play and is shooting 42% behind the arc in that time span. He's also an appalling 5-41 INSIDE the arc in conference play.
Mac McClung Shooting Guard Paul Scruggs
Freshman Class Sophomore
6'2" 185 Measurements 6'3", 200
13.9/2.3/1.9 Game line 13.3/4.8/3.3
0.418/0.301/0.78 Shooting line 0.502/0.464/0.815
Xavier missed McClung the first time around. Mac is shooting threes at a 41% clip in Big East play and still attacking the rim with a vengeance. He's capable of ripping off 25 if he gets rolling.
Jamorko Pickett Small Forward Kyle Castlin
Sophomore Class Senior
6'8" 205 Measurements 6'4", 193
5.8/4.5/1.3 Game line 4.9/3.6/0.9
0.361/0.344/0.688 Shooting line 0.398/0.229/0.718
Pickett blocks shots and occasionally knocks down a three. He's on the floor to play defense and hope the rest of the team carries the offense.
Josh LeBlanc Power Forward Naji Marshall
Freshman Class Sophomore
6'7" 230 Measurements 6'7", 222
9.5/7.6/1.2 Game line 13.2/7.1/3.4
0.67/0.667/0.681 Shooting line 0.396/0.214/0.725
LeBlanc is a monster on the glass and the most efficient player in the Big East since conference play started. Despite that, his usage rate has dropped to 13.1% in conference.
Jessie Govan Center Zach Hankins
Senior Class Senior
6'10" 255 Measurements 6'11", 245
19.8/8.3/1.5 Game line 10.3/4.8/0.9
0.53/0.458/0.753 Shooting line 0.715/0/0.62
Govan went for 27/8/0 in the first meeting. He has by no means cooled off since then and figures to be the best player on the court for large portions of this game.

Reserves

Greg Malinowski may start at point guard, but will be the most dangerous weapon for Ewing off the bench if he doesn’t. Malinowski is a 42.6% three point shooter and has a good assist rate somewhat plagued by his penchant for turning the ball over. Trey Mourning, a 6-9 legacy pick, is offensively limited but remains decent at clearing the defensive glass. Jahvon Blair will see time at both guard spots as a spot up shooter. He’s attempted 70 threes to only 14 two point tries. Jagan Mosely is another back up guard who is undone by turning the ball over. His value comes as a glue guy and on defense.

Three questions

-How much difference does Mac McClung make? The pride of Gate City HS was out last time these two teams played, and Xavier took home the 81-75 win at Cintas. Since then, McClung has dropped 75 in 4 games and led the Hoyas to a win last time out against Providence. He’s an absolute gunner with an ORtg hovering right around 100, but the home fans love him, and he can carry a whole arena when he gets hot.

- At whose pace will the game be played? Georgetown plays at the fastest tempo in the conference while Xavier is 9th. In Jesse Govan and Josh LeBlanc, the Hoyas have two of the best big men in the league, but they’re not afraid to get out and run and let the bigs shoot trail jumpers. Xavier has to keep this thing slowed down.

-Can someone check on Eli Harden? Sigh.

Three keys

-Take away Govan’s jump shots. Govan is fourth in the league with a 47.1% mark from behind the arc, but he’s shooting just 49.4% from inside it. He’s not going to continue to hit fewer than half of his two-point attempts, but what makes him such a weapon is his ability to cash in on screen and slip actions and as a trailer on a fast break. Xavier needs to find him with high hands and make him do something off the catch other than shoot an uncontested J.

-Win on the glass. There aren’t going to be a lot of free possessions gained or lost via the turnover with these two defenses, which leaves offensive rebounding the only battleground for extra FGA. Xavier leads the league in OReb% while Georgetown is 3rd in DReb%; on the other end, Xavier is 7th in DReb% and Georgetown is 5th in OReb%. The Muskies have the personnel to get extra possessions on the glass, and they desperately need to against a Georgetown team that can pile up points in a hurry.

-Finish the game. Xavier was within 1 of Nova with 11 minutes left. Execution problems in the final minutes of both the Providence game and the Marquette game cost them legitimate chances to win those. This is not a great basketball team, but it has shown a tremendous amount of heart and has been so close to getting some good results. KenPom sees this as a one-possession game. The Muskies will be in it down the stretch, they just need to find a way to see it through.