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

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Both teams come into a vital early March tilt needing a win. The bubble shrinks on Sunday.

NCAA Basketball: DePaul at Georgetown
The story of Georgetown’s season
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

One more win and Xavier should be fine. That’s very easy to type, easy to see in the numbers, and very hard to believe. The Musketeers should be able to finish the season 1-2 and still get in to the NCAA tournament. That being empirically true doesn’t make it much easier to digest in the stomach churning tension of a bubble run in late February and early March. There are no easy games in the Big East, there are certainly no easy road Q1 games to fellow bubble teams.

If Xavier only needs one, Georgetown needs at least two. The Hoyas have had a season that defies any convention. Defections from transfer, criminal charges, and injury have left Patrick Ewing chopping and changing for seemingly every game and left Georgetown without players they counted as stars before the season started. Somehow, the Hoyas are still in contention for an at-large bid. Despite being 15-13 overall and 5-10 in conference, Georgetown is still on the bubble thanks to a NET of 58 and three huge Q1 games left on the schedule. They appear on six of the Bracket Matrix’s 126 brackets. That will jump back up with a win over X.

Team Fingerprint:

Being hurt is perhaps the thing the Hoyas are most known for this year. Mac McClung has missed seven games, Omer Yurtseven has missed three, and Jahvon Blair has been limited and missed one. Despite that, and the other departures, the Hoyas play offense very fast. Their possession speed of 16 seconds is 32nd in the nation. In that space they move the ball quickly, shoot threes rarely but well, and get on the offensive glass. They aren’t great inside the arc or with ball security, but excellent free throw shooting combined with the other things they do well has them as the 25th best offense in the nation.

In a mirror image to Xavier, the Hoyas are good on offense but bad on defense. They are bang on average with an 100 defensive efficiency, good for 137th in the nation. The Hoyas are good at blocking shots and not fouling, but they get gashed from deep and can be had from inside as well. Teams move the ball well against them and get plenty of good looks from deep. The misses that Georgetown does force they don’t do a very good job of grabbing and they don’t force turnovers well either. There are two very good units (Xavier’s defense, Georgetown’s offense) and two very bad units (Xavier offense, Georgetown’s defense) in this game. It will be a match of strength against strength on one end and a battle to see who can less self-defeating on the other.

Players

Georgetown has been spread thin by injuries and players being asked to leave. Their make-shift starting will probably look like this

PG: Terrell Allen [8.9/ 2.2/ 4.1 - .463/ .381/ .787] Allen took the point guard spot when Akinjo left and has barely been subbed in February. He is a steady hand at the point and he dishes out well while limiting TOs. He can get hot on just a few shots, so don’t give him the chance.

SG: Jahvon Blair [10.4/ 2.8/ 1.7 - .384/ .349/ .852] Whereas Allen can get hot and takeover, Blair needs to get going for the Hoyas to have a chance. He can also take a game over and can get hot from behind the arc while also shooting well from the line.

SF: Jagan Mosely [8.2/ 4.5/ 3.5 - .504/ .419/ .848] Mosely does a little bit everything decently well. He gets on the defensive glass pretty well for on the defensive glass pretty well for only being 6’3” but isn’t gonna force his way into the scoring column.

PF: Jamorko Pickett [9.5/ 6.5/ 1.0 - .376/ .354/ .754] Pickett will pull the trigger as often as he feels like it. Recently he has struggled with efficiency and TOs but if he can see shots fall he can become an issue.

C: Qudus Wahab [4.9/ 3.8/ 0.3 - .547/ 0.0/ .667] Wahab is another player who has had to fill in dues to injuries. He does well on the offensive and defensive glass but struggles with fouls. He’s a bit of an interesting one since he has had very good games and also fouled himself out of a lot of playing time.

Bench: Mac McClung and Omer Yertseven have both been in and out of games recently but neither played the last time out against Marquette. Their absence has been felt as Georgetown has had to dig deep into the bench. Timothy Ighoefe usually comes on when Wahab is in foul trouble and operates under the bucket getting boards and shooting close to the rim. Jaden Robinson has given a breather to the guards in the last couple games and is lethal from 3 (1-1). George Muresean comes in at the 4 and doesn’t do much other than pass it around and try to get rebounds. It’s a very thin team that is running on fumes.

Three questions

- Who plays? Georgetown has been coy about injuries all season, but those are perhaps the story of this game. Going to the capital and facing a full strength Hoyas squad is far different than facing the McClung and Yurtseven-less team that just got mopped by Marquette.

- Does Tyrique get going again? DePaul threw everything they had Xavier's big man and successfully (sort of) neutralized him. Georgetown can either make that same gamble and hope that Xavier just misses the open shots or hope that their very thin front line can handle Jones.

- Can Xavier keep shooting well? Well is admittedly a stretch, but Xavier has at least shot better of late. Against DePaul they capitalized on the Blue Demons overzealous attempt to stop Tyrique Jones and stepped into wide open shot after wide open shot. If those shots are there, and X makes them, they are tough to beat.

Three keys

- Clamp down: Georgetown has a good offense. Xavier has a good defense. Xavier's offense isn't winning a shootout with anyone. These are all very simple observations, but they all ring true. Xavier has to play elite defense to win this game. It's simple, but sometimes that's all there is to it.

- Work the double post: Qudus Wahab. That's the list of Georgetown posts that are sure to play today. Jamorko Pickett has some height, but he plays more like a three than a big. With Jones and Freemantle both play well recently, Xavier has a huge advantage on the offensive end. If Coach Steele attacks the Hoyas the same way he did DePaul, watch for Jones to come high for the ball while Freemantle (and occasionally Jason Carter) gets a solo post up against a lesser defender.

- Don't lose: One more win. That's likely all Xavier needs to solidify a spot in the tournament. The pitfalls are all behind the Musketeers, but losing this game could still damage Xavier's bubble chances more than either of the two remaining. Win this, and January's ugliness will nearly be erased.