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Xavier v. Georgetown: preview, matchups, keys to the game

Both of these teams are looking to bounce back, though one is in a little deeper hole than the other.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Georgetown
Even Patrick Ewing is confused as to what it might take to get him fired.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

There's no way around it: losing to DePaul is bad. You can't couch the game's outcome in the context of Xavier's season so far (excellent) or their current tournament chances (still quite strong), but as Sean Miller pointed out in the pregame press conference on Friday, every game in the season is its own entity, divorced from what came before and what lies ahead. Viewed through that lense, it is incontrovertible that a Q3 loss is a bad outcome.

Speaking of bad outcomes, one thing worse than a conference loss is more than two dozen of them right in a row, which is the streak Georgetown is riding right now. If my math holds, they'll come into this game against Xavier having gone 690 days without a regular season conference win. During that span of time, they've lost 28 straight Big East games and given their head coach a three-year contract extension.

The players are not robots or random number generators; they're humans and humans are prone to inconsistent output despite consistent commitment and effort. Enough of the humans in Xavier colors were off at the same time for DePaul to pinch a win on Wednesday. With about 61 hours to process that and get reset, they'll host Georgetown today in an attempt to get back on track.

Team fingerprint

Georgetown is 11th in the conference in defense, and that's despite being 1st in DReb% and 4th in free throw rate. They are firmly last in defensive EFG% and in TO rate. They will let you get shots up, and you'll probably make them. Maybe teams don't get to the glass against them because they don't have to.

I'm making this a separate paragraph because I really want people to understand it: Georgetown is horrible at defense. The gap between the Hoyas in 11th and Marquette in 10th in defensive efficiency is almost exactly the same as the gap between Marquette in 10th and Creighton in 1st. They are all but literally in another, much worse, league defensively.

They've also struggled to get anything going on offense, ranking 10th in the league in that department. They're 10th in effective field goal percentage and 8th in TO rate; in a bizarre mockery of their defensive issues, they struggle to get shots up and probably won't make them if they do. They're shooting 29.9% in league games from deep 48% from inside the arc and only 65.8% from the line. They rebound okay and actually get to the line well, but they aren't turning any of that into points.



Starting matchups
Primo Spears Point Guard Souley Boum
Sophomore Class Senior
"6'3"", 185" Measurements "6'3"", 175"
15.5/3.4/5.2 Game line 16.9/4.4/4.9
42.3/26.8/80.8 Shooting line 47.1/42.9/87.7
Spears is second in the league in usage rate and third in usage, but that's where the good news about ends. His ORtg is just 85.6 in league play and he's putting up an EFG% of 41% in that time. He's a solid defender who doesn't foul and a decent free throw shooter, but he's carrying a load he can't handle thanks to the limitations of the players around him.
Brandon Murray Shooting Guard Adam Kunkel
Sophomore Class Senior
"6'5"", 225" Measurements "6'4"", 185"
14.7/3.6/3.4 Game line 10.4/2.2/2.5
43/37.9/59.3 Shooting line 46/38/85.7
Crazy that this dude is such a good three-point shooter but so bad from the line. Are you a good shooter or not? Pick a lane. Aside from that, he doesn't board much, uses too many possessions for a player so inefficient with them, and can't capitalize on his knack for drawing fouls. Like Spears, he's a supporting player struggling while cast in a leading role.
Jordan Riley Small Forward Colby Jones
Sophomore Class Junior
"6'4"", 200" Measurements "6'6"", 205"
5.9/2.8/0.3 Game line 14/5.2/5.3
46.3/25/76.2 Shooting line 48.9/40/75.4
Riley doesn't have a huge stat line, but that's because circumstances outside of his control have limited his minutes in some games. When he's on the floor, he's getting his shots up. He can be a bit turnover prone and he shoots too many threes, but he's a scrappy defender who can occasionally light up the scoreboard if he gets the right matchup.
Akok Akok Power Forward Zach Freemantle
Junior Class Senior
"6'10"", 205" Measurements "6'9"", 225"
7.2/6.8/1.1 Game line 14.6/8.3/2.9
46.2/28.8/75 Shooting line 57.8/60/65
Akok is mostly known for rim protection and defensive rebounding, but he has been sneaky good on offense in conference play. He leads the Big East is 2P% at 71%, but he takes more threes than twos and is well under 30% from behind the arc. Maybe he needs someone to do for him what Sean Miller did for Jerome Hunter. Until that happens, he's a tough matchup but not as tricky as he could be.
Qudus Wahab Center Jack Nunge
Senior Class Senior
"6'11"", 245" Measurements "7'0"" 245"
10/7.5/0.2 Game line 14.8/8.1/1.8
49.6/0/70.6 Shooting line 53.4/41.5/68.4
Wahab leads the league in free throw rate but is only shooting 59% from the line in Big East games. As one might expect from a man his size, he's an excellent rebounder on both ends of the court. As one might not expect, he's shooting less than 50% on layups and dunks this season. Maybe if there were a legendary retired big man on Georgetown's staff to help him develop...


Georgetown is not especially deep, getting about 28% of their minutes from the bench, and the issue has been compounded recently by guard Jay Heath - who went for 13/4/3 against Xavier - being out with a hand injury. The bench has not held the answers for Patrick Ewing.

USC Upstate transfer Bryson Mozone is probably the most dangerous intact weapon off the bench. He's a 6'6", 215-pound forward who is averaging just over 7 PPG on 40% from deep in conference play. He has been the third-best defensive rebounder in the league by rate, but he can be a bit foul prone.

Big man Bradley Ezewiro has been a bright spot defensively, but foul trouble has hampered his effectiveness. He commits 6 fouls per 40 minutes, though he has reined it in to 4.4 in conference play. He's a good rebounder at both ends (when he isn't fouling).

Past that, wing Wayne Bristol has shot pretty well but can't defend or rebound and turns the ball over too much. Guard Denver Angling has an ORtg of 61.5 in conference games, which is just untenably bad. Nobody heretofore unmentioned has featured in even half of the Hoyas' Big East games.

Three questions

-What is Xavier's true level? Did we witness a team playing way over its head crash to earth at DePaul? Or did a second weekend tournament team have a random off night the same time as a an opponent got scalding hot? The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, but if Xavier wants to win the league, they're going to need to find a way to win games when shots aren't falling.

-Can Xavier defend at all? It hasn't looked like it so far. Despite being comfortably in the top 25 of most reputable ranking systems, Xavier hasn't had many games where they just boat raced an opponent. That is down entirely to an inability to string together 40 - or sometimes even 20 - minutes of defense. Georgetown is a bad offensive team; the Muskies have a chance to get healthy at home.

-Is fatigue setting in? Sometimes shots just don't fall, but it's often the case that heavy legs keep shooters from being effective. Souley Boum is first in the league in minutes percentage and Colby Jones is fifth. Maybe they both randomly had off nights during the same game, but I'd feel better about March if we could find a way to give those guys a break in January and February.

Three keys

-Reset. Losing is never fun, and especially not when it is to DePaul. Despite never being very good, they've managed to be a thorn in Xavier's side since the Muskies joined the league. That game is over now. The only thing that matters today is Georgetown. Xavier needs to come out with amnesia and move forward with the season.

-Keep the gas pedal pinned. This team has a weird habit of ripping off like 15 points on 5-6 shooting before the first media timeout and then completely going flat for a stretch. I'm at a loss to explain it, but it's how games that should be blowouts turn into dogfights and occasionally losses. Should Xavier be blessed with a chance to get on top early, they need to hold momentum throughout.

-Attack through the middle. Georgetown's guards are remarkably stingy in giving away fouls, but Wahab, Ezewiro, and Mozone are all very foul prone. It was ultimately a lack of big bodies that could stay out of foul trouble that doomed Georgetown against Villanova. Obviously we're all hoping this turns into a romp and it's not a concern, but if it stays tight, Xavier may rue not forcing the paint early on.