#4 Georgetown (21-10) vs. #13 Eastern Washington (26-8)
Thursday 9:57 P.M. ET on truTV
Everyone knows the narrative surrounding Georgetown Basketball. The assumption that Georgetown will–for lack of a better phrase–flame out early in the tournament is well rooted in its recent tournament performances. Since the 2008 NCAA tournament, Georgetown has lost to a double-digit seed every time it has made the field. Starting tonight, this group of seniors will be determined not to fall prey to another double digit seed.
The skinny on Georgetown:
–Conference: Big East (12-6 in conference play)
After missing the tournament last season, John Thompson III and his Georgetown Hoyas were able to produce a respectable 21 wins despite playing the 5th toughest schedule in the country, based on ESPN’s BPI rankings. Now, the Hoyas are positioned as a 4th seed in the South region. Many think the Hoyas were given too high of a seed, but we will soon find out if they can play up to their potential.
Georgetown’s princeton offense is never one of an uptempo nature, so it only makes sense for their pace of play to be towards the end of the totem pole. Georgetown’s offense, however, has been pretty efficient on the limited possessions it generates. The heart of the attack is the burly and stocky junior lead guard D’vauntes Smith-Rivera, who is leading the team in scoring at 16.2 points per game while averaging 4.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists. He’s also money from the free throw line, converting an elite 87.6% of his chances. To compliment Smith-Rivera’s perimeter attack is the imposing senior center Josh Smith, who is scoring 11.1 points on 62.6% shooting and pulling down 5.9 rebounds. Smith, who has experienced his fair share of disappointments over his college career, has been a bright spot for Georgetown this season and will be a key cog for a tournament run.
Even though the Hoyas average an impressive 4.9 blocks per game, their defense is average at best. They constantly struggle to defend the 3-point line and are always scrambling out to shooters without cohesion. Team’s who spread the floor well and move the ball with precision can easily get open looks from the deep against the Hoyas. Where Georgetown excels, however, is preventing teams from finding shooting success in the 2-point range. Mikael Hopkins is Georgetowns best defender, as he brings a defensive versatility and leads the team in blocks. He is as physical as they come down low and has the ability to slide his feet against quicker forwards.
If Georgetown does not hit threes in the tournament, the chances of them advancing will take a hit. The Hoyas are a below average shooting team from beyond the three-point line, and poor shooting performance from deep are a common thread in their losses. While Smith-Rivera, Trawick, and at times Copeland, are capable shooters, it is not uncommon for the team’s three-point percentage to be in the teens for various games. To enable Josh Smith to operate space, the Hoyas’ will have to be able to hit outside jumpers. If not, Georgetown may struggles being efficient on offense.
The skinny on Eastern Washington:
–Conference: Big Sky (14-4 in conference play)
After winning a school-record 26 games, the Eastern Washington Eagles look to soar even higher in the the big dance. This tournament appearance will mark only their second ever appearance in the school’s 33 season basketball existence.
When talking about Eastern Washington, the first thing that must be pointed out is their elite offense– led by the nation’s leading scorer, Tyler Harvey. Eastern Washington’s offense propelled them to an early season victory against Indiana 88-86, despite being in a hostile environment on the road. Their offensive attack has also allowed them to compete with other reputable teams like SMU, Washington, and Cal, never losing by more than 11 points in each contest. The Eagles are one the nation’s most prolific deep threats, as they shoot 40% from the 3-point line; but they also rank among the nation’s elite in 2-point percentage as well. A constant theme all season for Eastern Washington’s opponents has been if you want to defeat them, you will have to outscore them.
As great as Eastern Washington is on offense, they are equally as bad defensively. With the exception of blocking shots, there isn’t much more than can be considered a strength for the Eagles’ defense. They won’t force many turnovers nor do they keep teams from scoring efficiently from three or inside. The Eagles don’t have imposing size, either, even though 6-8 junior forward Venky Jois averages 2.2 blocks per game.
Can the offense outpace the defense:
At this point in the season, Eastern Washington knows where its strength lies: on the offensive end. They rank atop the nation in efficiency, pace, and shooting percentages. The question is whether the opponent (starting with Georgetown) will be able to score less against a porous defense. Though the Hoyas aren’t offensive juggernauts, it will be interesting how exactly Eastern Washington will try to defend them.