College Hoops Wednesday: Your Conmmentary

    
December 29th, 2010
While Mike Krzyzewski going for win number 880, which would push him past Dean Smith and into second place all-time, is a big deal that does not make Duke playing UNC Greensboro at the Greensboro Coliseum the game of the night. That distinction goes to the Big East opener for #9 Georgetown (11-1) and #15 Notre Dame in South Bend. Mike Brey's squad has flown under the radar since their Old Spice Classic win on Thanksgiving weekend with the exception of a loss to Kentucky in the SEC/Big East Invitational, and Wednesday offers another opportunity to show that they'll be a factor in the league race. John Thompson III's Hoyas have been the center of attention on more than a few occasions this season thanks to one of the nation's toughest schedules to date (ranked third in SOS). Before the season began few pundits threw either of these teams into the conversation for a Big East title (that was dominated by Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Villanova), but a win Wednesday night would be another step towards changing that.

For the visitors it's been the three-guard attack of Jason Clark, Austin Freeman and Chris Wright that has led the way but don't ignore the progression of the frontcourt when looking at Georgetown's success. Julian Vaughn (9.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg) posted a double-double in the Hoyas' win at Memphis last week and junior Henry Sims (4.8 ppg, 2.1 apg) has gotten better off the bench as the season's worn on. Jerrelle Benimon and Nate Lubick also see minutes up front but in regards to having an impact offensively (especially from the high post) it's been Sims and Vaughn who've had the biggest impact. Georgetown's "big three" average 46.3 points per game and all three (Clark, Freeman and Wright) are efficient in doing so. Freeman (18.9 ppg), the preseason Big East Player of the Year, is a silent assassin who can knock down any shot on the floor while Wright (13.7 ppg, 6.3 apg) is the floor general who takes the most advantage of the freedom to attack the basket. And Jason Clark's been a versatile player in the backcourt who can get it done in a variety of ways, making Georgetown a very tough team to match up with defensively.

Notre Dame has continued to improve offensively, a progression that began last season with the knee injury suffered by then-senior Luke Harangody. There was more shared responsibility on offense, which led to last year's run to the NCAA Tournament when many left the Irish for dead as well as an 11-1 start to this season. Four players average double figures in scoring and a fifth, Purdue transfer Scott Martin, isn't far off with an average of 9.6 points per game. Ben Hansbrough, whose career began at Mississippi State as a guy used for perimeter shooting and defense, has become more versatile offensively through the course of his career and hands out four assists per game in addition to scoring 15.3 ppg. And leading scorer Tim Abromaitis (16.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg) has built upon a strong second half of 2009-10, showing the ability to punish opponents from either inside or out. Tyrone Nash and Carleton Scott (combined 22.9 points and 12.8 rebounds per game) have both played well inside as has Jack Cooley in a reserve role. Add in an emerging freshman in point guard Eric Atkins and you're looking at a Notre Dame squad that can beat you in a variety of ways.

Both teams average 81 points per game on the season, and while Notre Dame boasts higher efficiency and win margin numbers that's likely the product of a softer schedule to date. Georgetown turns the ball over at a higher rate (14.2 tpg to 10.4 for Notre Dame) but they also knock down more than 52% of their shots from the field (and 42.6% from beyond the arc), numbers that are better than Notre Dame's by a decent margin. Notre Dame is the better rebounding team, something that may come into play should they pester the Hoyas into an off shooting night. But Georgetown does such a good job of finding quality looks that it's going to be tough for the Irish to slow them down over an entire forty minutes. If Notre Dame can match the Hoyas' efficiency by not settling for bad shots while also controlling the glass they'll likely win. But if there's any team in the Big East ready to play a game of this level on the road it would be Georgetown, who has already tested itself in hostile environments with only Temple getting the best of them.

Duke/UNC Greensboro has already been mentioned, and it'll likely play out as more of a coronation than a strenuous test as the Spartans have struggled for much of the season. Marquette hits the road in hopes of picking up a good non-conference victory, but few teams leave Vanderbilt's Memorial Gym with a win. The Golden Eagles will need to show the ability to close games out late, and they'll also have their hands full with Vandy big man Festus Ezeli. There are also important conference games in the Missouri Valley to keep an eye on, with defending champ Northern Iowa hosting Missouri State and Creighton making the trek to Illinois State just to name two games on the MVC slate. And Wednesday also marks the beginning of Pac-10 play with the Washington schools in southern California, with Washington State/UCLA providing a glimpse as to who can run with Washington and Arizona as the season wears on.

Top 25
7:00 PM (1) Duke at UNC Greensboro (ESPNU)
9:00 PM Texas-Arlington at (3) Kansas (ESPNU)
7:00 PM (9) Georgetown at (15) Notre Dame (ESPN2)
7:00 PM Furman at (21) UCF
9:00 PM (25) Illinois at Iowa (BTN)

NCAA Division I Games
2:00 PM Dickinson (PA) at Radford
2:30 PM St. Peter's at Lehigh
3:00 PM Northern Arizona at Montana
4:30 PM Texas A&M-CC vs. Georgia State*
5:00 PM New Hampshire vs. Cornell*
5:30 PM Savannah State vs. Southeastern Louisiana*
6:00 PM Dominican Cal vs. Hampton*
7:00 PM Quinnipiac at Boston University
7:00 PM Monmouth at Harvard
7:00 PM Boston College at Rhode Island
7:00 PM East Carolina at Clemson
7:00 PM Montreat College at Chattanooga
7:00 PM Wake Forest at Richmond
7:00 PM Mount St. Mary's at Vermont
7:00 PM St. John's at West Virginia (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Army at Texas-Pan American
7:00 PM Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Akron
7:00 PM Northwestern State at Canisius
7:00 PM Brown at Central Connecticut State
7:00 PM George Mason at Dayton
7:00 PM Towson at La Salle
7:00 PM William & Mary at Longwood
7:00 PM Milligan at North Carolina Central
7:00 PM Jacksonville State at South Carolina (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Colgate at Stony Brook
7:00 PM Tennessee-Martin at Tennessee (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Oberlin College at Bryant University
7:05 PM Bradley at Indiana State
7:30 PM Hofstra at Iona
7:30 PM Pennsylvania at Marist
7:30 PM Wofford at Virginia Commonwealth
7:30 PM West New Mexico vs. Sam Houston State*
8:00 PM Georgia Southern at Auburn
8:00 PM North Carolina A&T at Arkansas
8:00 PM North Florida at Maryland
8:00 PM LSU at Rice
8:00 PM Tennessee State at Middle Tennessee
8:00 PM Southeast Missouri State at Southern Methodist
8:00 PM Mississippi Valley State at Southern Miss
8:00 PM Louisiana-Monroe at Stephen F. Austin
8:00 PM New Mexico at Texas Tech
8:05 PM Southern Illinois at Drake
8:05 PM Creighton at Illinois State (ESPN3)
8:05 PM Missouri State at Northern Iowa
8:05 PM Evansville at Wichita State
8:30 PM Lafayette at Gonzaga
9:00 PM Maryland-Eastern Shore at Colorado
9:00 PM Marquette at Vanderbilt (ESPN2)
9:00 PM Hawaii at Utah State
9:00 PM Delaware at Santa Clara
9:05 PM Weber State at Montana State
9:30 PM Northeastern vs. Princeton*
9:30 PM Air Force at UTEP
10:00 PM New Mexico State at Idaho
10:05 PM Sacramento State at Eastern Washington
10:05 PM Northern Colorado at Portland State
10:15 PM Louisiana Tech at Boise State
10:30 PM Washington at USC
11:00 PM Washington State at UCLA (FSN)
11:00 PM Fordham vs. American University*
11:00 PM San Jose State at Fresno State
11:00 PM Mississippi State vs. Saint Mary's* (ESPNU)

Wednesday: Hoops Talk Live show at 6 PM