Preview & Prediction: By Raphielle Johnson
Some way to take a break from conference play, huh? #12 Georgetown (12-3, 3-2 Big East) travels south to take on #2 Duke (15-1, 3-0 ACC) in a game that for some fans will settle the ACC vs. Big East debate. Both teams played on Wednesday night, but the way in which the two teams won was much different. Georgetown blitzed rival Syracuse early and kept their foot on the Orange until game’s end, winning 88-74 with DaJuan Summers (21 points) and Austin Freeman (19 points) leading the way. Duke, on the other hand, struggled with a pesky Georgia Tech squad before gaining some separation in their 70-56 win in Atlanta. Going into Cameron and coming out with a victory is one of the toughest challenges in college basketball, with Duke owning a 67-game non-conference home winning streak. This will be a serious test for the Hoyas, but they should be ready for it.
So what do the Hoyas have in common with Michigan, the only team to beat Duke this season? Head coach John Thompson III cited the cutting within their offensive systems in Thursday’s Big East Coaches Teleconference, but the Wolverines rely far more on the three-pointer within their system. Summers, Freeman and freshman big man Greg Monroe have the ability to make plays from just about anywhere on the floor, something that will be key against Duke’s man-to-man defense. The Blue Devils like to overplay the passing lanes, relying on ball pressure to keep from getting beat on backdoor cuts. Thus the onus in this game falls upon the shoulders of sophomore point guard Chris Wright. While the Hoyas feature a few players on the ball, Wright will have to meet his assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.7 if Georgetown is to win this game. Overall Georgetown has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.1 and they rank third in the Big East in field goal percentage (48.6%).
As for Duke, the one area that they could possibly exploit against Georgetown is rebounding. Neither team would be confused for a squad of giants, but the Blue Devils have been much better in hitting the boards in spite of their height. Duke is third in the ACC in rebounding margin, winning the battle by an average of 8.3 rebounds per game. Georgetown, on the other hand, is thirteenth in the Big East in that statistic with a margin of -0.3. The styles of play may have something to do with that discrepancy, but Georgetown is going to have to really attack the boards in order to negate Duke’s clear edge.
Coach Krzyzewski has four players averaging double figures right now, and one of those four (Gerald Henderson) continued his solid offensive play of late with nineteen against the Yellow Jackets on Wednesday. But unlike many of their matchups this season, Duke won’t have a clear advantage when leading scorer Kyle Singler steps out on the perimeter. Georgetown has the tools inside to step out and at least challenge the sophomore forward, something that less mobile fours cannot do consistently. But do not be fooled by Singler’s ability from behind the arc; this is a tough player who also has three double-doubles to his credit this season (including 19 and 14 on Wednesday night). Monroe, while he may not guard Singler, must stay out of foul trouble in order for the Hoyas to “break even” in this matchup.
Quite simply this is an exciting matchup, especially when you consider that it’s happening in January as opposed to November or December. Coach Thompson downplayed the adjustment to this game, saying that this was “another difficult game in the midst of many”. He’s right. As much hype as this game will receive, the bottom line is that a loss here does little to deter either team from their immediate goal of a conference title. This will be an entertaining game to say the least, and if the Hoyas can limit their turnovers (and as a result points off of turnovers) they’ve got a shot to end that impressive streak. And I believe that they can do just that.
Winner: Georgetown Margin: 1-4 pts.
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About Raphielle Johnson
College sports has always been a source of excitement for Raphielle Johnson, be it through watching, writing, or taking a shot in the dark and walking onto a college football team just to live the life (Arizona Football, 2001). Raphielle is the assistant editor, providing his own work in addition to helping out with the site operations. When not writing for CHN, you can usually find him in front of a television set watching one of many pay-per-view sports packages that he owns. He can be followed at twitter.com/raphiellej.
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