Preview & Prediction: By Evan Dorey
-- Evan Dorey's game previews & rankings are based on Elo Ratings. Elo Ratings are fairly simple, all teams are assigned an initial number of points, which is the same for all teams, eliminating preseason bias. Then, as the season progresses, when a team wins it gains points, and when it loses it drops points. The amount of points that are gained or lost depend on the level of the opponent (beating a cupcake gets you little, beating #1 will be a big increase), the scoring margin of the game (which is capped), and the game’s location. To take a look at Evan's College Basketball Elo Ratings, visit his website or blog where he discusses the rankings along with other statistical observations about big games and interesting teams.
-- A marquee matchup marks the start of Big East play, as #6 Connecticut (11-0) host #22 Georgetown (9-1) in what should be the best game of the night.
Georgetown’s lone loss came in the Old Spice Classic semifinal, when a late Tennessee surge pulled the Vols to victory. The Hoyas proceeded to impress with a 27-point beating of Maryland in the third-place game, and also had a good overtime win over Memphis two weeks ago. Connecticut has some strong wins of its own, beating Gonzaga in overtime last week, and winning the Paradise Jam by taking out Wisconsin and Miami. The Huskies’ closest game was a four-point win at Buffalo, in which the Bulls had a chance to tie in the final seconds.
So far, Georgetown’s offense has been one of the strongest in the nation, though this is somewhat masked by its slow pace. The Hoyas take a lot of three pointers, and are merely average from behind the arc, but hit nearly 60% of their attempts from two, making them one of the country’s most efficient shooting teams. They also get to the line often, and make their foul shots at a 75% clip. The Hoyas’ weaknesses tend to be rebounding and turnovers, and they don’t often hold a possession advantage over their opponents. The turnovers shouldn’t be a problem against the Huskies’ defense, but the game should feature a major battle inside, as Connecticut is one of the nation’s best interior defending teams. UConn is also the nation’s best team at keeping its opponents off the free throw line, which could pose a big problem for Georgetown.
Connecticut’s offense has a much different approach than Georgetown’s, as it takes more than three-quarters of its shots from two, but doesn’t make quite as good a percentage as the Hoyas. Despite the weaker shooting, the two offenses are similarly efficient, as the Huskies do a much better job of ball control, committing few turnovers and pulling down a lot of their own misses. Connecticut will also encounter a stellar interior defense, but may be able to take advantage of Georgetown’s struggles on the defensive glass.
There should be no surprise that Connecticut boasts a strong inside offense, as it features a pair of CHN All-Big East players in the frontcourt, junior Hasheem Thabeet and senior Jeff Adrien. The 7-3 Thabeet is among the nation’s leaders in rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage, and is very good at getting to the free throw line, where he’s a passable shooter. Adrien is another solid rebounder, and while he isn’t as efficient as Thabeet, he does hit 55% from the field. Another All-Big East player starts for the Huskies in guard Jerome Dyson, who leads the team in scoring. Dyson isn’t a great shooter, but is pretty efficient given his large role in the offense. The fourth starter is point guard A.J. Price, leading the team in assists and putting up a solid 2:1 A/TO ratio, while shooting well from three. Craig Austrie has also started every game, and has been an effective outside shooter. Freshman Kemba Walker is just 6-1, but has shot very well from two, and gets to the line often. Junior forward Stanley Robinson is being worked back into the rotation after injury, and he will be another solid scoring option when he gets back up to speed.
Georgetown has a very solid starting five, led by two strong interior players, junior DaJuan Summers and freshman Greg Monroe. Monroe has shot very well, and leads the Hoyas in steals and blocks, but his biggest strength is getting to the free throw line, as he’s taken the same number of attempts from the field and the line, while hitting foul shots at a 73% rate. Summers leads the team in scoring, shooting over 50% and showing a nice touch from behind the arc. Sophomore Chris Wright is also a good shooter, and runs the team very efficiently, getting 4 assists a game and putting up a 2:1 A/TO ratio. Austin Freeman is another perimeter scorer, while Jessie Sapp is the least offensively involved of the starters, but has been a very good three-point shooter. Jason Clark and Omar Wattad are the backup guards, but neither has been all that effective in their appearances so far, though Clark’s 95% free throw percentage is impressive. Inside depth is a major problem for Georgetown, as neither Henry Sims nor Julian Vaughn has contributed much.
This promises to be an entertaining start to the Big East season, but I don’t see the Hoyas ending Connecticut’s perfect run. While Georgetown has an efficient inside unit, they haven’t met anything like the Huskies, and Thabeet and Adrian will take advantage of Georgetown’s poor rebounding to get a lot of second chances offensively. It won’t necessarily look it on the scoreboard, but this game will be a clash of offensive juggernauts that should go to the home team.
Winner: Connecticut Margin: 4-8