Game of the Week: No. 5 Georgetown at No. 2 Memphis (Saturday, Dec. 22, 12:00 PM, ESPN)
Although college basketball lost some of its momentum with the dull hoops played during finals week, this week was the perfect way to bounce back. There are several marquee match-ups on the docket, starting with Pittsburgh and Duke on Thursday and peaking on Saturday with a plethora of big-time games, including Texas vs. Michigan State; Clemson and Mississippi in a battle of undefeateds; and top-25 clubs Tennessee and Xavier. However, arguably the most anticipated game of the non-conference season will overshadow the rest: No. 2 Memphis vs. No. 5 Georgetown.
Memphis was ranked as the preseason No. 1 in several polls, including mine, and although the 9-0 Tigers haven’t lost yet, they haven’t played like the best team in the country. Memphis has quality wins over Connecticut, Oklahoma and USC – all in New York City. The Tigers are the No. 7 ranked team in defensive efficiency but only No. 94 on the other side of the ball. Memphis has one of the best perimeter duos in the country in freshman point guard Derrick Rose and junior wing Chris Douglas-Roberts. Rose is a premier point guard although he tends to make freshmen mistakes at times. Douglas-Roberts has become one of the better scorers in the nation with his ability to finish in a variety of ways. Antonio Anderson contributes in different ways, while Doneal Mack and Willie Mack are very solid players coming off the bench. Andre Allen sees minutes backing up Rose. Up front, Robert Dozier has shown flashes of his potential but has not been consistent, while center Joey Dorsey shoots 82 percent from the field but struggles with foul trouble. Shawn Taggart provides very good depth behind those two.
Georgetown reached the Final Four last season but lost Jeff Green to the NBA Draft – and has not missed a beat without the lottery pick. The Hoyas haven’t defeated anyone particularly noteworthy besides Alabama on the road, but have won their eight games by an average of more than 22 points per game. Georgetown is balanced, as it is the No. 23 ranked team in terms offensive efficiency and No. 13 on the other side of the ball. The Hoyas are balanced, with five players averaging at least nine points per game. All-American center Roy Hibbert leads the way up front, although he is averaged only 9.3 points per game in the last four contests. DaJuan Summers has filled Green’s shoes well, showing the ability to score both inside and outside. Patrick Ewing Jr. and Vernon Macklin provide solid rebounding and scoring inside as well. On the perimeter, Jonathan Wallace and Jessie Sapp form one of the more underrated guard duos in the country. Wallace’s shooting numbers are down, but he is still a decent guard, while Sapp does everything well. Freshman Austin Freeman has been a very good scorer off the bench, while Chris Wright and Jeremiah Rivers have also played well in reserve.
This top-five match-up should be an outstanding game between two teams with their respective sights set on the Final Four. As a matter of fact, don’t be surprised to see these two squads meet up again in three and a half months in San Antonio. Saturday’s game will be a battle of varying tempos. Memphis wants to push the ball and play transition basketball, while Georgetown would rather have a half-court game in which it can run its offense and play tough defense at the other end. Memphis has shown the ability to play at slower tempos, but it is obviously much more comfortable in an up-and-down game. If the Tigers are to win, they are going to have to do several things. One, Joey Dorsey has to stay out of foul trouble and contain Roy Hibbert. Although Hibbert has not scored much lately, he clearly can dominate at times. Two, the Tigers will have to play solid half-court defense against Georgetown’s Princeton-style offense. They can’t let the Hoyas get easy baskets. Three, Derrick Rose has to limit the mistakes against a seasoned veteran Georgetown backcourt. On the other side, Georgetown has to slow down Memphis. The Hoyas are comfortable at a quicker tempo, but they can’t run with the Tigers – no one can. Furthermore, Georgetown has to force Memphis to shoot outside shots. The Tigers aren’t consistent from beyond the arc and are much less effective when they can’t drive to the basket. Lastly, they have to try and get Dorsey in foul trouble and take away his focus. In the end, Memphis’ homecourt advantage and ability to score in a variety of ways will be the difference. As long as Dorsey keeps his mouth shut (re: Greg Oden), he should be able to slow down Hibbert and the Tigers will be able to outrun the Hoyas for easy transition opportunities.
Prediction: Memphis 72, Georgetown 68