The Big East's two hottest teams square off on Saturday afternoon in our nation's capital when 11th ranked Marquette (21-4, 8-2) slips into town to take on the #22 ranked Georgetown Hoyas (17-5, 7-2). In order to extend its conference-best eight game winning streak Marquette will have to slow down the surging Hoyas, winners of six in a row.
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. Tipoff is scheduled for 11am CST.
As if the Hoyas need extra incentive (they don't), Georgetown will celebrate 100 years of basketball on Saturday. Many past Hoya greats are expected to return to campus for the celebration.
Georgetown has steamrolled its last six opponents by an average of 15 points per game. As hot as the Hoyas are, they've not exactly annihilated murderer's row in the past few weeks (@Rutgers, @Seton Hall, DePaul, Cincy, St Johns, @Louisville) but with Roy Hibbert coming up with two double-doubles in his last three games its clear that JTIII has his troops playing better and better.
The Hoyas are paced by their front line, the best group in the Big East -- Hibbert, Jeff Green, Vernon Macklin and DaJuan Summers. The four big men combine to average 38 points per game for JTIII, led by Hibbert and Green at more than a dozen apiece. With their efficient frontline and the modified Princeton-style offense, Georgetown leads the Big East in field goal percentage -- and is the only team in the league hitting more than 50% of its shots (GU shoots 53% from the field).
In the backcourt, Jonathan Wallace is enjoying a fine season averaging better than 11ppg and connecting on 48% of his three-point attempts.
Marquette will look to its Big East-best backcourt to balance the Hoyas' baseline presence. MU's Triple Threat is averaging a combined 43ppg this season, and consistently deliver the defensive intensity Tom Crean's squad needs to dictate the style of play.....and style of play will be the key on Saturday.
Who will blink first, TC or JTIII?
Last year, MU's speed, intense perimeter defense, and crisp offense negated the Hoyas' height advantage in the Golden Eagles' victory at the Bradley Center. Hibbert played well, but Bowman and Green combined for just nine points. In the rematch at MSG during the Big East Tourney, the Hoya's defense held MU to just 39% shooting. Led by Jeff Green and now-departed point guard Ashanti Cook, who each scored 16 points, GU owned the glass (MU out-rebounded the Hoyas in the first meeting) and hit clutch free throws late to seal the deal.
With a smaller, quicker team, Crean has found ways to turn his Marquette's speed into a distinct advantage against bigger, lumbering teams. In the Golden Eagles' inaugural Big East opener last season, Steve Novak turned in the greatest individual performance in conference history with 41 points and 17 rebounds. That night, quickness and effective ball movement on offense negated the substantial height advantage from UConn (read: Boone, Adrien, Armstrong and Gay) as the Golden Eagles ran away with the victory. The same formula worked earlier this season in Marquette's win at Pittsburgh, where Aaron Gray was marginalized as the game wore on. Jamie Dixon was forced to 'go small' in order to put a more effective defensive team on the floor.
With Green, Summers, Hibbert and Macklin rotating on the baseline, at least one of them will have to guard Fitzgerald or Wesley Matthews in order for JTIII to keep three of them on the floor at the same time. In their last game against Louisville, which moved to a three (if not four) guard lineup, coach Thompson played Summers, Hibbert and Green each in excess of 30 minutes while Macklin only made it off the bench for two minutes of action. Perhaps MU can expect a similar rotation of Hoya big men on Saturday.
Still, if Ousmane Barro can hold his own down low and MU's guards can rebound effectively, the Golden Eagles could dictate the style of play yet again. A lineup of James, McNeal, Matthews, Fitzgerald and Barro would keep the floor spread and force JTIII to make some tougher personel choices -- if the Golden Eagles can create a more frenetic style of play at the expense of the Hoyas' young backcourt.
How Georgetown matches up with the 6'9" Fitzgerald will be key. The junior is shooting 43% from three-point range this season, and has hit a number of clutch shots from that distance in conference play.
- Here's the MUScoop information header for Saturday's game.
- Eric Silver previews the game for MarquetteHoops.
- HoyaSaxa's pre-game report.
- The Associated Press preview is on the wire -- check it out.
- The GU Hoya on the Hoyas' pursuit of a marquee victory on Saturday.
- CNNSI's Luke Winn has MU up to #7 in his power poll -- and gives a shout-out to Todd Rosiak's new blog.
- Sportsline matches up MU and GU in their Head to Head analysis.
- Todd Rosiak blogs on MU's arrival in DC -- Crean is still sick with the flu.