Preview & Prediction: By Jeff Borzello
As the month of February winds down and March approaches, it’s do-or-die time for teams around the country to make an impression on the Selection Committee, either for seeding or for inclusion into the NCAA Tournament. Both of those situations will be on display tonight when Louisville heads to the nation’s capital to take on Georgetown. Louisville (21-5, 12-2) has won three in a row and is 13-2 since the calendar turned to 2009. The Cardinals are still in the mix for a Big East championship and have an outside shot at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They have four wins against the top-25 of the RPI, including Pittsburgh, Villanova, Syracuse and West Virginia. Louisville has also defeated Kentucky, Notre Dame and UAB. Georgetown (14-11, 5-9) played itself out of the NCAA Tournament and is quickly falling from the at-large bubble. The Hoyas have lost three of four and eight of 10, and they are just 4-10 since knocking off Connecticut on Dec. 29. They have decent computer numbers and wins over UConn, Memphis, Syracuse and Maryland, but they need a lot of help to get a bid.
Louisville is one of the most talented teams in the country, and the Cardinals have the pieces to make a deep run come March. They have a dominant frontcourt, although no player can be considered a “go-to-guy.” Terrence Williams is one of the best all-around players in the country, leading the team in assists and ranking second in points and rebounds. Earl Clark is a match-up nightmare, with his ability to score in a variety of ways. He leads the team in scoring and rebounding and he can also distribute. Freshman Samardo Samuels is very tough down low. On the perimeter, Jerry Smith and Preston Knowles can really shoot the three. The one question mark is the point guard spot, where Edgar Sosa and Andre McGee have been inconsistent.
Georgetown is a very balanced team with plenty of options and one of the better starting fives in the Big East. Greg Monroe is a future lottery pick down low. He is tough to guard due to his ability to handle and pass the ball, as well as his scoring ability. DaJuan Summers is an inside-outside threat at forward, leading the team in scoring, and Austin Freeman can shoot. In the backcourt, Chris Wright is one of the most improved players in the country, ranking third on the team in scoring and leading the Hoyas in assists. Jessie Sapp is the leader for the Hoyas, and he can do a little of everything. Jason Clark has come on in the past couple of months and Omar Wattad can shoot.
Despite the disparity in records and placement in the conference, expect a tightly-contested battle. It is a must-win for Georgetown, who essentially needs to win out if it wants an NCAA Tournament bid. If they are to pull the upset, the Hoyas are going to need to defend Williams and Clark. Both players are very difficult to defend due to their ability to score inside and out, as well as their passing ability. The Hoyas do have players who can guard them in Summers and Freeman, though. Additionally, they can’t let Louisville get hot from deep; the Cardinals stagnate offensively at times, and shutting down the outside shot will help spur that. For Louisville, they need to defend Monroe. Samuels might not have the quickness to defend Monroe, but the Cardinals’ pressure defense and half-court zones could take away Georgetown’s ability to get to the basket via the dribble-drive or backdoor cuts. Despite Georgetown’s homecourt advantage and desperate need for a win, the Hoyas have not shown the ability to beat high-quality teams since early January. Louisville will get the win.
WINNER: Louisville MARGIN: 5-7
Editor's Early Preview
*Made on 02/06. Full preview by the GameNight staff coming soon!
If Georgetown wants to seriously make up for some of their January struggles, this is a must win game. The interior matchup between freshmen stars Samardo Samuels & Greg Monroe will have the attention of NBA scouts.
Early Prediction: Georgetown