Former Big East rivals are set to do battle to start out a great Saturday slate. Can Georgetown find a way to upset a reeling Syracuse squad?
TV Schedule: Saturday, December 11, 12:00 PM, Fox
Location: Capital One Arena, Washington, DC
Records: Syracuse (5-4), Georgetown (4-4)
KenPom Rankings: Syracuse (59), Georgetown (108)
Syracuse and Georgetown were once bitter rivals atop the college basketball world that helped turn the Big East into what it is today (or what it was depending who you ask). Syracuse leads the all-time series 51-43. However, since Syracuse left for the less than green pastures of the ACC, the series is even at three games apiece. Syracuse won the matchup last season by a score of 74-69. Both teams may be having down years, but that all goes out the window during a rivalry game.
The Big East MBB twitter account called for fans to vote for the first ever Big East Shootaround Fan’s Choice. This matchup seemed to be fading behind the other options (Xavier vs Cincy, UCLA vs Marquette), but Georgetown twitter heard the call from their leader Patrick Ewing. Now they get the honor of having John Fanta at the game for the first-ever Big East Shootaround Fans’ Choice. Twitter is a powerful place. Back to the game.
The Big East has looked like one of the better conferences in the country this season, but Georgetown has yet to make their mark with a signature non-conference win. They are, however, coming off their best win. Yes, it was over UMBC, but UMBC is a well-coached team, and the Hoyas took care of business. Something they haven’t done against lesser opponents this season.
On the other hand, the ACC is having a down year, to put things mildly. Still, Syracuse always seems to find a way to sneak into the NCAA tournament and make a run, so a win over the Orange could help get the Hoyas back on track right as conference play approaches.
Syracuse has been hot and cold to start the season, which seems to be a trend lately. They have some respectable wins and some questionable losses. Per KenPom, their adjusted offense ranks 23rd in the country, but you’d never know it if you just watched the Villanova game. The Orange scored just 53 points in the loss.
The team is heavily reliant upon their starters, and in particular, Buddy Boeheim (17.7 ppg, 25.8% from three) to create some magic on the offensive end. In fact, in their five wins, Buddy Boeheim has an average offense rating (per KenPom) of 113, to just 90.5 in their four losses. He has had some help along the way as all 5 starters are currently averaging double-digit scoring, but the bench help has been limiting.
On the defensive end, the zone does not appear to be what it once was. Yes, it forces teams into a lot of threes (I’m looking at you Villanova), but if teams can work the ball inside against the zone they can break down the defense. The zone also presents the opportunity for offensive rebounds and second chance points, can the Hoyas take advantage?
Similar to Syracuse, Georgetown has some puzzling losses early this season. As I mentioned earlier, they had a solid team win over UMBC, but prior to that the team just hasn’t been able to get on track. Somewhat understandable as they are replacing the loss of several key pieces to either graduation or transfer. They have a talented freshmen class, but it takes time to adjust to the college game. Everyone is still discovering their role, but the team needs more consistency across the board.
Georgetown may be able to find some success against the zone though. As a team, the Hoyas are currently shooting 38.9% from deep as a team (31st overall in the nation), but they shouldn’t fall in love with this strategy. Don’t settle for the deep shot, but take the open opportunities. It’s a fine balance to strike. They will need to work the ball inside to their young bigs to be effective and keep the zone honest.
Another area to track for Georgetown will be the rebounding battle, particularly on the offensive end. This is an area the Hoyas can and do thrive. Long threes produce long rebounds and Villanova, a team without much size, dominated Syracuse on the glass. Georgetown should look to do the same against the zone. They will need to maximize their opportunities on the glass against the zone. Will they be able to?
I started working on this preview before the UMBC game and I couldn’t convince myself Georgetown stood much of a chance. I had a lot of faith in this team going into the season, but they’ve been too inconsistent and unreliable game-to-game. I don’t think one win against UMBC is enough to change my mind. That said, the Hoyas played their most complete game of the year and showed a lot of promise. Was it chance, or is it a chance to gain some momentum heading into conference play? I think the matchup favors the Hoyas in a lot of ways, but the execution has not been there for this team most of the year.
Buddy Boeheim had an off night against Villanova and I don’t think the Hoyas can bank on that happening again. He hasn’t shot great from deep for most of the season, but something tells me he will turn it on against Georgetown. Just one of those seasons for the Hoyas.