The average Utah fan probably doesn't spend a lot of time watching Big East basketball games, so what do we really know about the four-seed Georgetown Hoyas? We reached out to our friends at CasualHoya.com (on the SBNation network) to help us learn more about the Runnin' Utes Saturday Round of 32 opponent, and Andrew Geiger was kind enough to drop some knowledge on us:
BlockU: Tell us more about your defensive tackle... uh... center, Joshua Smith. What does he do well? What does he not do well? How do you see this matchup with Utah center Jakob Poeltl?
Geiger/CasualHoya: Smith transferred to Georgetown from UCLA last season and didn't do much, arriving on campus close to 380 pounds and appearing in just a handful of games before getting suspended for academic reasons for the remainder of the season. To his credit, he devoted himself to getting in shape in the offseason and has started every game for the Hoyas this year.
When he's on the court, he's nearly impossible to defend with just one man, and if can gets the ball close to the basket it's a good thing for us as he led the Big East in field goal percentage. The problem with Smith has been that he has difficulty avoiding foul trouble, and it seems that in each of the past few games he's picked up two quick fouls before the second media timeout.
The Hoyas have a good backup center in Mikael Hopkins and even got production out of seldom used Bradley Hayes against Eastern Washington, but Smith really needs to do a better job of avoiding foul trouble against Utah since his presence creates space and opens things up on the perimeter for our other guys. The matchup with Poeltl is going to be key to the outcome of this game, and without Smith on the floor the advantage probably tilts in Utah's favor.
BlockU: Georgetown scores 71.1 points per game (similar to Utah's 71.6), but Utah allows just 56.7 points per game and limited two of the nations top scoring teams (BYU and Stephen F. Austin) to well below their averages. Can Georgetown win a grind-it-out game dictated by defense?
Geiger/CasualHoya: Yes, yes, and more yes! Not sure how things work in the Pac-12, but every game in the Big East is a grind it out battle to the death. The Hoyas dropped 84 on Eastern Washington, but are very comfortable playing in an every possession matters type of game that will end in the low 60s. I'm not a big KenPom guy (I hate math, generally), but Georgetown's defense is good, and a low-tempo game suits us just fine.
BlockU: Georgetown plays a solid half-court offense but wilted under Eastern Washington's full court pressure. Was that an anomaly? Can the Hoya guards and forwards handle defensive pressure?
Geiger/CasualHoya: Wilted is a bit of a strong word, but no doubt the Hoyas had trouble against that press by what really was a bad defense. Thing is, the Hoyas didn't have any issues breaking the press and getting the ball to the other side of the court, the issues were more of what happened once they did. Sloppy passes, poor shoots, insane travelling violations - all of that is not indicative of how Georgetown plays and I don't expect a recurrence. That said, one of the perceived weaknesses of this Hoyas squad heading into the season was a lack of a true point guard (Jabril Trawick and DSR are both natural 2s), but freshman point guard Tre Campbell has played great over the past couple of months and will be in there should the Utes try to press.
BlockU: What are the Hoyas strengths and weaknesses? In which aspect(s) of the Georgetown game are you most confident, and in which aspect(s) are you most worried?
Geiger/CasualHoya: The Hoyas did a good job of trying to contain Eastern Washington's Tyler Harvey from behind the arc, and I expect Georgetown to deploy a similar defense against Utah to limit Brandon Taylor and Delon Wright's effectiveness. With pressure extending on the perimeter, it's going to be imperative for Georgetown that the bigs (specifically Josh Smith and Mikael Hopkins) stay out of foul trouble. I'm a bit more confident in Georgetown's ability to accomplish the former rather than the latter since the Hoyas have one of the worst foul rates in the country. If Smith and Hopkins each pick up 2 fouls in the 1st half, I may light myself on fire.
One of Georgetown's strengths that Utah cannot match is our depth, and I fully expect 9+ guys to contribute. The Hoyas scored 84 points against Eastern Washington without getting much from three starters (Smith, Isaac Copeland and LJ Peak combined for just 4 points), and that's not likely to happen again. Copeland, a 6'8" freshman forward in the mold of Otto Porter, might be the wildcard against Utah as he has the ability to score from anywhere on the floor and is a difficult matchup defensively.
BlockU: How do you see this game playing out? And what is your final score prediction?
Geiger/CasualHoya: I expect a close game throughout, which would be great for the 'hey this is a great game!' talking heads who get paid to cover college hoops but terrible for my blood pressure. At the end of the day I think this game comes down to three things. One, can Jabril Trawick contain Delon Wright. Two, can Josh Smith stay on the floor and perhaps get your great white hope into foul trouble. And three, can Utah contain DSR. As I type this I have no idea what the outcomes of those three things will be and I have a feeling we won't really know until there are just a few minutes left. Hoyas 66 - Utes 62.