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No Guarantees: Utah Takes on Georgetown in Round of 32

The no. 5 seeded Utes and no.4 seeded Georgetown Hoyas battle for the chance to advance into the "Sweet Sixteen." Buckle up.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

No Guarantees. If the Utes (25-8) want to beat Georgetown (22-10) on Saturday they better keep their mouth shut between now and game time, just ask Georgetown coach John Thompson III.

"You know, so he guaranteed victory, and you know, maybe it's just me, but when I think of that, I think of Joe Namath, I think of Muhammad Ali, I think the Larry Bird and the three-point shooting contest. The kids brought it to me and said, Their coach is guaranteeing victory. I kind of looked down there at him. Thought he didn't foot the bill, guys that usually guarantee victory."

Thompson was referring to Eastern Washington coach Jim Hayford’s proclamation on the Jim Rome show earlier in the week that the EWU Eagles were "going to win." Give Thompson credit for using whatever material he could find to motivate his team. Georgetown has struggled in recent tournaments, falling victim to more than one monumental upset. Against the thirteenth seeded Eagles, Georgetown played angry. They were aggressive, fast and intimidating. They ended up blowing out the EWU Eagles in the second half of a game that was not as close as the final score.

That being said, coach Larry Krystkowiak isn't likely to be guaranteeing any victories.

This Georgetown team appears to have taken umbrage to comparisons of Georgetown teams of years past, and seem determined not to have a disappointing early exit. That’s bad news for the Ute fans who may have been hoping to see the same old Georgetown teams who don't show up in March.

Both the Hoyas and Utes managed to hold off valiant efforts from their lower seeded counterparts in the round of 64 and now will go head to head on Saturday evening. The Hoyas aren’t great at any one thing in particular, they rank 82nd in field goal percentage, 133rd in rebounds per game and 124th in assists per game. They are however one of the most athletic teams in the country and they are fast and deep.

The Hoyas are paced by D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera 16.5 ppg, averaging 3.1 apg and shooting 40% from deep. On Thursday night, he was on the court for all but three minutes and shot 4-for-7 from behind the three point line. More importantly, he was able to get to the charity stripe late in the game hitting 9-of-13 free throws to hold Eastern Washington from mounting a comeback.

Smith-Rivera has plenty of help, as eight players average more than five points per game. Guard Jabril Trawick and forwards Michael Hopkins and Paul white each scored ten points to go with Smith-Rivera's 25, and seldom used Bradley Hayes came off the bench to give the Hoyas a boost inside with 8 points and 6 boards in just 10 minutes on the floor.

The emergence of Hayes in Thursday's game is a wrinkle for the Utes to keep an eye on. Georgetown's starting center, Josh Smith (a former UCLA Bruin) only played 7 minutes, scoring only 4 points with no rebounds after picking up 2 early fouls. Smith is a load inside standing 6-10 and weighing 350lbs. Poeltl might struggle with dealing with Smith's size, but it appears the Hoyas may be opting for a smaller, quicker lineup in the tournament. Bradley Hayes, who is almost 100 lbs. lighter than Smith would seem to be a better match up Poeltl down low. Despite Hayes emergence on Thursday, one would think Poeltl should be able to have his way down low, especially if he brings the same type of effort he did against Stephen F. Austin.

The Hoyas play aggressive attacking basketball on both the offensive and defensive end. The Utes aren't likely to see the full court pressure they did against Stephen F. Austin, but the Hoyas are likely to be more physical. Jabril Trawick displayed said physical play on Thursday, when he chest bumped EWU guard Tyler Harvey to the floor following a travel call. The altercation probably warranted a technical foul, though none was called. Still, the Utes better be geared up to slug it out in a dog fight. The Utes will need to match the Hoyas intensity to win this game.

The Hoyas played a monster schedule this season, fifteen of their regular season games being against tournament teams. The Hoyas have had some big wins, namely a 20 point victory over no.1 seeded Villanova on Jan. 19th and have no bad losses, every one of them coming against a tournament team seeded no lower than 6th (Xavier).

Utah should try and get Poeltl involved early and establish an inside presence freeing up the wings for outside shots. Georgetown is athletic enough that if all they have to worry about is guarding the perimeter, the Utes will be in trouble. On the other end of the floor, Utah needs to stay out of foul trouble. Georgetown likes to drive the lane. It is imperative the Utes play solid defense and keep the Hoyas from killing them at the free throw line. Keep the Hoyas on the perimeter and make them shoot. Georgetown is not a great shooting team and the Utes are one of the best perimeter defending teams in the country. Look for the Delon Wright to man up on Rivera-Smith and try  to limit his scoring opportunities. The Utes disrupting Smith-Rivera could be the key to the game.

The Utes will have their work cut out for them this evening in Portland.  Jakob Poeltl will need another big game and Dakari Tucker, Brandon Taylor and Jordan Loveridge will need to be hitting from three. Delon Wright will need to play up to his All-American status and the Runnin' Utes will need to bring the intensity to punch their ticket into the sweet sixteen.  If the Running Utes can put it all together, Utah has a good chance at winning this game... but no guarantees.

The game will be televised at 5:45 MT on CBS from the Moda Center in Portland, Ore.