Matchup: Georgetown Hoyas (7-5) at DePaul Blue Demons (6-6)
When: Wednesday, 9:00 p.m. (TV: FS1; Radio: 106.7)
Series: Georgetown won both games last season and lead 25-7 all-time.
KenPom: Georgetown 74 DePaul 147
Three things to watch
Now what: Losing games is one thing. Dropping five in non-conference play including three at home to schools outside the traditional power conferences - Radford, Monmouth, UNC Asheville - is something else. The Hoyas avoided another defeat by eking out a 62-59 win at Charlotte in their last game on Dec. 22. Since then the players and coaches have had time to figure out what happened. At least that's the hope.
“Conference play is starting, and everyone is excited and anxious,” Coach John Thompson III said. “If you look at our pre-league [schedule], it probably didn’t go as we would have liked, but at the same time, I think we’re okay. I think we have a ways to improve, but I think our guys are making progress in the right direction. Starting off on the road [at DePaul] ...as with every league game, it’s going to be a big challenge.”
Thompson said part of the challenge involves having the players, a group primarily made up of freshmen and sophomores, value each possession and not just the start or end of halves.
Based on the numbers, two other areas of concern lie in 3-point shooting defense and personal fouls. Georgetown ranks 216th nationally in 3-point FG defense as opponents are hitting nearly 35 percent of their attempts. Per KenPom, the Hoyas are 303rd nationally in opposing FT rate, a statistic that reflects how often a team gets to the free throw line. Giving up open shots and numerous trips to the free throw line is no way to go through life.
Missing Mikael: Historically under Thompson, the Hoyas are dogged defensively, giving themselves a chance at winning even on those nights the shots won't fall. Not this season. This group has size and length, speed and depth, but clearly there's something missing.
"We don't have a presence that can direct defensively," Thompson said.
The coach then referenced a former big man who provide such a presence in recent seasons: Mikael Hopkins. The mobile 6-foot-9 forward wasn't the most accomplished of players. He didn't wow anyone with statistics over the previous two seasons, though his number of blocked shots stood out. His subtle defensive communication skills, yeah, Georgetown could use them now.
"One of his main strengths was he was able to not only guard his position, but place everyone else where they needed to be," Thompson said. "We've got some young guys that we're asking a lot of, freshmen and sophomores, and sometimes they need placing." Not having that traffic cop, Thompson said the team worked on improving their on-court communication skills.
Meet the Blue Demons: Georgetown and GW never met on the court these days, but oddly enough DePaul will have played back-to-back games against the local programs. Best of luck to the Hoyas if the Blue Demons play at the same level as they did in their recent 82-61 win over the then No. 20 Colonials. DePaul, led by guard Billy Garrett Jr., scored the opening 10 points and never looked back thanks to shooting 55 percent from the field. Garrett averages 14.1 points and 3.7 assists per game while senior forward Myke Henry averages 13.9 points. Coach Dave Leitao returned to the program this season he coached from 2002-2005.
In the bonus: Before the season tipped, Thompson said he imagined changing the starting lineup based on matchups because of his team's versatility. That hasn't happened yet. We'll see if anything changes after a week off between games. One consideration in terms of the offense could involve moving guard Tre Campbell or forward Paul White, one of Georgetown's better ball handlers, into the starting lineup so senior D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera can play more off-the-ball. Smith-Rivera, a two-time first-team All Big East performer, is shooting a career-low 29.4 percent.