Georgetown and Providence meet twice every regular season as Big East members. The first such get-together this year comes Saturday night at Verizon Center. The matchup provides the Hoyas, coming off a thrilling comeback win over Creighton, a shot at taking down another top-10 team.
Kris Dunn, the Friars do-everything point guard and national player of the candidate will be there. Based on the trend of NBA Draft prospects heading for the pros ASAP, he shouldn't be.
"If you look at how trends are going and decisions the kids are making, I would say I was very surprised," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said at Friday's practice inside McDonough Arena. "Most people in his position when you know worst-case scenario of first round and possibly as high as the lottery, in this day and age kids are not making that decision more often than not."
Even if the Hoyas (13-8, 6-2) make proper choices Saturday (8:00 p.m., FS1) with how best to deal with Dunn, the Friars' (17-4, 5-3) electric star won't be easily contained.
"He's one of those special players that if you're a coach, you're lucky to get once in a lifetime," said a gushing Thompson.
The athletically potent 6-foot-4 walking triple-double alert may have been a lottery pick if he bolted after his sophomore season. Many NBA hopefuls pass on their remaining college eligibility with far less draft hope. Instead, Dunn came back to Providence for the work-on-game/diploma reasons you might expect. He returned to a team that lost several key pieces off a 22-win NCAA Tournament season.
Those familiar with his skill set aren't stunned by his growth this season or how it's influenced the Friars. Dunn ranks sixth nationally with 7.1 assists and second with 3.2 steals while averaging 16.9 points and 6.3 rebounds. He had 13 points and matched his career-high with 14 assists in Sunday's 82-76 win at Villanova, the Wildcats first Big East loss in over a calendar year. Providence is 5-0 in true road games this season.
"His passing his special," Thompson said of Dunn, who last season averaged 14 points and nine assist in two wins over the Hoyas. "There are very few people that I've seen who deliver the ball where it should be when it should be to whom it should be every time."
Dunn often looks for 6-foot-9 sophomore forward Ben Bentil, arguably the most improved player in the country. Bentil (20.0) and Dunn are the top two scorers in the Big East followed by Georgetown senior guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera
What makes Dunn a true danger is his defensive effort in Providence's zone concepts.
"You cannot get careless [with passes] because Kris Dunn covers so much area. Any lazy pass gets stolen or deflected," Thompson said. "The more stagnant you are, the better [Providence's zone] gets."
It's hard quantifying how much better Georgetown is compared to its rough 7-5 start, but its current second place status in the Big East says plenty. Sandwiched between a non-conference loss at Connecticut, the Hoyas upended No. 5 Xavier on the road last week and rallied from 11 down with 2:18 remaining for a 74-73 victory over Creighton Tuesday.
Defeating another highly rated club will help offset some of those early season losses.
"Our guys are pretty excited about that win," center Bradley Hayes said. "When everybody knows that when they focused in, we can get a lot of stuff done. We came back from that deficit. It shows a lot about our team."
It says a lot about Dunn's goals and vision that he returned for another season at the college level. DraftExpress.com projects the playmaker as a top 5 pick in the 2016 Draft.
If Georgetown can knock off Providence, it will be time to truly reassess the Hoyas' level for the remainder of the season and sincerely believe they're in the Big East title race.