We Are Georgetown: Hoyas face desperate Pirates in Newark

When we last left our Hoyas

It’s been smooth sailing for Georgetown since their overtime loss to Syracuse, with two easy 10-point victories over St. John’s and Providence. The Hoyas haven’t exactly looked dominant, but they’ve taken care of business and remain in control of their own destiny in the race for second place in the Big East.

Tonight’s villain

The Seton Hall Pirates vied with the Hoyas for the title of most surprising team in the Big East earlier this season, posting an 11-1 non-conference record and earning their first national ranking since 2001. Conference play, however, has exposed the Pirates as beneficiaries of a weak conference schedule.

After a stretch where they went nearly a full month without a win, losing six straight from January to February, the Pirates now find themselves in a desperate situation. Without a single marquee win on its resume (sorry Pirates fans, beating UConn doesn’t count anymore), Seton Hall is clinging to the NCAA Tournament bubble. With only two games against Rutgers and DePaul remaining, tonight may be the Pirates’ last chance to impress the selection committee.

Key to the game

Perimeter defense. Despite the presence of big man Herb Pope (see below), the Pirates are a live-by-the-three, die-by-the-three type of team. They’re third in the conference in three-point field goals made, and they used the long ball to great effect in a 94-64 rout of St. John’s a week ago, hitting 15 treys on 62.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, in lopsided losses to UConn, Notre Dame, and Louisville, Seton Hall shot under 20 percent from deep and consequently struggled to break the 50-point barrier.

Defense, of course, hasn’t been a problem for Georgetown this year. The Hoyas’ latest victim, Providence, managed to shoot just 25.9 percent from the field. And while the cornerstone of the defense has been a lockdown 2-3 zone, teams haven’t been shooting over the Hoyas either–at least not with any success. Georgetown is the best in the Big East in three point field goal percentage defense, meaning the Pirates will likely have to find another way to win tonight.

Player to watch

Herb Pope. The senior forward may be that other way to win. At the beginning of the season Pope looked like the potential Big East player of the year, augmenting the rebounding skills he’s always had with a vastly improved offensive game. He’s still averaging 15.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, but if you only count conference play, those averages are down to 11.3 and 9.8, respectively. Still, while not the same 20-and-10 threat he was earlier in the season, Pope is the best big man the Hoyas have faced since Fab Melo and Syracuse. Considering the struggles Georgetown’s bigs had inside against the Orange, the matchup against Pope could be a cause for concern.

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