We Are Georgetown: Hoyas face Butler Bulldogs tonight

Is it possible to be underrated and overrated at the same time? This year’s Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball team (10-4, 2-1) might fit the mold, as it has been a season of rampant inconsistency.

After a shocking loss to Northeastern in Puerto Rico, the Hoyas responded with six straight wins, only to be routed by Kansas on the road to end the streak. And now, their flip-flopping has extended to Big East Conference play. Wins against DePaul and St. John’s suggested a return to normalcy, but a loss to Big East bottom feeder Providence by eighteen points lowered expectations dramatically.

Tonight at 7 p.m., the Hoyas travel to Indianapolis with a chance to right the ship. Their opponent, the pesky Butler Bulldogs (10-5, 0-3), is a team whose record does not tell  their whole story.

In its’ three Big East defeats, against Villanova, Xavier, and DePaul, Butler has lost by a combined 19 points, including two overtime defeats. In the win column, they have beaten NCAA tournament regulars Vanderbilt and Purdue, and took national powerhouse Oklahoma State to the brink, eventually losing 69-67. In other words, this is not a game the Hoyas can afford to overlook.

Butler is led by sophomore guard Kellen Dunham and senior forward Khyle Marshall, who combine to average 34.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Dunham, especially, has the ability to explode offensively. He shoots an impressive 42.5% from three-point range, and has scored over 20 points six times this season. Third option Kameron Woods averages a near double double at 9.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, and is a menace on defense.

Like Georgetown, however, a lack of consistent bench support has hurt Butler. First-year coach Brandon Miller plays only six players 15 minutes or more per game, leaning heavily on his star players, some of whom, like Dunham, rarely sit. Offensively, Butler is known for its methodical style of play, which was established under the tenure of current Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. Rapid ball movement, possessions taken deep into the shot clock, and attention to detail are all guarantees, a recipe for a low-scoring, defensive affair tonight in Indianapolis.

For the Hoyas, tonight’s matchup with Butler will be their second straight game without star forward Joshua Smith and first without Jabril Trawick, who are sidelined due to academic issues and a broken jaw, respectively.

Trawick’s defense will be sorely missed as he was a natural choice to guard either Dunham or Marshall. This will make Aaron Bowen’s athletic prowess a major factor in tonight’s game, as he will likely see extended minutes for defensive purposes. Smith’s absence means more minutes for frontcourt staple Nate Lubick and bench players Mikael Hopkins and Moses Ayegba, all of whom will need to up their offensive production. Hopkins, who has emerged as a surprising offensive threat, will be the X-factor.

Despite decreased minutes from last season, Hopkins is actually producing more. He is scoring and rebounding at a higher rate, and looks noticeably more comfortable in the post. With Smith’ status seriously in doubt,look for Hopkins to be an offensive focus for the Hoyas off the bench.

The winner tonight will likely be determined in the paint. While both teams boast impressive backcourts, Georgetown’s lack of depth and Butler’s lack of size make for an intriguing frontcourt duel. Tune in to Fox Sports 1 at 7 p.m. to take in the action.

Photo: Miles Gavin Meng/Georgetown Voice

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