Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

GU Kicks Off Big East-SEC Invitational

It’s also the logic that forces each conference to prove itself as a powerhouse packed with worthy opponents, and the mindset that pushes coaches to schedule tough pre-season games against nationally ranked opponents.

It’s all part of the mind games found in college athletics, and No. 5 Georgetown (5-0) is smack dab in the middle of the scrutiny. As part of the ever-changing college game, the No. 5 Hoyas will face off tomorrow night against Alabama (4-2) in the first-annual Big East-SEC Invitational.

The Crimson Tide’s star player,and the focal point of their offense, is junior forward Richard Hendrix, who is averaging 21.8 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. Much of the Tide’s offensive production is concentrated in Hendrix, junior forward Alonzo Gee and senior forward Mykal Riley, with each averaging roughly 13 points per game – a drastically different approach than the Hoyas, who have spread out production among all five starters and even key bench players.

But the main story of the Tide’s season started long before their first tip-off in November. In fact, in many summer and early-fall preseason rankings, Alabama was expected to be one of the nation’s top teams – and its tangle with Georgetown a premier non-conference match-up. But after senior guard and team leader Ronald Steele was forced to redshirt his senior year due to knee-injury problems, the team dropped off the radar. Steele provided a backcourt presence that the Tide are having trouble replacing, although Hendrix and the other forwards seem to have made-up for his absence offensively.

Steele, an all-American his sophomore year, averaged four assists and 8.5 points per game last season. Behind Steele, the Tide started last season 7-0 and were ranked as high as No. 4. But with Steele battling injuries toward the end of the season, Alabama dropped six of the last eight and failed to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in five years.

By creating the tournament, the two conferences hope to bolster their preseason reputations and create dramatic tension that draws in the national TV audiences. All games will be broadcast either on ESPN or ESPN2 in primetime on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

The same reasoning is behind the successful ACC-Big 10 match-up every winter, and indeed with their talented teams, both the SEC and the Big East are a natural choice for the next match-up.

The two conferences have combined for four of the last five national champions (Florida in 2007 and 2006, Connecticut in 2004 and Syracuse in 2003) and consistently have highly-ranked teams, which should set the stage for an exciting annual event.

But the inaugural match-ups may leave some basketball fans wanting more, as Georgetown is the only highly-ranked team to play in any of the games. Villanova recently snuck into the rankings at 25 heading into the invitational. While the Big East currently has five teams in the national top 25, the SEC boasts only one, No. 10 Tennessee, a team that is not featured in this year’s invitational. Reigning national champion Florida is also absent from the guest list.

So while a good idea in principle, there might be some room for improvement in the execution, which will be tested in the quality and intensity of the four games.

Alabama comes into Wednesday’s contest off of a 63-61 victory over Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday.

Alabama took on another top-25 opponent last week when it faced No. 9 Texas A&M, losing 76-63. The team’s only other loss this season was an 85-83 defeat at the hands of Belmont – a team that Georgetown crushed 80-55 when the Hoyas met them in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament.

Georgetown enters its first nationally televised game with a perfect record, but has only played five games so far, all against unranked opponents.

The Hoyas will face the Tide tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

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