Big East champions Georgetown men’s basketball will take on the University of Colorado Buffaloes on Saturday, March 20 in Georgetown’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2015.
The Hoyas (13-12, 7-9 Big East) automatically qualified for the tournament March 13 after winning their first Big East Tournament championship since 2007. They will enter the tournament as a twelfth seed. The Buffaloes (22-8, 14-6 Pac-12) enter the matchup as the fifth seed in the East Region and are coming off of a run to the Pac-12 conference championship game this past week.
The winner of the March 20 afternoon matchup will face the winner of the March 20 game between No. 4 seed Florida State and No. 13 seed UNC Greensboro.
The extended period of rest between last Saturday’s Big East Tournament championship game and this upcoming Saturday’s first-round game will come as a welcome sight for the Hoyas, who played four games in four days last week on the way to their first Big East Tournament title with Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85) as the team’s head coach.
Ewing is happy with the team’s momentum at this point in the season, as Georgetown won six of its final 10 regular season games, followed by four straight wins in the conference tournament.
“It took us time to adjust, gel and get ourselves together, but we have got it going,” Ewing said in an NCAA Tournament press conference Sunday night.
For Georgetown to come away with its first March Madness win since 2015, the Hoyas will need another complete performance. Here are some keys to this weekend’s game, which will be played at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind., and streamed nationally on CBS at 12:15 p.m. EDT.
- Force Colorado to make the extra pass: Colorado boasts one of the best point guards in the Pac-12, McKinley Wright IV, who leads the team by averaging 15.5 points and 5.6 assists per game. Outside of Wright, the Colorado lineup does not boast many strong passers, with no other player averaging more than 1.3 assists per game. Wright will likely find ways to facilitate, especially from orchestrated sets in the half-court offense, but Georgetown should expect anyone else on the court to shoot once they have the ball. Forcing additional passes from players other than Wright can make the Colorado offense more stagnant and prone to mistakes and will help the Hoyas run out in transition.
- Get great defense from Dante Harris: Colorado relies heavily on Wright’s scoring. The Buffaloes are a sparkling 14-2 when Wright puts up 15 points or more, but only 8-6 when he is unable to reach that threshold. Georgetown’s first-year guard Dante Harris is coming off of an electrifying stretch in the Big East tournament, where he matched up against a series of talented point guards and was named most outstanding player of the tournament. If Harris is able to outwork Wright on the defensive end and force him to take difficult shots and turn the ball over, the Hoyas will be in a great position to win this game.
- Keep Colorado off of the foul line: The Buffaloes make 82.2% of their attempts from the foul line, the second-best rate in the nation. They have great foul shooters from top to bottom, including 7’0” forward Dallas Walton who has hit a remarkable 83.9% of his attempts. Only two Hoyas, senior guard Jahvon Blair and Harris, convert at a higher rate from the free-throw line. To come out on top, Georgetown will have to trust its length and stay straight against Colorado’s dribble drives. Sophomore centers Qudus Wahab and Timothy Ighoefe will need to avoid chasing risky blocks and stay out of foul trouble if the Hoyas are to keep the Buffaloes from dominating at the line.
- Dominate on the glass: Colorado is not a particularly strong rebounding group, ranking No. 191 in the nation with only 35 rebounds per game. Georgetown, on the other hand, averages 40.2 rebounds per game, better than all but 12 teams in the country. Outside of its two starting guards, Colorado mostly uses a rotation of players who are either 6’7” or 6’8”, with its single 7’0” player in the rotation. Walton, generally starts but averages just 15.3 minutes per game, fewer than any other starter. The Hoyas, meanwhile, start a strong center in Wahab, who averages eight rebounds per game, with Ighoefe filling in for an average of about nine minutes per game and hauling in an average of three rebounds. This depth of old-school, back-to-the-basket centers at 6’11” for Wahab and 7’0” for Ighoefe should give Georgetown a rebounding advantage, especially when coupled with the rebounding prowess of senior forward Jamorko Pickett, who is one of the best rebounding wings in the country with his 7.4 rebounds per game at the forward position.
There you have it. If the Hoyas let Wright get comfortable and the Buffaloes win the battle on the boards, Georgetown will struggle to compete on both ends of the floor. Still, the Hoyas demonstrated last week that they are nearly unstoppable when they use their length to score inside and move their feet on defense. If they are able to keep those trends alive, they have a great chance to pull off the upset.