In a season filled with surprises, fans of Big East basketball will be treated to a top-tier matchup Saturday afternoon when No. 11 Georgetown travels to Milwaukee, Wisc., to face No. 8 Marquette with the No. 2 seed in the Big East tournament hanging in the balance.
“I’ve tried not to pay attention to the seeding. I have to fessup: I did look last night,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “I spend most of the season thinking ‘prepare for the next game,’ and the end result is the same: You have to win your next game.”
When Thompson III peeked at the standings, he saw that Georgetown (22-6, 12-5 Big East) is currently third in the Big East. He probably also knows that Marquette (24-6, 13-4 Big East) missed a chance to wrap up the second seed on Wednesday night when unranked Cincinnati spoiled the Golden Eagles’ early celebration with a surprising 72-61 win.
With that development, Georgetown is now in a position to control its own destiny. If the Hoyas win, they will share a 13-5 record with the Golden Eagles. Because of the league’s tiebreaker rules, Georgetown’s two wins against Marquette would allow the Hoyas to hopscotch Marquette and capture the No. 2 seed as well as a double-bye into the quarterfinals.
If Georgetown loses, however, the Hoyas will be at the mercy of South Florida, Notre Dame and Cincinnati. If the Bulls, Fighting Irish and Bearcats win their final games — against West Virginia, Providence and Villanova, respectively — Georgetown will be left with the sixth seed and only a single-round bye. Various combinations of wins and losses by the aforementioned squads could land the Hoyas anywhere from third to sixth.
The Hoyas’ win against the Golden Eagles came on Jan. 4, when then-No. 9 Georgetown rallied from a 17-point deficit midway through the second half to defeat then-No. 20 Marquette, 73-70. Junior forward Hollis Thompson hit a game-winning three-pointer with just 24 seconds remaining.
“We weren’t playing defense at all. We started getting stops [and] that led to scoring,” senior guard Jason Clark said. “That was a huge comeback. It showed us that if we defend the whole game, we’ll never be in those types of positions.”
Since that loss, however, Marquette has been stellar. The Golden Eagles have won 12 of 15 games, with their only losses coming on the road at Cincinnati, Syracuse and Notre Dame. The Blue and Gray will have to contend with a squad that is celebrating Senior Day in a raucous home environment.
“They’re always a good team. [Head Coach] Buzz [Williams] gets them to play as hard as they can,” Clark said.
The Golden Eagles are led by a duo of seniors both in competition for Big East player of the year. Guard Darius Johnson-Odom leads his team in scoring at 18.3 points per game and three-point percentage at 40.5 percent.
“He can score in a lot of different ways. As a basketball fan, he’s fun to watch. As the head coach of Georgetown basketball preparing for the last game of the season, he’s hell,” Thompson III said.
Then there is power forward Jae Crowder, who has 17.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Crowder is also stellar on the defense, leading his team with 70 steals and sitting second with 31 blocks. The 6-foot-8 big man is the only Marquette player to have started all 30 games.
“He is so versatile. And he has been doing that since he’s been there. Without a doubt, when you start talking about other players of the year in the conference, he’s right there,” Thompson III said.
Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday.