Following his team’s more than 20-point loss to Villanova on Jan. 10, Xavier Head Coach Chris Mack had nothing but praise for one of the nation’s top-floor generals, Villanova’s junior point guard Jalen Brunson.
“If you peel his face off, it probably would have wires coming out of it,” Mack said to NBC Sports following his team’s loss.
As Mack can attest, the Georgetown men’s basketball team (12-5, 2-4 Big East) will face a nationally renowned offensive juggernaut this Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
The Hoyas look to bounce back from their 13-point loss to Seton Hall as they host the top-ranked Villanova Wildcats (16-1, 4-1 Big East) at Capital One Arena.
It all starts with Brunson. On top of his average 18.8 points and 5.2 assists per game, Brunson shoots 57.5 percent from the floor and 48.1 percent from deep. Nationally, Brunson ranks in the top three in offensive rating, offensive win shares and offensive box plus/minus.
Although Oklahoma freshman guard Trae Young’s electric performances this season have propelled him to the top of National Player of the Year conversations, Brunson’s unparalleled efficiency has made a case of its own.
The Hoyas will need 40 minutes of the best defense they can offer. Although it starts with Brunson, Villanova’s balance and versatility areas usually what suffocates opponents. Brunson, fellow backcourt members, redshirt junior guard Phil Booth and redshirt sophomore guard Donte DiVincenzo, and forwards, redshirt freshman Omari Spellman and redshirt junior Mikal Bridges, all shoot over 40 percent from the three-point line and average points in double figures. The Wildcats rank in the top six nationally in shooting percentage and points per game, turning the ball over just over 10 times per game, the seventh-fewest in the country.
Georgetown’s ability to defend ball screens will likely be a focus of Villanova’s offense. Brunson and DiVincenzo can both break down defenders off screens and swing the ball around the perimeter if the Hoyas pack their defense. Georgetown will also need to find a way to defend Brunson when Villanova inverts its offense by giving Brunson the ball on the block and spreading its big men.
Freshman guard Jahvon Blair got his second start of the year for Georgetown against Seton Hall. If Head Coach Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85) elects to maintain Blair’s high minutes for his shooting and dribble penetration, the Hoyas will really need all hands on deck to buckle down against Brunson.
Senior guard Jonathan Mulmore, junior wingman Kaleb Johnson and sophomore guard Jagan Mosely will all likely see action against a combination of Brunson, DiVincenzo and Booth. To try to disrupt the Wildcat’s rhythm, Ewing also may also mix in some 2-3 zone and full-court press that with which the Hoyas have had success with throughout the year.
Juniors center Jessie Govan and forward Marcus Derrickson will need to own the glass on both ends of the floor, an area where Villanova has been susceptible throughout the year.
In Villanova’s only loss this year, Butler (13-7, 3-4 Big East) made 15-of-22 threes. Although duplicating those numbers is nearly impossible for a Hoya team ranking No. 284 in three-point field goals made, Georgetown will need some shots to fall from outside. Freshman guard Jamorko Pickett and Blair, Georgetown’s two highest-volume shooters, have struggled shooting the ball since the start of Big East play. Blair is only shooting 25 percent from deep while Pickett is just 9-of-30.
Solid shooting performances from Blair and Pickett would allow Govan to operate with more room down low. Since Big East play began, Govan has seen a plethora of double teams and traps on all areas of the court. If Govan continues to get ransacked on the block, he will need to dominate Spellman and Bridges on the glass, potentially forcing the Wildcats into foul trouble.
The final key for Georgetown is controlling the pace of the game without turning the ball over. The Hoyas’ adjusted tempo ranks No. 56 nationally compared to the Wildcats at No. 163. A few easy buckets on the break would be instrumental for the Hoyas’ upset bid. However, Georgetown must prioritize taking care of the ball against a Villanova team that rarely has a sloppy offensive possession. Villanova has single-digit turnovers in 4-of-5 Big East contests; Georgetown has zero.
A win on Wednesday would put Georgetown at 3-4 in the Big East, tied for No. 7 with Butler, and right in the thick of things as the team turns toward rematches with St. John’s and DePaul. A loss would drop the Hoyas to 2-5 and put them in potential cellar-dweller territory if they stumble against the only two Big East teams they already beat.
Ewing and the Hoyas know their conference rank hangs in the balance, but they also have a chance to make a statement about it. On Wednesday night, expect the Hoyas to be at their best.
The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1 and can be streamed on Fox Sports Go and the Fox Sports Go app.