For the first time in 40 years and just the second time ever, the Longhorns and Hoyas will meet on the hardwood.
If you're a Texas basketball fan, you need to get your work done and get home on time this evening, so that you can settle in for the 6:00 pm CT tip off between Texas (5-2) and Georgetown (6-1) this evening. The match up, which will be broadcast nationally on ESPN, is part of the annual Jimmy V Classic held at Madison Square Garden in New York City every year. The last time Texas played in the event was 2008, when it knocked off Villanova.
If you haven't already, there's plenty of quality pre-game material to get you up to speed before the game. I've answered a series of questions about Texas and the game over at Georgetown blog Casual Hoya, whose proprietor also joined me here at BON for a pre-game chat about the match up. Elsewhere at BON, Jeff has put together a helpful primer on the Hoyas, while over at Barking Carnival Jonathan Tjarks previews the Hoyas with a Q&A with a Georgetown fan.
Keys to the Game
Connect on some three pointers. Like Texas, the Hoyas are a long team that will mostly defend with a zone defense that can be very difficult to get clean looks against if you're unable to force them to really extend that zone on the perimeter. To do that, as well as to build some confidence and avoid stagnating offensively, Texas desperately needs some threes to fall tonight. Particularly if it can hit a few early, that should help spread the floor and keep Texas from shooting amidst a sea of trees all night long.
Handle Otto Porter. Georgetown's 6-8 star is silky smooth, possesses an array of well-developed skills, and is the key to facilitating the Hoyas offense. He's a match up challenge because he can beat you in so many different ways, both off the bounce, shooting the ball, hitting the glass, and distributing to teammates. When Texas is playing zone, he'll be the entry point just above the free throw line where Georgetown wants to get the ball and the Longhorns have to be prepared for that -- which means denying clean passing lanes from the perimeter, quickly closing on him upon receipt of the ball to prevent a clean jumper from the stripe, and -- most important of all -- awareness off the ball from the bottom flanks on the zone that Porter will be looking to snap the ball inside to a cutter for a lay up. We have to be aware that pass is coming and deny it. All night long. We'll see how much man defense Barnes decides to play tonight, but when he does the task of defending Porter falls to Jonathan Holmes or Ioannis Papapetrou. I worry about both players picking up fouls defending Porter, but to the extent he can avoid getting himself sidelined with foul trouble, I like trying Papi on Porter, who I think matches up a bit better with Porter
Don't play like freshmen. I'm really talking about two things here. First, I've already touched on this above, but Texas' young players have to be aware of what's going on in this game and what their opponents are trying to do. And second, along with three point shooting, the single statistic that may dictate whether or not the Longhorns can win this game is turnovers. Don't cough up possessions and Texas can absolutely play with Georgetown. Lose a bunch of turnovers and I can almost guarantee a loss, and perhaps an ugly one.
Ioannis Papapetrou. I absolutely love this kid's game, his charisma, his impressive and diverse skill set -- everything. He's going to be a special, special player before it's all said and done, but more immediately, I think he's the key player tonight for Texas. We need him on the floor, avoiding foul trouble, hitting some outside shots, and contributing across the box score as he on this roster is uniquely capable of doing. It's hard to predict how the true freshman will play in a game like this, but if he plays to his best capabilities, he can create across-the-board value similar to that which Otto Porter creates for Georgetown.
Another game where Kabongo could make a decisive difference, I'm worried about turnovers and poor execution against Georgetown's zone leading to a lot of contested looks and one-shot-and-out possessions. If we can hit some threes early, that will help this young group out immensely and a win is within our reach, but I can't talk myself out of thinking the Hoyas should be favored tonight.
Georgetown 68 Texas 61