MSU takes a break for a nonconference game against Georgetown at Madison Square Garden. Andrew Geiger of SB Nation's Georgetown blog, Casual Hoya, was nice enough to answer some questions about the Hoyas.
1. Like MSU, Georgetown has been dealing with a ton of injuries. How has this changed the strengths, weaknesses and gameplans?
I think we're still trying to figure this one out as the hits have just kept on coming. First, over the summer Georgetown lost arguably its best player in Greg Whittington to a torn ACL and, due to off the court issues, he will next play for the vaunted B1G powerhouse Scarlet Knights of Rutgers (enjoy that, by the way). Next, we were all excited about UCLA transfer Josh Smith until an academic issue popped up that has now sidelined him for the rest of the season. Then, starting wing Jabril Trawick broke his jaw which kept him out of a few games and forced freshman Reggie Cameron into the starting lineup. And just this week, we found out that backup center Moses Ayegba was suspended for one game by the NCAA for something called "pre-enrollment reconciliation" which is the biggest load of crap I have ever seen given he had already been suspended for 9 games due to a via issue that occurred like FOUR YEARS AGO.
So, to address the question of how this has changed the team, it really has been tough for the Hoyas to build team chemistry with all of these moving parts outside of the backcourt duo of Markel Starks and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera. The frontcourt is a mess, and JTIII is doing all he can to come up with the right mix of minutes for Nate Lubick, Mikael Hopkins, Aaron Bowen, Cameron and Ayegba.
The strength of the team remains squarely in the able hands of Starks and Smith-Rivera. Starks, god bless his heart, has been the unquestioned leader of this team and leaves it all on the floor every game. Smith-Rivera is a pure scorer who can fill it from the perimeter and in the lane. The weakness of this team is rebounding and what has become an annoying tendency to commit fouls and not get fouled.
2. What matchup are you looking forward to the most on Saturday?
I was going to answer "seeing Georgetown play at Madison Square Garden again" but I'll roll with Markel Starks against Keith Appling. Both are senior point guards who mean everything to their respective teams, and to see them battle for a couple of hours will be fun. It‘s too bad that we don't have Josh Smith and you don't have Payne and Dawson as I think at full strength this is a more intriguing matchup for both teams (though secretly I'm amped that Payne and Dawson won't play because now we may actually have a chance to win!)
3. What are three keys to victory for Georgetown?
1) Starks and Smith-Rivera need to combine for close to 40 points or more. I see the winner of this game putting up a score in the high 60s and for Georgetown to even get that high the backcourt needs to produce.
2) Rebounding margin. Lubick, Hopkins, Ayegba et al need to do a good job of limiting Sparty second chance opportunities.
3) Finding a 3rd scoring option. Freshman Reggie Cameron has been emerging since entering the tarting lineup, and if he (or anyone, really) can be a 3rd scoring option and put up double-digits it will be a huge boost to Georgetown's chances.
4) Bonus 4th key! Don't commit stupid fouls.
5) Bonus 5th key! Make our damn free throws.
4. How do you like the new Big East split?
After being less than lukewarm at first I'm now getting around to embracing it. The Hoyas have already played at Butler, Xavier and Creighton and those arenas were great and the crowds were plentiful and boistrous. Villanova is a top 10 team, Doug McDermott will probably win Player of the Year, Xavier and Providence will likely make the Dance, Georgetown and Marquette will be back next season, and even Seton Hall could be decent with McDonald's All-American Isaiah Whitehead. So, while the rivalries against Syracuse, UConn, Pitt, etc are gone, it's nice to see some new ones being built and I'm looking forward to the Big East Tournament since, well, the Hoyas will probably be playing for their postseason lives.
5. Score prediction and why?
If Payne and Dawson were playing, I'd have already moved on to our matchup against DePaul on Monday, but I think Georgetown has a chance in this one. The Hoyas aren't at full strength but they haven't checked out on the season and are playing hard. If a few bounces or calls went the other way this team could have had wins against Marquette and Villanova, so I think we're actually better than our record indicates. This game should be tight throughout with the game being decided in the final four minutes. I think (read: hope) that we finally catch some breaks and the Hoyas can pull it out. Final score Georgetown 67 - Sparty 63.
Thanks again to Andrew. Check out Casual Hoya for all things Georgetown.