St. John's vs Georgetown: pregame scouting

Steve Lavin works to figure out how to make his young squad into consistent winners. - USA TODAY Sports

Intellect and athleticism meet for a morning game in Madison Square Garden, with both teams hoping to avoid starting the Big East season with three losses.

It's easy to make fun of Georgetown's recent scoring struggles and discount them; the Hoyas suffered what is considered their worst Big East loss against Pittsburgh, a 73-45 pasting.

Steve Lavin, on the Big East's Thursday teleconference, likened the scoring droughts to both the desert and to Lombardi on the frozen tundra, noting that it happens around the country.

Getting teams out of those droughts takes patience in the players. "So much of basketball is confidence," Lavin said. "If you have a team that's hesitating or looking over their shoulder, then you have real issues."

The Hoyas are a talent-laden team with a successful system, a team that is still ranked in the top-20 (that will change), still blessed with height and a likely NBA player in Otto Porter, but missing the comfort and confidence to execute.

St. John's - blessed with the scoring talents of D`Angelo Harrison and the game-changing defense of Chris Obekpa - are far from being in position to look down on any opponent, let alone one with so much upside as Georgetown.

Saturday morning, true old rivals meet as Georgetown brings their bulldog approach to scoring to Madison Square Garden for a very, very early matchup against St. John's. The rivalry has had high points, surprise wins, and momentum shifts; Georgetown has won three straight, but travel to New York stumbling on proverbial bulldog stubby legs.

Can St. John's set their record even with a win on this Madison Square Garden homestand? Or will Georgetown regain their confidence with a road win?

Mood music:
Beastie Boys, "Slow and Low" (for your bratty rap mood)
The Nightingales, "I Don't Want To Be Like My Daddy" (for your old school soul mood)

Game Information

Tip Off: 11:00 AM Eastern
Vs. Georgetown Hoyas (10-3, 0-2 Big East; coach, John Thompson III)
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY (capacity: 19,979)
TV: ESPN2 | Radio: Bloomberg 1130
Announcing team: Mike Patrick and Len Elmore

Scouting Georgetown

See also: 5 questions with Casual Hoya | Sleeping with the Enemy: The Red Storm of St. John's | Pregame Party: Georgetown v. St. John's

It's easy to make fun of Georgetown's recent struggles - a team that has scored under 50 points 4 times in 13 games, winning two of those and making basketball fans nationally want to scrub the memory of missed shots from their memory banks. And yes, they are the team that comes to Madison Square Garden 0-2 in the Big East, having been blown out by Pittsburgh.

Why?

From coach John Thompson III:

It's not just bad luck with the rims. We've continued and tried to make changes as the season's gone on. It's not like we're just sticking our heads in the sand and say hey let's not worry about it.

Ben Standig from CSN Washington has a tidbit:

...it cannot be a coincidence the foes that desire a slower pace like Pittsburgh and ex-Big East program West Virginia typically cause the most problems. On the flip side, Georgetown has been typically turned in sharper performances against those opponents willing to or desiring a fast pace.

From our pregame Q and A with Casual Hoya's Ankit, who has a real answer:

It has become apparent to anyone watching Georgetown this season that the offense is a disaster. Players are trying too hard to make the perfect pass or find the most-wide open shot. This often results in rushed shots as the shot clock expires and dangerous passes that bounce off of legs or are easily picked off.

The offense is an exercise in precision and timing, and they Hoyas have faced a pair of teams that have disrupted their timing. Georgetown comes in with the Big East's worst offense over two games, shooting 26% from outside the arc, 43% inside - mostly on jump shots and post looks more than an arm's length from the basket - not the sharp back door cuts that generated shots at the rim in years past.

Missing a passing center in the middle has been a struggle for the young Hoya team, and the rebounding has not been as dominant as would be expected from a team blessed with so much height - only two regulars are shorter than 6'5".

Keys to the Game

The passing big men.

As usual, Georgetown players assist each other on shots more than 62% of the time. In an ideal Georgetown game, those players would facilitate passes from the low or high post, allowing wings to get open shots inside the arc; but Nate Lubick and Mikael Hopkins have manned the paint with so-so success. Moses Ayegba may also see time to turn around the Hoya fortunes. Whoever is on the floor, St. John's needs to be physical and bother those big men, keeping them from making clean passes. If those plays help spark turnovers, the Red Storm should be off to the Saturday morning races.

Timing is key.

St. John's has to be aware of the time on the clock. If there is a transition opportunity, the Johnnies' style has to be to take it. If those chances don't arise, St. John's will have problems on defense against the packed-in Hoya height. Despite not having Chris Obekpa, opponents are shooting 41% on shots inside the arc and rarely draw fouls. Smart play from D`Angelo Harrison and Sir`Dominic Pointer in transition will be a factor.

Big time shooting.

The Hoyas' struggles belie the fact that they have a trio of very good inside-outside scorers in forward Otto Porter, forward Greg Whittington, and guard Markel Starks. All three can hit long jump shots in the Hoya offense, and the Red Storm have to be aware of them at all times in the zone. A few big shots can generate confidence in an opponent.

The gang activity must continue.

Georgetown is huge, even if they do not have one 6'11" player on their roster. Shooting over the Hoyas will be a struggle, but gang rebounding against a desperate and big team will be the Red Storm's most difficult task. Forcing long misses and having all players (especially Amir Garrett and Chris Obekpa) look to crash the defensive glass is essential.

Prediction: St. John's can win the way they can win so many Big East games - play intelligently, force turnovers, and don't give up too much on the glass. We'll go optimistic for this one, with a 59-58 victory for St. John's over Georgetown as our bold prediction.

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