Who Are They?
Georgetown has been a force in the Big East and in the college basketball world as a whole for decades. The Hoyas boast an illustrious list of basketball alumni that includes Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo.
Like Illinois, Georgetown has had five visits to the Final Four, including three in the 1980s and most recently in 2007.
I’ve always been curious about what exactly a “Hoya” is, and this helpful explanation clarified that it’s not really a thing at all, but rather the first word of a Latin cheer that Georgetown students first used decades ago.
The Hoyas had much in common with Illinois last season, as they stumbled to a 15-15 (5-13 Big East) record in head coach Patrick Ewing’s first season at the helm. After going 10-1 with an OT loss to Syracuse in non-conference play, Georgetown hit a wall in the Big East, defeating only DePaul, Seton Hall, Butler, and St. John’s (home and away), before losing to St. John’s in their third encounter during the conference tournament.
Center Jessie Govan led the Hoyas last season with a team-high 17.9 points per game and 10 rebounds per game. Govan returned to Georgetown this spring after testing the NBA waters. The big man made quite a bit of noise down low last season.
Georgetown did lose forward Marcus Derrickson to the NBA after last season. Derrickson scored 15.9 points per game and logged 8.1 rebounds per game, second on the team behind Govan in both categories. He’s now on a two-way contract with Golden State.
Players to Watch
As you might’ve guessed, facing a 6-foot-10 senior center with an NBA-caliber skill set is essentially a nightmare scenario for Illinois’ young and undersized front court. Govan will likely be the key to Georgetown’s success in every game this season, but the considerable mismatch he represents against Illinois will no doubt define Tuesday’s matchup.
The senior scored 26 points in Georgetown’s game against Central Connecticut on Saturday, and even flashed some of his perimeter shooting skills.
Brad Underwood will need to find some way to neutralize Govan, or at least keep the ball out of his hands.
Taking a page out of Underwood’s rebuilding strategy, Patrick Ewing has shown that he’s committed to playing his freshmen early and often. Freshman point guard James Akinjo started for the Hoyas in their last game against Central Connecticut, along with freshman guard Mac McClung. Akinjo, a former 4-star recruit, posted 13 points in Georgetown’s last game along with 7 assists, while McClung added 4 points and 4 assists.
Forward Trey Mourning, son of the former Georgetown great, has also started for the Hoyas in their first two games of the season. A fifth-year player, Mourning sat out last season due to hip surgery. He scored 12 points and played 32 minutes against Central Connecticut.
Georgetown won its first two games against mid-major opponents with surprisingly close scores. The Hoyas beat University of Maryland Eastern Shore 68-53, and then never really pulled away against Central Connecticut, but came out on top 85-78. I’m tempted to believe that these close games signal some kind of flaw that Illinois could exploit.
But the more I think about it, the more I keep coming back to Jessie Govan and picturing Giorgi Bezhanishvili trying to defend him. Illinois’ defense already has some serious issues stemming from the transition to Underwood’s turnover-centric defensive philosophy, and it could get very ugly if Illinois isn’t able to generate turnovers on Tuesday.
I do look forward to watching the matchup between Ayo Dosunmu/Trent Frazier and James Akinjo/Mac McClung. This game will provide an opportunity for Ayo to show off the elite defensive skills that he demonstrated with the U18 national team.
Ultimately, I think Illinois’ shortcomings in the front court are going to lead to a long night for Brad Underwood and company. Georgetown 82, Illinois 74.
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