Illinois welcomes Georgetown to Champaign for the Gavitt Games on Tuesday night, and to learn more about the Hoyas, we spoke with Tyler Pearre of SB Nation’s Big East Coast Bias!
TCR: It’s a difference in two styles. Brad Underwood’s up-temp offense vs. Ewing’s big-man game with Govan. Which works better in college right now in your opinion?
BECB: Ewing certainly features post play in the halfcourt, but his Hoyas are keen to run on the break when they have the opportunity. Freshman guard duo Mac McClung and James Akinjo are running after every change in possession, sometimes to their own detriment. Georgetown has the backcourt depth to run, but with freshmen as primary ballhandlers, this can lead to turnovers. That’s where the halfcourt sets with Govan come in to play. The Hoyas will run Govan on pick and roll action or have him run post to post and receive the ball from the wings. So there’s definitely a blend of tempo and post play in Ewing’s second year. But perhaps my vision of “tempo” is skewed after watching John Thompson III’s Princeton offense for a decade. More to your question, in today’s college basketball world, I think big-man offense is more effective. So many teams have the athletes to run the floor and push the pace, but very few have a big that can control the post and grab rebounds consistently. I’ll take the matchup differential.
TCR: Can Illinois do anything to stop Govan? Does he have a weakness? Anything the Illini can point out?
BECB: As I mentioned, the Hoyas run a variety of sets for Govan and he’s very efficient in possession. Through two games he’s shooting 15-of-20 from the field, including 4-of-6 from deep, and hasn’t committed a turnover. So the best way to defend Govan is to limit his touches. Fronting him on the block makes entry passes difficult, but it’s harder to defend him when he sets screens because he can roll to the rim or pop out for a jumper. His biggest weakness is definitely on defense, where the Illini could wear him down by attacking him, forcing him to expend energy on both sides of the ball. Wearing him down might be the best way to stifle him.
TCR: How is Ewing choosing to build his program, and is there anything Underwood can take note of?
BECB: In every interview or press conference he’s partaken in since taking the job, Ewing has expressed a determinant belief in the future of the program. He’s not pretending that there won’t be rough patches and he critiques what he doesn’t like as a means of motivating his players. This confidence and reality check are infecting the fanbase and energizing the players. I think it’s hard for Underwood to recreate that same energy at Illinois since he doesn’t have the historical ties to the university that Ewing does at Georgetown, but the overall tone Ewing has employed is something that all new coaches could learn from.
TCR: Who wins and why?
BECB: Georgetown actually fared better on the road (3 wins) in conference play than it did at home (2 wins) last season. That includes a win in Hinkle FIeldhouse, one of college basketball’s most hostile environments. The Hoyas can’t beat Illinois if this turns into a track meet, but I would expect the Hoyas to feed Govan early and often to suck the tempo out of the game. It will be a close one and I really wouldn’t be surprised if we saw 30+ combined turnovers. I’ll take the Hoyas simply because Govan is a monster differential. Georgetown 79, Illinois 73.
Thanks to Tyler Pearre from Big East Coast Bias for his time!
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