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Marquette Basketball Preview Primer: at Georgetown

The Golden Eagles head to D.C. in search of a much needed road victory in Big East play.

Syracuse v Georgetown Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Marquette Golden Eagles (12-5, 2-3 Big East) at Georgetown Hoyas (12-6, 2-3 Big East)

Date: Saturday, January 18, 2020
Time: 1pm Central
Location: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Markus Howard, 27.3 ppg
Rebounds: Brendan Bailey, 5.4 rpg
Assists: Markus Howard, 2.9 apg

Marquette Injury Note: Redshirt sophomore guard Greg Elliott suffered an ankle injury against Providence and has now missed MU’s last two games. Seeing as he was in a walking boot and on crutches during Wednesday night’s game against Xavier, I’m not expecting him to be back in action here, no matter how many times head coach Steve Wojciechowski says the words “game-to-game.”

Marquette Absence Note: Shortly before Wednesday night’s game against Xavier, MU announced that redshirt senior forward Ed Morrow was taking an indefinite leave of absence from the team for personal reasons. When asked about Morrow in his post-game radio spot, head coach Steve Wojciechowski said “we’ll see.” That’s incredibly unhelpful in attempting to figure out what exactly all of this means, but I suppose that’s the nature of indefinite leaves of absence. Still, since it wasn’t “will miss tonight’s game for personal reasons” on Wednesday, I presume Morrow will definitely not be in Washington for this one.

Georgetown Stats Leaders

Points: Omer Yurtseven, 16.7 ppg
Rebounds: Omer Yurtseven, 9.9 rpg
Assists: Terrell Allen, 3.8 apg

KenPom Rankings

Marquette: #34
Georgetown: #46
KenPom Projection: Georgetown has a 56% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 79-77.

The Stakes: I think it’s safe to say that this one isn’t quite as important as Wednesday night’s home game against Xavier was, however there’s still a bit of tension involved here for the Golden Eagles. They’re still underwater in the Big East standings at 2-3, so getting back to .500 is a big deal. The more important aspect here is that in order to finish 10-8 and be on track for an NCAA tournament berth, that means winning a road game, something that Marquette has not done yet in league play in two tries. On top of that, after losing to Providence at home, MU needs another road win to balance that out. There’s also the issue of the forthcoming Butler home game, and let’s go ahead and not count on beating the Bulldogs, at least for the time being. The way I see it, that means MU needs three road wins to get to 10-8 this season, and there’s only seven attempts left to go. So, not crucial, but seemingly a viable opportunity to get one, if that makes sense.

Tempo Free Fun: Well, since it’s Marquette’s first game of the year against Georgetown, we have to address the fact that this is not the Hoyas roster that we were expecting to face when the season started. James Akinjo, last year’s Big East Freshman of the Year and the guy who led the conference in assists per game transferred as the calendar flipped from November to December, and in addition to that event which is unrelated to anything else, Josh LeBlanc was dismissed from the team as announced by Georgetown at the exact same time as Akinjo’s departure. Shortly thereafter, Galen Alexander and Myron Gardner also left the program, seemingly of their own volition, although they were caught up in the same legal matter that surrounded LeBlanc at the time of his departure. For the record, no charges were apparently filed and/or are going to be filed for any of that, so we’re just going to move on and point out that the Hoyas are down four scholarship players.

They’re also playing much better basketball since then.

Run yourself over to BartTorvik.com and check out Georgetown’s Game Score graph. They were pretty awful to start the year, capping off the pre-departures era with a home loss to UNC-Greensboro. After that, they busted off six straight games with Game Scores north of 85, a wild change in how things were going for them this season. It’s a massive uptick and change in how things were going, so shouts to head coach Patrick Ewing for getting things straightened out.

Now, yes, if you continue to look at the graph, they puked all over themselves in their first two Big East games. However, the general trend line for their Game Scores is still tilting upwards, largely thanks to high scores against St. John’s and Creighton and a “much better than the other losses” performance against Villanova.

All of this is a prelude to saying that any season long stats from the Hoyas are largely misleading to one extent or another about how they’re playing right this second. Luckily, KenPom.com does give us a handy dandy Conference Play filter, so that at least lets us look at Georgetown’s five games against relatively similar competition as what they’ll get from Marquette on Saturday.

So.

I’m just going to say this one time and one time only: If Marquette is hitting their shots on Saturday, particularly from outside the arc, the Hoyas are screwed.

They currently have

  • the worst effective field goal percentage defense in the Big East, allowing 53.5%
  • the worst three-point shooting defense in the league, allowing 40.2%
  • the worst defensive three-point rate in the league, meaning they let their opponents take more threes than anyone else in the conference at a 44.6% clip
  • And finally, the third worst defensive assist rate in the league, with 64.4% of opposing buckets coming off the opponent finding the open man

They’re also dead last in free throw percentage defense, but that is 1) luck more than anything else, and 2) balanced out by not actually sending teams to the line all that much.

The point here is that Marquette has five guys that are expected to be active for Saturday’s game (sorry, Greg) that are shooting over 35% from behind the arc this season, and three that are over 39%. As far as I’m concerned, the tactical plan for this game should be to run and gun and launch threes willy-nilly. Get the ball moving, play with energy and enthusiasm, make the Georgetown defense start scrambling, and then start firing in threes from every which way.

Not only is this aiming a Marquette strength directly at a Georgetown weakness (multiple weaknesses actually, given the fact that GU’s rotation is maaaaaaaybe seven guys right now), but it also takes advantage of how the Hoyas want to play on offense. Georgetown is not a good shooting team, no matter where on the floor the shots are coming from, but they’re not even passable three-point shooters in Big East games at 32.2%. Ewing is apparently completely aware of that fact, which is probably why the Hoya offense ranks dead last in the league in terms of what percentage of their shots come from behind the arc. If Marquette is connecting on their long range shots, preferably because they’re spreading out the options on who is taking them, then Georgetown will either A) be completely unable to keep up by trading their twos for Marquette’s threes or B) get drawn into a shooting contest that they probably have no hope of winning.

DISCLAIMER: Jagan Mosely is not allowed to shoot at all. The senior from New Jersey is shooting 48.6% on the year from behind the arc and 60.5% inside of it. In only Big East games, those number barely change to 41.7% and 60.0%. Quite honestly, if Marquette just scribbles “Jagan Mosely” over “Paul Scruggs” on their defensive plan from the Xavier game, that will probably work out well.

We really can’t let a preview finish up without talking about Georgetown big man Omer Yurtseven. The Turkish seven-footer is leading GU in both scoring and rebounding, and just barely missing out on averaging a double-double right now. He’s a dangerous inside player for the Hoyas both on offense and on defense, where he ranks #77 in the country in block rate on top of his very shiny rebounding rates. He also draws fouls incredibly well, and therein lies my true worry about what Yurtseven can do against Marquette. As you’re probably aware, Jayce Johnson and Theo John can generously be described as “foul prone.” This is a general note that you can just leave in your head going forward, but with Ed Morrow unavailable for the foreseeable future, John and Johnson will need to play extremely carefully in order for both of them to maximize what Marquette gets out of the 5 position against Yurtseven. For what it’s worth, they figured out exactly how to do this against Tyrique Jones in the Xavier game, combining for 12 points, 15 rebounds, and only six fouls while splitting the 40 minutes straight down the middle. It also helped that Marquette was running away with the game for most of the second half, so we’ll have to wait and see how much a closer game or a road atmosphere affects that.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 7-3 with losses in two of the last three games.

Georgetown Last 10 Games: 7-3, with wins in two of the last three games.

All Time Series: Marquette leads, 14-13.

Current Streak: Georgetown won the most recent encounter in last year’s regular season finale, however Marquette won at Capital One Arena last year and the Golden Eagles have won five out of the last seven meetings.

Follow Along On Twitter

@AnonymousEagle - Hey, that’s us!
@MarquetteMBB - Official MU account
@GeorgetownHoops - Official Georgetown account
@CasualHoya - our SB Nation friends that follow Georgetown, casually
@becb_sbn - our SB Nation friends that follow the whole Big East
@BenSteeleMJS - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel MU beat writer