For months, this Georgetown game loomed large as an early test for this highly touted but largely unproven Maryland team. UConn in 3 weeks is a better team, and North Carolina (with or without Marcus Paige) is the cream of the crop. Coming into this season, Georgetown looked like a fringe top-25 team centered around one terrific player in D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. All of that may still be true, but a jarring double overtime home loss to Radford – a team that finished 12-6 in the Big South Conference last year – has totally changed the national perception of the Hoyas, and therefore the perception of this game.
If Maryland lost this game to “1-0 fringe Top 25” Georgetown, it would have been a disappointment, but could be chalked up to the Terps still getting comfortable with each other. Mark Turgeon himself admitted that the starting five did not play together that much this summer for a number of reasons. A loss would have been a setback for sure, but not a disaster.
But deserved or not, the Hoyas are now squarely outside of the Top 25 (they only got one vote in the Coaches’ Poll this week), and now it’s hart to find anyone who isn’t picking Maryland to squash a perennial NCAA tournament contender, at home. Every year, NCAA tournament teams have to face some tough tests, and if they want to make the tournament, they have to pass them. This season, with Maryland rightfully being picked as a Final Four team, they’re expected to ace these tests. It will be fun to see how they grade out tonight.
What to know about Georgetown
As of now, there’s not too much to look at besides that one brutal loss last week. The one real constant from last year is Smith-Rivera, who remains the engine that makes this team go. He’s kind of in the mold of Melo Trimble, in that he’s a shooting guard in a point guard’s body. 6’3”, athletic enough to get to the rim, but his hallmark is being a very good shooter (38% from three last year, 86% from the line).
Last year, Isaac Copeland and L.J. Peak were ancillary weapons on offense, functioning in the ample shadow of Joshua Smith and,to a lesser extent, Jabril Trawick. Now they’ve been promoted to the front lines, along with 7-foot senior center Bradley Hayes. Hayes should have his hands full on the inside with Maryland’s talented and well-stocked front line, but he was one of the few bright spots against Radford, posting a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
The box score from the Georgetown-Radford game indicates that the Hoyas probably struggled in one area, and definitely struggled in another. Radford was 10/25 from three-point range, which could mean that Georgetown was awful at defending the outside shot, but there’s also the possibility that Radford just got really hot. Looking at the game winner – a deep contested three from the elbow – I can’t discount that the Hoyas may have just run into a bunch of hot shooters, but it bears watching how well Georgetown can cover Maryland’s cadre of shooters.
However, rebounding usually has much less to do with luck and much more to do with effort, and Georgetown only grabbed 5 offensive boards versus Radford’s 15. Radford’s tallest starter is 6’7” and they don’t have a player on the roster over 6’8”, so there’s really no excuse for Georgetown allowing that many second looks besides a lack of urgency on the inside. Georgetown will be outsized in the paint most of the night, so they’ll need to show a lot more fight in order to prevent a major rebounding deficit.
Three Things to Watch
- Diamond Stone finally gets some competition! Maryland’s five star center had a significant size advantage against Southern New Hampshire and got to face a paper 7 footer against Mount St. Mary’s. Hayes won’t end up being the stiffest test Stone faces, but his 19/12 in the previous game means Stone will finally have something on his plate defensively for the first time in his college career. Turgeon has said he’s been pleased with the progress Stone has made on defebse since arriving in College Park, but this game provides two major checkpoints for him. Can he stay out of foul trouble, and can he adequately defend the post against a legitimate scorer?
- Georgetown’s ability to keep this game close will depend largely on how Smith-Rivera performs. Unless Hayes is the real deal (and I don’t think he is), the team will rise and fall this season with his performance, similar to how Maryland did with Terrell Stoglin a few years back. The big question here is, who guards him? The knee jerk reaction is to have Trimble check his point guard counterpart, but I think the smart money is on a combination of Rasheed Sulaimon and Jared Nickens. The chink in Maryland’s armor appears to point guard depth, where the only other options are Jaylen Brantley or Sulaimon playing out of position. I don’t think Turgeon will risk Trimble getting in early foul trouble, so I expect Sulaimon to shoulder most of the load when it comes to shutting down Smith-Rivera. Will he be up to the task?
- I write this nearly every game: turnovers. Maryland had 14 in the previous game, and a whopping 23 against Southern New Hampshire. Georgetown may not have the Terps’ talent, but 15-20 Maryland turnovers could bridge that gap significantly. If they can keep their turnovers under 15, Maryland will win this game easily, but if they’re sloppy with the ball, Georgetown could get some much-needed confidence in a hostile environment.
Maryland – 72 Georgetown – 65
The score will stay low because Georgetown coach John Thompson III will try and slow down the pace of this game, but Maryland is the better team and they’ll have a raucous Comcast Xfinity Center crowd behind them. Basketball season starts off with a W for the good guys.