Georgetown and Pittsburgh are ringing in the New Year, and even though it is past November, both teams have things to be thankful for. Both squads are among zenith status and are crest-like figures embedded in the NCAA's rich history.
On Saturday, these two teams meet again in yet another eventful matchup.
The #8 Hoyas' look to avenge lost both meetings against Pitt last season by nine points apiece, including the Big East Championship game at Madison Square Garden—a contest in which Georgetown starters Jesse Sapp and Dajuan Summmers shot a combined 7-of-20 from the field, scoring eight points and seven fouls in 46 minutes of playing time—however, things are different this time around.
Georgetown now has a more athletic and multifarious specimen patrolling the paint in Greg Monroe whereas in recent years the Panthers' offense had grown accustomed to the sluggish, oaf-like presence of Roy Hibbert acting as a cog in the middle.
Monroe's game is more translucent and several shades more effervescent than Hibbert's tactics, which featured a decent jump hook and questionable shooting mechanics and a even lowlier personality.
When needed, Monroe can stretch the floor by fading towards the top of the perimeter where he ideally attempts most of his long distance jumpers. Did I mention he's a "lights-out" shooter from 20 feet and out? See the 2-for-2 performance from downtown against UConn with Hasheem Thabeet cloaking him.
Aside from his three-point antics, Monroe has an in depth post-game and is a fabulous distributor for any player despite the fact he's hankering around seven feet. He also is a crafty ball-handler and actually enjoys the task of advancing the ball up the floor whereas as most big men find it daunting and unwelcome. He likes to operate from the top of the key allowing him to effectively see player movement and fire the ball to person whose in the best possible position.
Also, the Hoyas' are witnessing the revamped play of Summers who has career-highs in points, field goal percentage, and free-throw percentage this season and has quietly became the only player in the Big East to average ten or more points, and shoot over 50 percent from the field and over 40 percent from behind-the-arc: 14.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.5 spg on 53.7 percent field goal shooting and 42.5 percent from downtown.
While players like Summers have flourished with Hibbert's absence, fellow vital G-town component Jesse Sapp has not. His assists numbers (3.2) this season are an exact half of what they were last year (1.6) and along with his averages of 8.5 points on 42.6 percent shooting from the field, they are the lowest since his freshman campaign (2.1 ppg, 0.6 apg, 40.7 percent) in 2006-07.
Furthermore, in his last two games Sapp has many assists (three)—all of them coming in one game against Florida International and a fat zero against UConn—as fouls also with three in the last two contests.
Luckily, Georgetown has been bolstered by the outstanding play of their second year players.
Forward Austin Freeman has career-highs in points, rebounding, assists, steals, and blocks. Freeman is also shooting a career-best 53.8 percent this season in his sophomore session. Freeman has scored in double-figures in 9-out-of-11 games thus far with fellow second-year G Chris Wright reaching ten points or more eight times.
Wright has also had both an assist and a steal in all games this season, the only player on the team to accomplish that feat.
Now for Pitt:
The #3 Panthers are led by Levance Fields whose battled many injuries ranging from back problems to a broken leg during his time in Pittsburgh. He's had eight assists or more four times already this season including games of 11 and 12 assists in the opening weeks of the season.
Heading into the game, Fields only has three turnovers to 20 assists and has seven steals in his recent four-game stretch, running up the score on his assist-to-turnover-ratio numbers which now stands at a defense-cringing 4.28.
While Fields may not be the steepest of point guards listed at 5-10, he evens out his game thanks to his incredible ball-handling skill and ball control and his stability in Pitt's offense.
Evidence in the fact that during his four season at the University of Pittsburgh, Fields has never averaged two turnovers for an entire season and currently holds the lowest turnover margin of any point guard in the Big East. Fields also leads the Big East in assists, averaging 6.4 per game.
And though the senior may not get to the free-throw line often, he boasts team-best mark of 84.6 percent from the charity stripe as well.
As for versatile forward Sam Young and ox-strengthen teammate DeJuan Blair, combined the tandem has eight 20+ point performances early on. Individually, Blair has notched six double-doubles, including a string of six straight from Nov.21-Dec.6 and hasn't reached double figures in rebounding in all but three games this season. More surprisingly, Blair leads the team in steals at just over two per game because of his intense motor for the ball.
Sam Young is often called on to be team's best defender and go-to-scorer and rises to the occasion with minimal effort.
And last year in the Big East Championship game it was Young who scored seven points and grabbed three rebounds and sent away a basket or two after halftime to ice the game, netting Pitt's first Conference Tournament Championship in half a decade.
This season Young leads the team and is third in the Big East in scoring at 20.1 ppg on 51.1 percent shooting from the field and is also 15th in blocks.
Although dramatics aren't nearly as high as they were if Georgetown would have survived Tennessee but regardless two teams ranked within the Top 10 in the country square off Saturday, in a possible preview of this year's Big East Championship Game.