The end of an era is near as the Big East regular season draws to an end. Luckily for fans, one of the best rivalries in the conference still has at least two more games. Georgetown heads to Syracuse on Saturday in a showdown that could play a role in determining the regular-season conference champion.
While this is always a good battle, this year with be particularly interesting with both schools tied at the top of the Big East with records of 10-3. Fortunately for the Orange, they get the Hoyas in the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome and have history on their side. They hold a 48-39 record in the overall series.
Syracuse will have its hands full in this one though. Georgetown comes in hot, winning 10 of its last 11 games. The Hoyas are led by Otto Porter Jr. and have benefited from the recent emergence of junior forward Nate Lubick.
Syracuse boasts a good mix of upper- and lower-classmen. Brandon Triche and C.J. Fair are experienced starters who play a key role.
This game should be a great matchup and showcase classic Big East basketball. If the Orange hope to be victorious in this one, there are five keys that must be focused on against the Hoyas.
There's no denying that Michael Carter-Williams should be considered one of the top point guards in the nation. He is a playmaker who can both set up his teammates and score points when needed. He is a leader on offense for the Orange and a big key to their success so far this season.
There have been several highlight moments, including great passes and monster dunks. He is coming off an excellent performance against Providence that saw him put up 15 points and dish out 12 assists.
For all the good in Carter-Williams' season, there have also been some forgettable moments. He has played sloppy at times, taking bad shots and making careless mistakes. In the Orange's most recent loss at Connecticut, the point guard shot just 46 percent from the floor and committed four turnovers.
In fact, in Syracuse's four losses this year, Carter-Williams averaged just 28 percent shooting and made a total of 15 turnovers.
If the Orange hope to defeat the Hoyas, their star point guard needs to be on the top of his game.
The Syracuse Orange are near the bottom of the league when it comes to three-point shooting. The Orange shoot just 32.3 percent from behind the arc.
Despite the poor shooting, they still continue to fire shots up from long range.
In the loss to UConn, Syracuse put up 23 three-pointers and only converted on four. That was a big factor in the defeat. Instead of using the height advantage they had down low, 'Cuse settled for outside shots.
Against Georgetown, Syracuse will should be able to take advantage of its tall and deep frontcourt in order to dominate the Hoyas. They are more successful when the guards drive the lane and kick it down low for a high-percentage shot.
Therefore, instead of settling for the outside shot, 'Cuse needs to look for the best shot and cut down on the long-range tries.
For much of the year, the Orange have been one of the top rebounding teams in the nation, ranking consistently in the top 10. Currently, they rank 11th, averaging 40.2 rebounds per game. They are led on the glass by junior forward C.J. Fair, who pulls down 7.2 a game.
Georgetown enters the game as one of the worst rebounding teams in the nation. The Hoyas rank 237th in that department, averaging 33.3 boards a game.
One would think the Orange would have a huge advantage on the glass in this game. However, that may not be the case. Just a week ago against UConn, another team not known for rebounding, the Orange were outrebounded by the Huskies.
In what will likely be a close game, rebounding is going to be a key factor in whoever comes out on top. Creating second-chance opportunities and limiting those of the Hoyas will help the Orange win this Big East matchup.
The Hoyas are led by sophomore forward Otto Porter Jr. He leads the team in both points, 15.3 a game, and rebounds, 7.9 a game. Syracuse must limit his opportunities in order to be successful. At 6'8", Porter is a big body down low who can control a game.
Luckily for Syracuse, its frontcourt is deep and talented, especially on the defensive end. C.J. Fair, Rakeem Christmas, Jerami Grant, Baye Keita and James Southerland will all work to make things tough on Porter.
Stopping the Georgetown sophomore may be easier said than done, though. He has six double-doubles this season, including a game of 19 points and 14 rebounds at Rutgers last week. He is also a decent three-point shooter for a big man, shooting 44 percent from behind the arc.
Porter's importance to Georgetown's success was proved in the January 8th game against Pittsburgh. The Hoyas were crushed 73-45. In the game, he was held to just nine points and three rebounds.
Porter is going to get his looks both down low and from the outside. It's going to be up to the Syracuse 2-3 zone, especially the middle, to limit his production and help the Orange come out victorious.
In the three most recent losses for the Orange there has been a trend that led to defeat. In the games against Villanova, Pittsburgh and Connecticut, Syracuse shot poorly from the field and started the first half extremely slowly.
In their most recent loss, a 66-58 loss at UConn, the Orange scored 24 points in the first half and went into the break down by five. They shot just 33 percent in that half. In the January 26th 75-71 loss to Villanova, Syracuse went nearly four minutes without converting a basket and let the Wildcats jump out to a 12-0 lead.
The matchup with the Hoyas is always an exciting one as it's one of the best rivalries in all of college basketball. The Carrier Dome crowd will be fired up at the beginning and could offer a huge advantage to the home team if the energy can stay in the building.
It's important for Syracuse to come out sharp and focused in order to hit shots early and keep the crowd in the game. Another slow start could mean big trouble against the pesky Hoyas.