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3 Things to Watch For When Villanova Heads to Georgetown

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For the second time in 3 games, Villanova will put first place in the conference on the line. But this time they may be without their star Center.

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Before the season started, this game was being billed as the most difficult conference game the Villanova Wildcats would play this year.  Then, the Georgetown Hoyas dropped close games to Duke and Maryland, along with losing to 3 low/mid-majors at home.  By the end of the non-conference, Georgetown was no longer on anyone's radar and wasn't considered a threat by anyone.

But then conference play started, and Georgetown started to show why they were voted by the coaches to be the biggest threat to Villanova this season.  Through 5 games, Georgetown is 2nd in the Big East standings and are looking like the team they were supposed to be preseason.  With both teams coming off impressive wins on Wednesday, this weekends match-up in D.C. should be a great one!  Here are a few things to look for going into the game.

Ochefu's Health Status

I'm sure more than a handful of us had to control their inner 5th Grader from laughing when they heard the term "Deep Butt Bruise", but it couldn't be more serious for the Wildcats.  Daniel Ochefu anchors the defense and ranks 15th nationally in defensive rebound percentage (conference leader).  On offense, Jay Wright ideally runs everything through the big man who is averaging 12.2 points per game in conference play.

Without their star center, Villanova's tallest player is Darryl Reynolds at 6'8.  While Reynolds contributes on defense, Ochefu's absence would leave the Cats without an interior threat on offense.  The Hoyas have a trio of big men over 6'8, including 7-foot senior and starting center Bradley Hayes.  Throw in that Georgetown leads the conference in defense inside the arc, and the Wildcats could be in serious trouble.

Ochefu's status is officially day-to-day, and he sat out of practice on Thursday.  Jay Wright was hopeful that he'll have his starting center back in practice Friday in preparation of Saturday's game.  Without Ochefu, Villanova will look to Mikal Bridges and Josh Hart to continue leading the team in interior scoring.  They rank first and second in offensive rating in the conference (yes, Bridges is #1!).  On defense, Reynolds and Kris Jenkins will be tasked with containing Georgetown's larger front court.

Bring An Umbrella, It's Going To Rain

Villanova and Georgetown each take more than 40% of their shots from behind the arc, good for 1 and 2 in the Big East respectively.  Since conference play began, Georgetown is shooting the 3 better than anyone at 41%.  Leading the way is senior guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who hit 5 of the Hoyas 10 3's in Wednesday's win over St. John's.

The Hoyas' best distance shooter, Marcus Derrickson, missed that game due to a knee injury suffered in practice.  He's listed as day-to-day heading into Saturday's contest with Villanova.  Derrickson has started every game for Georgetown as a freshman, and is shooting a blistering 44% from behind the arc this season.

For Villanova, they'll look to Ryan Arcidiacono and Josh Hart to knock down the long shots with each shooting over 36% from deep on the season.  Since Big East play began, Kris Jenkins has been significantly better from behind the arc, also shooting 36%.  However if Ochefu is out, expect to see Jenkins take fewer threes as he'll be asked to do more in the post.

Free Throws Will Be Crucial

There's something about shooting from behind a line that makes these teams better, because they're also 1 (Nova) and 2 (GTOWN) in Free Throw Percentage in the Big East.  Both teams shoot over 75% on the season, and both have been shooting even better during Big East play.  Throw in that each team ranks in the bottom half of the conference in putting their opponents on the line, and it's easy to see how Free Throws could decide this one.

Smith-Rivera gets to the line more than any other Hoya.  In Big East play he's shooting 80% and averaging 7 attempts per game.  But he's only the 5th best free throw shooter on the team!  Their stud from the line is 6th man Jessi Govan, who has only missed 5 shots on 51 attempts this season (over 90%).  Starters Isaac Copeland and Marcus Derrickson also excel from the line, shooting over 78% this season.

The concerning part of all this for Villanova is that the majority of Georgetown's best FT shooters are front court players.  If Ochefu is unable to play, or even limited, expect the Hoyas to get the ball into the paint early and often.  If Villanova's guards are forced to defend forwards, there will be a higher chance that they'll give up fouls and send them to the line.  I can't guarantee that this will be JT3's strategy, but if I thought of it I'm pretty sure it's crossed his mind.