Nine games into the season and Georgetown has yet to play a true road game. That changes Saturday when the Hoyas (7-2) battle No. 18 Kansas (7-3) at venerable Allen Fieldhouse.
The non-conference schedule crafted by coach John Thompson III pitted his squad against Oregon in South Korea, VCU and Kansas State (plus surprise winner Northeastern) at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off plus a just completed four-game homestand. Some challenges in there for sure, but none greater than visiting the Jayhawks, coached by the title-winning Bill Self and led by freshmen Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid.
The Hoyas enter the matchup (12 p.m., ESPN) with a six-game winning streak. Can they make it seven in a row? Absolutely, if they avoid the early game sputtering that took place during each of their last four wins. That, and accomplish the following:
1) Joshua Smith remains on the court as desired: There might not be a more difficult player to officiate in the country than the 6-foot-10, 350-pounder. Opposing defenders often give 100 pounds or more to Smith, who is also deft passer from the low post. That means battles in the paint with the Hoyas top interior threat can look like either an attempted tackle or offensive bullying depending on one's perspective, interpretation or whimsy. Smith has fouled out twice, received at least four fouls in five of nine games and only played over 20 minutes three times all season (conditioning is a factor in the latter mention). For a team lacking frontcourt-scoring production, keeping Smith on the court is necessary.
[RELATED: Why Georgetown falls at Kansas]
2) Thrive versus Kansas' man-to-man defense: Don't infer the Jayhawks aren't capable of guarding the heck out of the Hoyas; Kansas ranks 12th in defensive adjustment efficiency per KenPom. However, one doesn't need to be a game-tape savant to know Georgetown struggles more against zone schemes. Go back to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off; the Hoyas fall to a zone-heavy Northeastern then dominate a Kansas State program that used man-to-man throughout. Kansas surely knows this, but the Jayhawks, like many power conference program, will likely stick with their desired long-term approach rather make significant changes per (early season) foe. Man defense lends itself to a faster pace and helps open north-south passing lanes for Georgetown's motion offense. Those factors turn athletic wings Jabril Trawick and Aaron Bowen - limited offensive threats versus zone defense - into more effective weapons on both ends of the court as drivers, finishers and defenders. Anything to help take some of the point-producing burden off leading scorer D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Markel Starks and Smith is a bonus.
3) Defend the arc: Georgetown holds opponents to 27.5 percent shooting from distance, though Elon found enough space to sink 13 3-pointers in the Hoyas win on Tuesday. Kansas attempts over 15 3-pointers per game, but makes only 31.8 percent of them. Keep sleek forward Andrew Wiggins out of the lane, deny center Joel Embiid interior looks and force the Jayhawks perimeter options to carry the day.
Friday afternoon: Three reasons the Hoyas will lose at Kansas