Hoyas: Puerto Rico Tip-Off preview

Hoyas: Puerto Rico Tip-Off preview
November 20, 2013, 6:30 pm
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Georgetown Hoyas guard Markel Starks (5) dibbles the ball up the court during the second half of the game against Wright State Raiders at Verizon Center. Georgetown Hoyas defeated Wright State Raiders 88-70.

(Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

For the seventh time in 10 seasons under John Thompson III, including the last four, Georgetown will play in an in-season tournament. Rather than head to Charleston or Maui or Brooklyn, the Hoyas trekked to San Juan for three games in four days at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

The team apparently had some fun in the sun on Wednesday. The indoor action starts Thursday (1:30 p.m., ESPNU) against Northeastern with subsequent games on Saturday and Sunday. Check back throughout the tournament for reaction and analysis. Check below for team previews, starting with the opponent.

*Since we mentioned the previous tournaments, the Hoyas are 6-2 in the last three years including a title at the 2010 Charleston Classic. That winning roster included current leading scorer Markel Starks (19.5) and fellow senior Nate Lubick (team-high 7.0 rebounds). According to the school, Georgetown is 12-4 in those in-season tournaments with the current Thompson on the sideline.

Opening game: Northeastern

Before heading off the U.S. mainland, the Hoyas talked en masse about improving team defense. After uncharacteristically allowing at least 70 points in each of their first two games, that makes sense. If size is part of the solution - and through two games, nobody should be convinced it is - then Georgetown (1-1) has the clear advantage in their tournament opener.

The Huskies (1-2) won the CAA regular season last season, but lost their top two scorers and starting backcourt to graduation. Junior forward Scott Eatherton leads coach Bill Coen's squad in points (14.0) and rebounds (10.0). Athletic wing Quincy Ford, Northeastern's leading returner scorer, sat out Saturday's 83-69 win over Central Connecticut State.

At 6-foot-8, Eatherton and Ford are the Huskies tallest players and both tip the scales less than 220 pounds, some two inches and 130 lbs less than Georgetown center and second-leading scorer Josh Smith does.

“I don’t know if we have an answer for that just yet,” Coen said on a recent conference call when asked about the Hoyas’ sizable frontcourt. “They’ve been playing really, really well. They have a tradition of always having great frontcourts. We’ll probably have to play some zone and try to keep the ball from getting in there.”

Guards Zach Stahl and David Walker combine for 34 points per game. In the victory over CCSU, junior guard Demetrius Pollard matched a school record with eight 3-pointers in Northeastern's 83-69 on Saturday.

*Having covered the CAA in recent years, Coen's name is one often mentioned in the context of strong in-game tacticians. During Monday's media session, Thompson said the Huskies frequently use a 3-2 zone, which could be an interesting gambit against a Georgetown squad that can load the perimeter with 3-point shooters while posting Smith on the low block.

On deck: Kansas State or Charlotte

Let's start with the Big 12's Wildcats (2-1), winners of two straight after a stunning season-opening 60-58 loss to Northern Colorado. Per KenPom.com, they are strong defensively from all angles and are rather adept at getting to the free throw line even in a season when that seems to be the case across the country. Downside comes from the perimeter as Kansas State is shooting under 26 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

Though coach Bruce Weber's roster has key upperclassmen, freshman guard Marcus Foster leads in scoring (16.7) followed by sophomore forward D.J. Johnson. Foster scored 42 points in the two wins, including 25 against Oral Roberts. Per usual, the Kansas State roster includes a player with D.C. area ties. This time it's former Riverdale Baptist and Broad Run star (and former George Washington commit) guard Nigel Johnson who is averaging 15 minutes per game, but has started his college career 0 for 11 from the field.

As for the 49ers (2-1), they average 82 points per game with essentially all the production coming from five double-digit scorers. Sophomore guard Shawn Lester leads with 17.7 points while the backcourt pairing of juniors Pierra Henry and Terrence Williams averages 31 points, 7.7 assists, 7.0 steals and nearly eight turnovers.

 “We’re not quite as deep as I’d like to be, but I like our pieces,” Charlotte coach Alan Major said.

Charlotte lost to College of Charleston but in its last outing won by 14 points over an Elon program Georgetown faces later this season.

Finale: No. 14 Michigan, Long Beach State, No. 10 VCU or Florida State

All we know is that the Hoyas will face one of these four programs on Sunday, whether in the championship game or somewhere else in the bracket. From an RPI standpoint, matchups with "Havoc"- inducing VCU and Michigan obviously help. Same for FSU, which enters the tourney at 3-0, the same record as Shaka Smart's Rams. Georgetown fans are looking at a revenge opportunity as VCU knocked the Hoyas out of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. DraftExpress.com ranks Michigan forward Glenn Robinson III the No. 10 overall draft prospect.