Based on the just-released AP Top-25 poll, Monday night's 7 p.m. contest at the Verizon Center pits No. 15 vs. No. 18, also known as higher-ranked and revenge-seeking Georgetown hosting Marquette.
The Hoyas (17-4, 7-3 Big East) can earn some measure payback for their 49-48 Big East opening game loss at Milwaukee on Jan. 5, one of those low-scoring affairs that marked Georgetown's early schedule. They can also show over this upcoming two-game stretch whether the team's recent string of wins is true improvement or a case of facing the right teams at the right times.
Obviously and rather oddly, the Hoyas are indeed a better team than the one that opened conference play with consecutive losses and then lost key contributor Greg Whittington due to academic issues. Starting with the first of two St. John's games on January 12, Georgetown has won seven of eight games including the last five.
Despite the absence of arguably its top defender, Georgetown leads the Big East in scoring defense (56.8 points) and field goal percentage defense (37.6) during conference games. A bench that went only two-players deep and scoreless in the first meeting with the Golden Eagles (17-5, 8-2) now offers depth and contributing assets. Otto Porter's star turn is undeniable.
However, there is also denying that in sports, matchups are king. Some opposing styles can torment, offer bring contentment. In recent seasons, Georgetown has enjoyed greater cumulative success against those that push the pace or at least do not automatically seek a low-scoring game rather than those grinding, physical opponents.
The Hoyas opened Big East play against Marquette and Pittsburgh, two teams that certainly fit under the latter description. Same goes for Cincinnati where Georgetown will play on Friday. Starting with the 2008-09 season, the Hoyas own a 9-18 record against those three schools and a collective seven-game losing streak. The Hoyas have lost consecutive games against Marquette and are on a four-game skid against Cincinnati.
West Virginia, another typically physical team seeking a low-possession game, won five straight over Georgetown before leaving the conference after last season.
Marquette enters this game having won four of five. The Golden Eagles, led in scoring by junior guard Vander Blue (15.0 ppg) and 290-pound center Davante Gardner, won each game by double figures.
Georgetown's seven conference wins this season have come against Providence, Notre Dame, Louisville, Seton Hall, Rutgers and two over St. John's. Again, starting with the 2008-09, the Hoyas are 26-8 against that group and only have an overall losing record Notre Dame. While those teams do not all neatly fall under the same scheme umbrella, they are also not necessarily under the same one as the aforementioned teams that have caused struggles for the Hoyas.
They are also not among the stingiest defensive teams. Against the Big East's top-8 in scoring defenses, Georgetown is 1-3 with the only win coming against Louisville and including the road loss at South Florida. Against the bottom seven defensive teams, the Hoyas are 6-0 and have yet to play Connecticut or DePaul.
These next two games may ultimately be blips on the overall schedule with six more regular season contests to follow plus the postseason. There is also a reasonable chance they show whether these Hoyas are a new breed or still if their recent success falls under the right horses for courses category.