Road Work Ahead

IrishEyes previews today's matchup vs. future NBA Lottery pick Greg Monroe and the No. 11 Georgetown Hoyas at the Verizon Center.

After a convincing home win over No. 12 Pittsburgh earlier this week, a rejuvenated Irish squad will matchup with its second top 15 opponent in four days, taking on No. 11 Georgetown at the Verizon Center today.

Notre Dame is expected to be without the services of All America forward Luke Harangody for the fourth straight game. Harangody suffered a bone bruise to his right knee during a February 11 loss at Seton Hall.

The Irish, now 7-8 in Big East play, have moved back onto the NCAA Tournament Bubble, but likely need to win two of their final three contests to remain in serious contention for a bid entering the Big East Tournament.

They've won just three of their last 17 Big East road matchups.

The Hoyas have remained among the nation's top 15 for the bulk of the regular season despite the lack of a three-game winning streak in conference play.

Georgetown has played one of the toughest schedules in the nation (detailed below) and holds quality non-conference wins over Butler, Washington, Temple, and Duke.

Today's contest will tip-off at Noon (ET) and is televised nationally on CBS. Below is a closer look at the matchup between the Hoyas and the Irish.

At a Glance

Notre Dame: 18-10 (7-8)
  • Losses: Northwestern (Chicago Classic), Loyola Marymount, at Connecticut, at Cincinnati, Syracuse, at Villanova, at Rutgers, at Seton Hall, vs. St. John's, and at Louisville.
  • Ranking Notre Dame's best wins: West Virginia, Pittsburgh, at South Florida; vs. South Florida, Cincinnati and UCLA (each occurred in South Bend)
  • Loss for the Selection Committee's Consideration: Northwestern; home vs. LMU (7-7); at Cincinnati, at Rutgers, at Seton Hall; home vs. St. John's.
Georgetown: 19-7 (9-6)
  • Losses: Old Dominion, at Marquette, at Villanova, at Syracuse, South Florida, at Rutgers, Syracuse.
  • Ranking Georgetown's best wins: at Pittsburgh, Villanova, Duke, vs. Butler (neutral site), at Louisville, Connecticut, Temple, vs. Washington (neutral)
  • Loss for the Selection Committee's Consideration: None. The Hoyas are an NCAA lock.

Meet the Hoyas

In his sixth season at the helm after a successful four-year run at Princeton, Georgetown head coach John Thompson III holds a 135-58 record with the Hoya's entering today's contest (62-39 in conference) and is 6-2 in head-to-head matchups vs. the Irish and Mike Brey. Thompson has never lost to the Irish outside of South Bend.

Notre Dame and Georgetown fans can commiserate on one like team weakness: four Hoyas starters average more than 33 minutes per contest, mirroring an Irish squad's lack of consistent bench production over the last four seasons.

  • Greg Monroe is one of the nation's most complete big men. The 6'11" sophomore scores at a 15.7 points-per-game clip while corralling 9.6 boards and dishing out 3.7 assists from the high post in the Hoyas patient half-court offense.

    The Irish have no defensive matchup for the NBA-bound Monroe, but the Hoyas pivot is often unselfish to a fault and not prone to take over games as a low-post scorer. The theme for Irish post defenders Tyrone Nash, Jack Cooley, and Mike Broghammer today? Don't wake the sleeping giant.

  • The team's top shooter (54.3/48.1/84.3) and scorer (17.5 per game), Austin Freeman has elevated his game as a junior, playing his best ball in games vs. the Hoyas' toughest opponents. Freeman erupted for 33 in a win over UConn, 25 in a 13-point victory over Villanova, and 29 in Tuesday's win at Louisville. He's averaged better than 23 points per game in matchups vs. teams in the top half of the Big East standings.

    Freeman is the chief reason Notre Dame would struggle if it decides to rely on its 2-3 zone defense this afternoon in D.C.

  • Sophomore guard Jason Clark is one of the best on-ball defenders in the Big East. He's fourth on the Hoyas in scoring (10.7), minutes played (33.1 per contest), rebounds (3.7) and assists-per-game (2.0). He's added the 3-point shot to his game in his second season, knocking down better than 43 percent of his 117 shots from beyond the arc.

    Clark's ability to keep Irish guard Ben Hansbrough in front of him and out of the middle of the Hoya's defense is the key today's contest.

  • Junior point guard Chris Wright leads Georgetown with 3.8 assist-per-contest and is third on the squad in scoring at better than 14 points per game. Wright's an inconsistent but capable three-point shooter but more important to today's matchup, has the physical strength to limit Tory Jackson's penetration over the course of the contest.

  • Julian Vaughn adds bulk to the Hoyas front court. The 6'9" 245-pound junior remains an inconsistent scorer and rebounder but helps facilitate the Hoyas' backdoor cuts and patience offensively. Vaughn is a low-volume shooter though he did hit for 9 of 13 (for 19 points) in a win over Providence earlier this month. The transfer from Florida State has been less impressive on the glass in conference play after a solid effort vs. non-conference foes.

  • Off the Bench: The Hoyas rely heavily on their starting five, though freshman forward Hollis Thompson has scored double figures in two of his last five outings. Wide-bodied classmate Jerrelle Benimon adds about 12 minutes of work on the boards in relief. Sophomore big man Henry Sims has stagnated in his development this season, earning more than 10 minutes just twice against conference foes.

  • Whom to Foul?: Monroe is a solid free throw shooter for a young center at just over 64 percent, but he's a candidate for late-game pressure and Vaughn has knocked down just 32 of 57 free throw attempts this season (56.1 percent). Freeman is automatic at 84 percent while Wright and Clark hit at a 78 and 75 percent clip, respectively.

Recent Meetings

13th-ranked Notre Dame handled No. 11 Georgetown in early January last season, 73-67 at the Joyce Center. The Irish were led by Luke Harangody with 31 points and 11 rebounds. Kyle McAlarney added 17 points and five defensive boards, but the key to the contest was the defensive effort off the bench of senior Luke Zeller vs. Hoya freshman star Greg Monroe.

Zeller held the future lottery pick scoreless for the final 13 minutes of the first half after 8 quick points on four buckets in the paint vs. Irish starters Harangody and Zach Hillesland. Zeller came back in the second half to keep Monroe off the scoreboard for an 11-minute span in the second stanza en route to an 11-point lead late in the contest.

Notre Dame has lost its last three visits to D.C. including an 84-65 defeat in January of 2008.

Stats and Streaks

  • Notre Dame's last road win against a ranked opponent was a 90-80 victory over No 18 Villanova in late January 2008.
  • The Hoyas lead the all-time series 14-11 and have won 11 of 20 Big East matchups between the programs.
  • Notre Dame has not defeated Georgetown outside of South Bend since an 86-8- victory at the Verizon Center in early March 2003. The Irish are 4-6 all-time on the road against the Hoyas.
  • Junior forward Tim Abromaitis leads the nation in three-point shooting percentage, connecting on 49.4 percent of his offerings to date. Abromaitis ranks 43rd nationally in overall field goal percentage (53.2 percent) and 23rd in the nation as an 88 percent free throw shooter. He's the only qualifying player to appear among the top 50 in each of the three main shooting categories.

  • Senior guard Ben Hansbrough ranks seventh nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio while backcourt mate Tory Jackson lands at No. 13 on the list. Jackson is 17th nationally in assists per game.
  • Georgetown guard Austin Freeman ranks 27th nationally in field goal percentage (54.4 percent) and 57th in free throw shooting (84.3 percent).
  • Irish head coach Mike Brey enters today's contest with 99 career Big East victories, good for sixth on the career list. Fellow active coaches Jay Wright of Villanova (96 victories) and Jamie Dixon of Pittsburgh (91 wins) rank eighth and ninth respectively.
  • Georgetown has been installed as an 11-point favorite for today's contest.

Prediction

Today's matchup with Georgetown sophomore Greg Monroe will prove a challenge for Notre Dame's depleted front court. None of the quartet of Nash, Cooley, Broghammer, or Carleton Scott will likely receive the benefit of the doubt from today's officials should they choose to take a physical approach vs. the Hoyas' gifted center.

As was the case vs. Louisville last week, the Irish are unlikely turn to their zone defense to combat the Hoyas' advantage in the middle, as Georgetown's perimeter players are capable of blowing the Irish out of the building with their ability to move the ball and knock down shots from beyond the arc.

Expect the unselfish Irish offense to move the ball consistently and create open shots, but the recently successful ploy of bleeding the shot-clock under 10 seconds and attempting to create offense from a late pass could prove futile if Hansbrough and Jackson are unable to penetrate vs. the defensive guard duo of Clark and Wright.

The Irish have adjusted to life without Harangody, and there's not an ounce of quit on the roster, but they're not capable of blowing out the Hoyas in a road matchup and the Irish have not fared well in tight games over the last five seasons.

The visitors won't go down easily, but a second straight win vs. a top 15 opponent is a lot to ask of a team without its best scorer and rebounder.

Georgetown 75 Notre Dame 69


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