West Virginia has plenty of objectives it wishes to accomplish tonight when the Mountaineers take the court at Georgetown for a nationally-televised 7:00 tip from the Verizon Center. The end result WVU hopes to come away with, of course, is a win.
Given the circumstances of last season's last-second win by the Hoyas, though, might they also be looking to exact a little bit of revenge?
"Secretly," admitted junior forward Da'Sean Butler, "I do."
Butler felt the sharpest sting from last season's regular-season loss to Georgetown. After all, it was his driving layup attempt at the buzzer which would have lifted the Mountaineers to a landmark win had Patrick Ewing Jr. not swatted it away at the horn. Too, the Hoyas denied WVU a chance to play for the Big East Championship, dismissing the old gold and blue in the semifinals of the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden.
All of that, though, is in the past. What Butler and these Mountaineers are focused on is the present. Four games into the Big East slate, WVU is 2-2. Save for the 26-point throttling of winless Seton Hall on January 3, however, West Virginia has yet to play a complete game. Butler is hoping that changes tonight.
"As a team, we're just trying to win the game so we can do good in the conference," he explained. "We didn't' have the greatest start in the conference, so we just want to redeem ourselves for the last few conference games that we've played."
Getting a win at Georgetown is something WVU has done just twice since the Verizon Center opened in December of 1997. While the Hoyas no longer have the services of Roy Hibbert or Jonathan Wallace, John Thompson III's squad is every bit as talented as is has been over the past few years, even if some of the names and faces aren't yet well known.
"They might be young, but they are a very talented and very poised team," Butler said. "They play just like a veteran team would play. Hopefully the young and inexperienced part of them will come out and we'll have a good game against them. I know that we'll play hard.
"They use a lot of the shot clock," he continued. "They play together. It's a well-balanced scoring team. It's more of a team thing with them. Anyone on the team can have 20 on any night, and some nights four or five guys will come out and get 15 or 16. It's just a matter of us as a team guarding them and executing our offense."
As a freshman under the tutelage of former head coach John Beilein, Butler was schooled in a system somewhat reminiscent of what Thompson and the Hoyas run to perfection. Thompson, whose basketball roots come from his days as a player, assistant coach and head coach at Princeton, relies on precise passing, crisp cutting and plenty of patience for his system to be fully effective.
Beilein's offense has similar elements, but is more perimeter-oriented.
"The way that we ran the offense was designed to score from the outside, from the perimeter," Butler explained. "We had a lot of backcuts and everything too, but we pretty much settled for a lot of 3s. They shoot a lot of 3s as well, but they have guys that go to the basket. They have the big guys. They get the ball in the post and get post touches. They backcut and shoot 3s. They just do all kinds of things that make up their offense. We're just looking forward to playing this team."
If WVU can get the win, it would be the biggest of the season to this point for the Mountaineers. Currently 13-4, West Virginia begins a five-game stretch which includes four games against top 25 competition. A loss certainly won't knock the Mountaineers from NCAA tournament contention, but with the aforementioned murderer's row stretch coming up, any and every win they can get over the next two weeks will go a long way in boosting WVU's tournament résumé.
Even with the complex offense his team will be guarding and the talent which Georgetown possesses throughout its roster, Butler is confident in this particular matchup.
"I don't see any problems matching up," he concluded. "They have two 6-10 guys, and then the rest of the guys are 6-5, 6-6, 6-7. They can't play the two 6-10 guys at the same time. We're pretty much the same size they are, so it should be a good game. It will come down to who plays hard and who comes out with pep in their step."