Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How Eastern Washington Can Beat Georgetown

As I wrote on Monday, beating Georgetown is not going to be easy. While a lot of pundits are picking the Eagles for the upset, there is a reason that the Hoyas are favored by something like 8.5 points. There are some real concerns - namely, how is Eastern Washington going to stop the Hoyas?

However, it's definitely still possible for the Eagles to make good on this Jim Hayford promise:

Let's look at some of the keys for the Eagles if they want to win this game and move on to the Round of 32.

- Hit threes - This one may seem obvious, but it doesn't make it any less true - the Eagles have to be hitting from the outside. Defensively, Georgetown is very difficult to score against in the paint. Their defense is anchored by Mikael Hopkins, and he erases shots down low. Opponents shoot just 42.7% on two-pointers against the Hoyas, the 21st lowest mark in the country.

On the other hand, they are susceptible to getting beat from deep. 35.1% of opponents shots come from three-point range, which makes GTown below average in stopping those attempts. For what it's worth (some question whether defenses really have control over this stat), teams have shot 35.9% on threes against the Hoyas, a bottom 100 mark in the NCAA.

That should suit EWU just fine... 37.7% of their shots are from three (16th highest rate in the NCAA), and they are in the top 15 nationally percentage-wise. So the Eagles certainly have the personnel to get this done, but the shots still need to fall.

- Avoid foul trouble for the big men - Georgetown center Joshua Smith is very tough to handle, because he's bigger than just about anyone in college basketball, but he's nimble, and has great touch around the basket. This is him on defense, but watch his ability to move with some quickness in a short area:

Venky Jois and Ognen Miljkovic (and Bogdan Bliznyuk) all struggled with foul trouble in the Big Sky championship game, but they need to do better in this one. It won't be easy - Smith draws as many fouls as just about anyone in all of college basketball.

- A secondary player needs to have a big game - It's going to take a lot of points to win this game, possibly as many as 80. Tyler Harvey should get his, and Venky Jois usually does too, but the Eagles could use a big game from someone else. Felix Van Hofe was that guy in the Big Sky semis, when he was 7/8 from downtown. In this game, the two most likely guys are Bogdan Bliznyuk and Drew Brandon. Bliznyuk showed in the Big Sky tournament that he is not intimidated by the big stage, even as a freshman, and he has the most diverse offensive skillset outside of Harvey. Brandon, meanwhile, seems to get a lot of good shots, because teams don't respect his range as much as some of the other guys. The Eagles could use one of those guys to go for 20+ in this one.

- Find a way to slow D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera - DSR averaged more than 16 PPG, and has a diverse offensive skill set. He is a very good shooter from the outside, and also has the handles to get inside and either finish or dish. If the Eagles play man defense, Drew Brandon will likely get the assignment, and that will be huge for the Eagles. They need to do what they can to limit him, because he can really make the Hoyas offense go.

- Push the pace - Georgetown is not necessarily a slow team, but the Eagles played at a much faster pace throughout the season. It's hard to say if it will matter, but the game is starting at about 7:47 pm mountain time (and likely a little bit later than that), which would be about 10pm in local Georgetown time, as the game will be played on the west coast. If there is any type of tiredness on the Hoyas part, it could be an advantage EWU can exploit by pushing the pace and speeding the game up.

Eastern Washington will have a chance in this game, especially if these things happen. I think the Eagles will be able to score even on a good Georgetown defense, because they'll push the pace and get some looks from downtown. The key will be how EWU handles the Hoyas on the other end of the court, because Georgetown is absolutely capable of putting up a big number of points themselves.

What are your thoughts on the Eagles chances?

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  1. I don't think that was a smart move by Hayford. Instead of past postseason chokes dancing in Georgetown's heads, they'll now be dialed in on those "punks" from Eastern Washington.

    Eastern needs Harvey to shoot better if they want to go anywhere in this tournament. He's at 43% from the arc on the season, but only 33% since returning from the injury and he's only had one real efficient game over that span (the Idaho quarterfinal explosion).

    1. I have to agree, I wouldn't have done that myself either. I know that type of move can fire up a team, but I like it more if you're the favored team that needs a wakeup, not the underdog! I have a fear he awoke a sleeping giant, but I hope I am wrong...

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  3. Harvey does need to shoot well, but to say he's had one efficient game since February is not close to accurate. He's played in ten games since returning from the injury, four would fit the definition of efficient (22 points on 15 shots vs. PSU, 27 pts on 16 shots vs. Montana, 24 points on 17 shots vs. ISU, 42 pts on 20 shots vs. Idaho). What he's been is up-and-down. EWU has no shot if Harvey has a down game.

    I know we just read about Georgetown's two point defense, though I'm guessing that translates to them being a tough team to finish against, I want to see Harvey use his mid-range game. In that same ten game span since injury, Harvey's shooting approximately 55% on two pointers. A lot of those are pull-ups, just like in the second half of the Montana game.

    My concern is Jois. Teams figured out how to stop his top of the key drives. He can't pass off the dribble that well, and his drive-right-spin-left game plan whenever he puts the ball on the floor is too predictable for good teams. Our hope here has to be that Josh Smith drags himself out of the key.

    1. I probably should've been more specific than just saying "efficient." My point was that Harvey's shooting % (especially from 3) is definitely down since he returned from the injury and that the Idaho game was the only one where he really torched a team from the field.

      Jois is a really good, really talented player, but his awareness is often lacking. He looked like a turnover machine in the loss to Montana in Cheney because he kept putting himself in positions where UM could easily steal the ball.