Georgetown-Memphis Preview for Saturday
by Trevor Whenham - 12/20/2007
There have been some big games in college basketball so far this year, but none have been bigger than the showdown between No. 2 Memphis and No. 4 Georgetown on Saturday. Both teams are undefeated, both teams are heading towards high seeds and deep tournament runs, and both teams have impressive star power. The odds aren't set for the game yet, but that doesn't mean that it's too early to take a look at how it breaks down and get a jump on handicapping it.
Records - Georgetown is 8-0 and Memphis is 9-0, but the two teams have amassed their marks in different ways. The Hoyas haven't really been tested. Their biggest wins have been against Alabama and Old Dominion. Neither are particularly eye-opening victories other than the fact that they both occurred on the road. They come into this game off of one-sided jokes against Jacksonville and Radford, so we don't truly know what state they are in. Memphis has had a bit tougher road, having to get past USC, Connecticut and Oklahoma. Though the opponents have been tougher, the last win against Cincinnati was Memphis' first true road game, so their scheduling has helped a bit.
It's notable that the only time one of the teams has won by fewer than nine points is when Memphis needed overtime to get past USC by four, so the teams have been doing their jobs. Despite the relative ease of the wins, both teams came into the season with very high expectations, and they haven't been living up to those expectations in the eyes of bettors. Georgetown is 3-3 ATS. They haven't managed to cover two in a row, but there is a pattern to the games they haven't covered - they were the games with the three highest spreads. Georgetown has inflated their offensive stats by playing weak opponents (they are 87th in RPI and 306th is strength of schedule), and bettors haven't shown an ability to compensate yet. Georgetown's ATS performance looks stellar next to Memphis' - 2-5-2 ATS. They haven't covered in their last five outings.
Offense - The two teams are a study in contrasts offensively. Georgetown is ruthlessly efficient, but plays with almost a glacial tempo. Memphis moves the ball much faster, but doesn't generally shoot as well. The quality of opponents makes the stats somewhat questionable, though. The defensive strength of Georgetown's opponents has been almost incomprehensibly bad, while Memphis has played a generally stronger group of opponents. That means that we can probably draw more accurate conclusions from the offensive stats of Memphis when it comes to the upcoming game than we can for Georgetown. Memphis is going to face their best defense of the year, but Georgetown's offense will face a defense much, much better than they are used to.
Defense - Coaches from across the country will be watching this game because it will be a defensive clinic. Both teams are in the top 15 in the country in both defensive rank and defensive efficiency. As we have come to expect from both programs, the defense is a team-wide priority on both sides, and mistakes are rare. Perhaps not the most important aspect of the defense but the most exciting to watch on both sides are the blocking machines they have - both Roy Hibbert for Georgetown and Joey Dorsey from Memphis get more than their share of blocks. Momentum could make a difference in the game, but neither team has a clear defensive edge going in.
Star power - Georgetown lost a major star in Jeff Green, but gigantic center Roy Hibbert has continued to be the star that he is. His free throw shooting is worse than last year, but the rest of his statistics are so close to last season's that it is almost spooky. With Green gone, Hibbert is unquestionably the leader of the team and he is living up to the role very well. That's a good thing, because the team doesn't have a lot of superstar-caliber players behind him. DaJuan Summers and Jessie Sapp have raised their games a bit, and Austin Freeman is contributing nicely as a freshman, but the Hoyas only have one eye-opening, buzz-worthy player.
By contrast, Memphis has an embarrassment of talent. The entire core of the team from last year is back, led by the incredible Chris Douglas-Roberts, and relentless brawlers Robert Dozier and Joey Dorsey. That team had enough to make the Elite Eight last year, and it probably would have been enough to go that far again this year. They don't have to settle for more of the same though thanks to the addition of freshman freak Derrick Rose. As you would expect, consistency has been an issue for a guy who is just nine games into his college career. When he is good, though, he is unbelievably good, and he's averaging almost 16 points and better than five rebounds and four assists per game. Rose's future at Memphis is very bright for as long as he stays there.
Overall - Memphis is at home, they have been tested more, they have more depth, and they are probably the better team (though not by a huge margin). The Tigers will be favored, and they should be. The challenge isn't to figure any of that out, it is to decide if they match up well against Georgetown, and if they can cover the spread when they have struggled so badly to do so all year.