A few weeks ago, tonight's Syracuse/Georgetown game was shaping up as one of the dream matchups of the Big East season. Georgetown had risen to national prominence with a blowout victory over Duke (witnessed by the president and several thousand of his closest friends). Syracuse was getting a lot of run as a legitimate National Championship contender (including from us in the NOTEBOOK).

Maybe Syracuse/Georgetown wasn't seen as a "Final Four" type matchup. Elite Eight? That wouldn't have surprised anyone the way these teams had been playing.

Since then...

Got stunned at home by South Florida 72-64
Beat highly regarded Villanova at home 103-90
Beat Providence in a potential road danger spot 79-70
Got shocked by struggling Rutgers 71-68 on the road

That's 2-2 since the Duke upset. And, the Duke upset came on the heels of a poor road loss at Syracuse. Georgetown is 3-3 its last six games, 5-4 its last nine games. That's generally NOT how you think of Final Four or Elite Eight material at this stage of the season, even if G-town's schedule is tougher than most.

Barely got by helpless DePaul on the road
Did play well in wins over Providence and Cincinnati
Barely got by Connecticut near a low point of UCONN's slump
Got stunned by Louisville at home.

That's 4-1 straight up the last five...but it was very close to being 2-3 even though the Orange were favored in every game.

Neither team is hitting on all cylinders at the moment. Both are in huge bounce back spots off very poor Sunday outings. Georgetown has the added benefits of revenge, and home court advantage. This has the potential to be a classic if both teams come in focused. It has the potential to boost the confidence of the rest of the nation if both teams play poorly! The country is desperately seeking basketball powers...and the Big East suddenly looks vulnerable.

In terms of our handicapping process, we still have respect for both teams. There's no prize for peaking in mid-February. Surely players on both teams got a little bit ahead of themselves and started thinking about March. That fire WILL come back! Our only concern for the two concerns Georgetown's ability to play well on the road. They're best results have come at home...and you don't get home games in tournament play in March.

Let's see how both teams shape up in some key categories as a way of previewing tonight's ESPN encounter...

Syracuse pushes the ball more, registering in the top 20% of the country in pace. They're not out of control by any means. And, their zone defense actually has a way of slowing down games because opponents have to work for shots. A typical Syracuse game will see the Orange attacking the basket aggressively on offense, then making opponents work to get anything resembling a good look.

Georgetown is much slower than Syracuse...and a little bit slower than average nationally. They're far from a plodding team (though they can get that way against very slow opponents). They will seem plodding compared to Syracuse. Note that the first possession had 67 possessions, which is about average for a college game this year. On the road, Georgetown enforced its pace on quicker Syracuse. That might be even easier at home.

We've talked about Syracuse in this light already in some of our boxscore summaries. They're doing a great job this year of preventing easy looks inside the arc. In the past, their zone was prone to be very hyped and overrated by ESPN announcers. It's like, by default, they talk about the zone with Syracuse because it was great a few years back at the program's peak. It hasn't really been all that great since, until this year! Syracuse is holding opponents to just 44% on two-pointers this year...and ranks in the top 40 nationally in both two-point and three-point percentage allowed. On offense, believe it or not, Syracuse is  BEST IN THE NATION with an astounding 59% percentage on two's. Talk about attacking the basket! This is why we still see Syracuse as National Championship material.

Georgetown is good by national standards, but inferior to Syracuse. The Hoya's rank a surprising 5th nationally in two-point shooting with a 55% mark. Their head coach doesn't get much respect from the media, but his team this year sure does a great job of getting good looks inside. Georgetown is allowing 45% on two-point shots, which puts them in the top quarter nationally, but not at elite levels.

Syracuse has become very smart about how they use treys. We've already mentioned how much they attack the basket. Most of their points come from that. They do hit a nice 38% on three-pointers though...which would equate to 57% on two-pointers because of that extra point. This isn't a team that forces up too many bad shots from long range.

Georgetown has played very similarly. We really like how both teams are handling treys this year. Georgetown is hitting an amazing 40% from long range this year, which would be the same as 60% on deuces. They're one of the best 15 teams in the country in terms of percentage. That doesn't necessarily equate to a lot of volume only 25% of their offense comes from long range.

This is becoming a key profile element of top quality teams....hitting a good percentage of treys because you're only taking good percentage treys! We'll try to make this a point of emphasis the rest of the way.

Neither team is particularly deep this year in terms of impact talent. That could be a problem in the Dance...and may be part of what's happening in terms of recent form. The starters are getting tired from carrying such a big load.

Georgetown only allots 18% of its minutes to the bench, which is one of the bottom five marks in the nation. Syracuse is at 28%, which is still below average. The typical number in college hoops right now is around 31%. So...we're talking about teams with short rotations who ask those guys to get the job done.

If Syracuse fails to go as deep as projected in the Dance, it will very likely be the result of fatigue brought on by playing a fast tempo with a short rotation. Let's remember that in a few weeks. Georgetown may choose to really slow things down as well given their lack of quality depth. An injury to either team would prove very costly.

What's it all mean for tonight? Well, we can't give you an official selection here in the NOTEBOOK. That information is for paying customers! We can tell you that Georgetown gets respect from us at home. And, we do expect intensity from both teams coming off a loss. Tempo should be closer to Georgetown's preferred pace. We'll be monitoring smart money action during the day before making a final commitment if we get involved.

In the big picture, we still like what we're seeing from both programs in two-point defense and three-point offense. We're concerned about fatigue becoming an issue once the string of neutral site games begins.

You can tell we put a lot of work into our basketball analysis. What you read here in the NOTEBOOK is just the stathead stuff. We also have SCOUTS and SOURCES across the country feeding us great information. We have TREND HISTORIANS who let us know the fundamentals of peak-and-valley handicapping (a lot of teams on a yo-yo lately). Our COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS have state-of-the-art simulation software that plays every game out thousands of times to account for every possibility. And, our WISE GUY CONNECTIONS clue us in to what the smart money is doing through out the day.

The man in the middle of this INFORMATION HURRICANE is world champion handicapper JIM HURLEY! He makes the final call on which games make the cut and which don't. Thus far he's having a banner year in his PRIVATE LINE, CASHLINE, and BLUE RIBBON services. Complete details are available at 1-800-323-4453.

Game day selections and club packages can also be purchased here at the website with your credit card.

Are we playing Syracuse/Georgetown tonight? The information is just a phone call or a few clicks away. We DO have something huge on tap amidst the busy Thursday schedule. Of that you can be certain!


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