Friday, January 2, 2009

(Almost) Seems Like Old Times

More than 20 years ago, just about any conference basketball game featuring the Georgetown Hoyas was looked upon as a big game — and seemed to qualify automatically as a "rivalry."

In fact, as Ray Fittipaldo observes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Big East Conference "is known for its rivalries, and none recently has been better than the series between Pitt and Georgetown."

The Hoyas fell on hard times after making back-to-back appearances in the national championship game in the mid-1980s, beating Houston and then losing to conference foe Villanova.

But the name "Hoyas" — whatever that name means — always retained its magic when mentioned in a basketball context. And recently, Georgetown has been back on the NCAA map.

And, tomorrow, you can re-live that old-time feeling on ESPN, which will televise the Big East match between the Hoyas and the visiting Pittsburgh Panthers at 11 a.m. (Central).

Pitt is undefeated (13-0) and ranked third in the nation behind top-ranked North Carolina and Big East rival Connecticut. Georgetown is ranked 11th in the country and boasts a record of 10-1.

In their most recent games, Pitt rallied to beat conference opponent Rutgers on New Year's Eve, and Georgetown upset UConn on Monday.

In most statistical categories, Pittsburgh seems to enjoy an advantage.

Neither team is among the leaders in scoring — Pitt is 45th in the nation, averaging almost 78 points per game, while Georgetown is 73rd in the country with an average of about 76 points per game.

That may be due, in part, to the fact that neither team is in the Top 100 in three-point shooting.

But Pitt has a huge advantage in rebounding, ranking 25th in the country with an average of 44 rebounds per game. Georgetown isn't even in the Top 100.

And the Panthers' advantage is even more pronounced in assists and field goals, both attempts and field goals made per game. Pitt is 14th in the country with nearly 18 assists per game, 21st in field goals with slightly more than 29 per game and 41st in field goal attempts (61.2 per game). Again, Georgetown didn't make the top 100 in any of those categories.

But Georgetown turned the tables on Pitt in free throws. The Hoyas are fourth in the nation in free throws made per game (20.8) and 11th in free throws attempted (27.6) while the Panthers failed to make the Top 100 in either category.

Georgetown also has outperformed Pittsburgh in steals, ranking 38th in the country (averaging 9 per game) while the Panthers are 62nd (with an average of 8.4). And the Hoyas are ahead of the Panthers in blocked shots per game, 4.7 to 4.2.

Pittsburgh, however, has been more efficient at avoiding turnovers. The Panthers have averaged less than a dozen turnovers per game while the Hoyas again are not in the Top 100.

On an individual level, Pittsburgh sophomore forward DeJuan Blair is 18th in the nation in field goal percentage (nearly 63%) and he's second in the nation in rebounds, with more than 13 per game. Senior guard Levance Fields is one of the nation's leaders in steals, averaging seven per outing.

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