After missing the NCAA tournament in two of the past three years, the Georgetown men’s basketball team has an eye toward fortifying its résumé as frequently as possible. The early portion of the Hoyas’ Big East schedule allows them to do so.
Georgetown (8-5) faces No. 17 Xavier on Saturday morning in its conference home opener, marking the first of three consecutive games against opponents ranked in the ratings percentage index top 44. The NCAA tournament committee uses the RPI in part to determine a school’s tournament worthiness.
The Musketeers (11-2) are fifth in the RPI and among six Big East teams ranked inside the top 50 in that category. The others are Villanova (first), Creighton (fourth), Butler (15th), Seton Hall (31st) and Providence (44th). Georgetown faces the Friars on the road Wednesday night and the Bulldogs at Verizon Center on Jan. 7.
“In this league, every game, every other game, you’re going to get that opportunity because this league is so strong,” Hoyas Coach John Thompson III said following practice Friday afternoon. “That’s the beauty and the curse of the Big East. There’s no easy games.”
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The Hoyas had a particularly rough go in their Big East opener against Marquette on Wednesday. Not only did they lose, 77-66, but starting guard L.J. Peak played just 22 minutes because of a groin strain suffered in practice. The junior, who made just 1 of 8 shots, is Georgetown’s second-leading scorer (15.9) and averages nearly 33 minutes, the most on the team.
Peak declared himself close to 100 percent, although Thompson indicated he and the Hoyas’ medical staff would be paying special attention to Peak throughout Saturday’s game to make certain the ailment doesn’t become more serious.
Peak has started all 13 games this season.
“Some guys, they break a fingernail, and they’re saying, ‘I’m hurt. I can’t go,’ ” Thompson said. “L.J. will be on his death bed before he says, ‘Coach, I can’t go.’ I had a long talk with him after the [Marquette] game. ‘You’ve got to be honest with me and let me know how you’re feeling.’ That’s something we’re definitely going to watch because he’s not one to tell you, ‘I’m not right.’ ”
Among the more glaring breakdowns against the Golden Eagles were the team’s 15 turnovers. Georgetown is averaging close to 16 over its past three games and ranks ninth out of 10 teams in the Big East in turnover margin (minus-0.08). Seton Hall is the only other team in the conference with a negative turnover margin.
Graduate guard Rodney Pryor committed a team-high four turnovers against Marquette but led Georgetown with 23 points, making 9 of 18 shots overall and 4 of 9 from three-point range in 39 minutes. A dozen of the Hoyas’ turnovers came from their guards.
“I think our pace was pretty slow. Our cuts weren’t the way they needed to be,” Pryor said. “The flow of our offense wasn’t the way it needed to be and kind of made our defense lag a little bit.”
The Musketeers lead the Big East in rebounding margin (plus-9.1), and they are getting uncommonly robust contributions from guards Trevon Bluiett, Edmond Sumner and J.P. Macura. Bluiett is second in rebounding (5.8) and leads the Musketeers in scoring (19.1).
Bluiett scored 22 points to lead Xavier to an 82-56 romp over Providence on Wednesday night. It was the Musketeers’ largest margin of victory in a Big East game since they joined the conference four seasons ago.