I really enjoy the Q&As with opposing blogs and had a chance to do one recently with Andrew over at Casual Hoya, SB Nation's awesome Georgetown blog in advance of Saturday's big game. While the Providence game certainly makes me feel a little better about Pitt (particularly good to see Tray Woodall break out), I'm still not all that enthusiastic about matching up against what might be the best team in the Big East.
Can Pitt win? Sure. But I'd still call it an upset and while I think the game will be close, it's hard for me to pick Pitt to win this one.
Here are his answers to some of my questions. Be sure to head over there and watch for my answers to his questions.
Cardiac Hill: Is Georgetown the best team in the Big East right now?
Casual Hoya: At the midway point of the Big East schedule the Hoyas are a top 4 team in the conference and a strong contender for a 1st round bye in the Big East Tournament. For Hoyas fans, this is much better than we could have imagined heading into this season which was supposed to be a transition year during which most of the college hoops pundits predicted Georgetown to finish 10th in the conference. So, is Georgetown the best team in the Big East? Probably not. But I’m not going to suggest that a team that plays its home games in Canada and didn’t play its first true road game until January and just announced an alternate gray uniform is either.
Cardiac Hill: Georgetown is playing some of the best defense I've seen in a while. Pitt's offense traditionally hasn't been able to keep up with the defense in the Jamie Dixon era and I always worried about how far Pitt could go with a mediocre offense. Georgetown reminds me a bit of some of the recent Pitt teams in that respect. How far do you think the Hoyas can go in the NCAAs with their current style of play?
Casual Hoya: I think you are right to say the defense we are playing is significantly better than previous years. I think JT3 has proven himself to be an excellent offensive coach who has struggled teaching defense and rebounding, so it feels like he made a conscious switch in recruiting to find players who are excellent defensively and can be taught offense. Players like Austin Freeman were superb offensively coming into school but never got better defensively, whereas you look at our current freshmen and guys like Jabril Trawick and Greg Whittington really get after it defensively but will take some time to get there fully on the offensive side. Just so we're clear, I am thrilled with this change in mentality. This year we have had some excellent offensive games shooting the ball (Memphis, Marquette, Cincinnati) and some truly atrocious shooting efforts (Rutgers, Providence). I think we will get better offensively by the time tournament play rolls around, and as long as we can keep up the effort on defense, no reason to think we can't get to the Sweet 16. From there, as you know, it comes down to luck of the draw and things bouncing the right way. But if we've learned anything, our teams under JT3 that can play defense (2006-2008 versions) fare much better in tournament play than those that don't (2009-2011 versions).
Cardiac Hill: The Hoyas have found themselves on the winning end of a lot of close games, having won four by three points or less. They've lost a few, too, but have really come out on the winning side more often than not. Does that concern you at all once the tourney rolls around or do you look at it as more of an advantage since they know how to close games out?
Casual Hoya: Advantage, advantage, advantage. The Hoyas are a young squad and we have been extremely impressed with how they have composed themselves in tight games, especially on neutral sites or on the road. In Maui the Hoyas took Kansas down to the wire and beat Memphis in overtime, and impressively withstood a furious late charge from Louisville to beat the then 4th ranked team at that ridiculously named Yum! Center. Georgetown’s early season success in close games, including the recent win at home against Rutgers, will certainly be a plus for them heading into March as I’d much rather have a battle tested group on the floor in a one or two possession game than a bunch of guys who have cruised to wins all season.
Cardiac Hill: What's the biggest area of need, in your opinion, for Georgetown to go deep into the tourney?
Casual Hoya: Limiting turnovers. A lot of the close games alluded to above may not have been so close had Georgetown not allowed the opponent to stick around by throwing balls into their laps. Right now players try too hard to make the extra pass, which often leads to easy transition buckets for opponents. Luckily, fixing this problems comes with more in-game experience.
Cardiac Hill: I always like to ask a Big East related type of question when I do these, so ... What are your thoughts on the Big East makeup right now? Are you encouraged by the recent additions? And ultimately, would you rather see a split by the basketball-only schools?
Casual Hoya: I am not encouraged by the recent additions, but I am content. I think conference realignment is far from over, there is still plenty more money to be made by destroying traditional rivalries. I think the big movers in the past year (ahem Pitt and Cuse) will be left standing when the music stops playing. I very much look forward to that day.Basketball-only makes sense if all of its members were in small cities with on campus arenas. Unfortunately, this is not the case and the Athletic Departments of all non-football schools in the Big East depend solely on the TV contracts only a big conference can bring. Georgetown just needs to continue playing good basketball. They will be fine.
Casual Hoya: Yikes. I think that Pitt is better than its 1-6 record in the Big East would indicate, but that’s not going to make me feel any better if the Hoyas leave the Zoo with a loss on Saturday. There’s something just a bit off with Pitt this season – no one other than Gibbs is a real threat on offense, the defense has been decidedly un-Pitt like, and maybe there are some underlying chemistry issues that resulted in Khem Birch leaving the team. That being said, I expect that Pitt will want to win this game badly to start climbing the Big East standings, but I just don’t think they will win it. Hoyas 71 – Pitt 67.
Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt football and basketball.