The 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis set a very positive precedent for the 2014-15 Wisconsin Badgers. Winning the tournament gave the team its first of four trophies -- one each for the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles, plus UW's second straight NCAA West Regional championship.
Part of Wisconsin's great start in the Bahamas was a gritty, three-point victory over Georgetown. It turned out to be one of the most hard-fought games of the entire season. One year later, the Badgers need a repeat performance against the Hoyas to shift them into high gear entering a brutally tough stretch of non-conference foes.
Wisconsin's 2-1 start has been uneven, but Georgetown (0-2) needs a win even more. The Hoyas gave Maryland all it could handle Tuesday night on the road and head to this weekend's 2K Classic Benefiting Wounded Warrior Project at Madison Square Garden a bit more tested than the Badgers. The Hoyas are big and strong as usual, and suprisingly balanced thanks to the play of senior center Bradley Hayes.
Welcome Casual Hoya's Andrew Geiger back to B5Q for some more Georgetown insights as we fire up the grill for the first time this year.
B5Q: Both Wisconsin and Georgetown already suffered embarrassing home upsets. Tell us what happened against Radford.
Casual Hoya (Andrew): After the impressive showing in the loss to Maryland, I think it’s safe to say that the Radford performance was simply a result of coming out flat against an opponent the team probably didn’t respect. That’s not a justifiable excuse since that shouldn’t happen against anyone, but the Hoyas didn’t appear to have half the juice they had against Maryland so that’s my best guess. The good news, and I suppose it will be the same for your beloved Badgers, is that it was the first game of the season and getting that kind of wake-up call early in the season can only help going forward.
B5Q: The Badgers have opened the season with mixed success in three cupcake games. How much do you think Georgetown's experience playing a tight game against Maryland will help them against Wisconsin on Friday?
CH: Oodles and oodles! The Hoyas took the third-ranked team in the country to the wire in a true road game, and though the outcome wasn’t what Hoyas fans had hoped, I do think it should help the team down the road in similar atmospheres and in tight games. I hope that the game against you dudes at MSG won’t be as back and forth down the stretch as these sorts of games aren’t good for my blood pressure and general well-being, but the Maryland game should provide the guys with enough lessons to close out games against good opponents. Aside from the Maryland game, I also think the memory of Georgetown’s game against Wisconsin last year in the Battle for Atlantis will help tons, as that was a game that Georgetown led by 9 with just about 10 minutes left and gave away.
B5Q: Josh Smith's graduation literally left a huge void in the middle, opening the door for 7-foot senior Bradley Hayes to come out of nowhere. Hayes has been a stud so far, averaging 17.5 points and 10 rebounds per game. Did you expect this from him so fast? How's his defense?
CH: In a word, HELL NO! Hayes has been a marvel, and I’m still not sure whether he’s for real or whether this is some sort of magic carpet he’s riding and the clock is about to strike midnight. I may have just confused Disney films, but the point is that the rise of Hayes has been a surprising bright spot for this team that heading into this season had a big question mark at the center spot. The downside to Hayes is his athleticism, which hurts the team on defense to an extent as he’s slow to rotate and requires help. Hayes has had really good performances in three of his last four games where he’s gotten 10+ minutes going back to the NCAA Tournament last season, and though I think most of us figured it was simply due to the competition (Eastern Washington, Radford), the game against Maryland was certainly an eye opener. Keep it up, Hayes!
B5Q: Because these two teams met around this time just a year ago, Badger fans will be familiar with a few faces on the roster, particularly D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera. What are some ways this Georgetown team is different, for better or worse, from last year's team? How do you see the Hoyas' strengths matching up with the Badgers?
CH: To be honest I’m not that familiar with this crop of Badgers as I know you guys lost a lot after last season, but as far as Georgetown is concerned you’re going to see more of the same you saw against us last season, except the impressive freshman class is now a year older and the Hoyas have more offensive weapons. In addition to DSR, the Badgers will need to account for sophomores Isaac Copeland and LJ Peak, freshman Marcus Derrickson and the aforementioned second coming of Patrick Ewing in center Bradley Hayes. I think this team is a probably a tad worse defensively at this point after losing defensive stoppers Jabril Trawick and Aaron Bowen to graduation, but there are more options on offense now which is certainly casual.
B5Q: I suspect Smith-Rivera will have his way inside and out, but is there anyone else whom Wisconsin absolutely cannot afford to lose track of from the perimeter?
CH: Other than DSR I think Georgetown’s best perimeter guys are Isaac Copeland (excellent mid-range game and can hit from three), sophomore point guard Tre Campbell (didn’t play in the 2nd half against Maryland due to an illness which probably cost us the game), and freshman stretch-four Marcus Derrickson, a big body who scored 13 points and grabbed 6 boards against the Terps. Derrickson’s performance against the Terps was a real eye opener after his relative no-show against Radford, so if he can contribute similar going forward the Hoyas are going to be tough to guard.
B5Q: Will sophomore Paul White be ready to play Friday or is his hip injury still an issue?
CH: I hope so, my dude, I hope so. White has warmed up before each of the first two games of this season but didn’t give it a go, which tells me that he’s close to returning. He’s not going to light up the scoreboard or anything even if he does play, but he’s a solid glue guy that contributes on both ends, and he can even play point forward if need be. Bottom line is that the Hoyas are a much better team with Paul White playing 15+ minutes per game, and his presence at MSG would be very nice thank you very much.
B5Q: Georgetown has forged plenty of history in Madison Square Garden during its time in the Big East. Do you have a favorite 'Hoyas in the Garden' memory?
CH: Oh, man. I have seen a bunch of Hoyas games at the Garden but the one that comes to mind first was actually a loss -- the '95-'96 Big East Championship against Ray Allen and UConn. Great game, intense old school Big East crowd. Honorable mention goes to the Big East final against Pitt in ’06-‘07 where I saw the Hoyas cut down the nets, and probably the game before that one when Jeff Green went bonkers and the Hoyas took down Notre Dame in the final seconds. The Garden is great.
B5Q: Care to make a prediction?
CH: Sure! The Hoyas will ride the wave of upside from the narrow loss against Maryland and churn out a hard fought 68 – 59 victory over the Badgers. I think this season the Hoyas have enough weapons to put points on the scoreboard and the defense should be good enough to hold down Nigel Hayes.
Give Andrew a follow on Twitter @CasualHoya and strap in for a great weekend of hoops. The Badgers certainly have their work cut out for them.
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