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NCAA Tournament Preview Southwest Region - First Round (11) Virginia Commonwealth/Southern California vs. (6) Georgetown

Friday March 18 – Approximately 9:50 PM ET

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The Georgetown Hoyas will face the winner of an opening round contest between the Virginia Commonwealth Rams and Southern California Trojans in an NCAA Tournament Southwest Region first round contest Friday evening at the United Center in Chicago. Georgetown, which staggered to the finish line of the regular season, losing four games in a row and five of its last six to finish 21-10.  Georgetown was swept out of the Big East tournament in the opening round by eventual champion Connecticut.

Friday night presents an interesting challenge for the Hoyas, as they will not know who their opponent is until sometime after 11:00 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday night.  However, the winner of the VCU versus USC faces even more challenging circumstances, as they will have to travel from Dayton to Chicago following Wednesday night’s game, leaving minimal time for practice and preparation.  

The Hoyas will be making their fifth NCAA tournament appearance, and second in a row, under Coach John Thompson III.  Georgetown was routed by Ohio 97-83 in the first round of last year’s dance so the Hoyas will be seeking to erase that memory by surviving the opening weekend of the Big Dance.  The good news for the Hoyas is that senior point guard Chris Wright is expected to play on Friday night after missing three games - all Hoyas’ losses - with a broken left wrist.

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If Wright is in the lineup and close to full strength, the Hoyas will be able to better execute the modified Princeton offense that made them best-shooting team in the Big East during the regular season.  The Hoyas shot 47.8 percent from the field during the season, and scored 71.0 points per game.  Wright led the Hoyas with 5.3 assists per game while backcourt mate Austin Freeman paced the offense, scoring 17.9 points per game on 48.4 percent shooting from the field.  Junior guard Jason Clark chips in 12.1 points per game.  

VCU may pose the bigger challenge to the Hoyas, as the Rams style of play is somewhat similar to that of the Ohio team that upset Georgetown in last year’s dance.  Coach Shaka Smart’s team was 18-5 at one point this season, but struggled down the stretch, going 3-5 over an eight-game stretch before making a dramatic run to the CAA tournament championship game.  The Rams lost 70-65 to Old Dominion in the final, but finished with a 23-11 record to earn one of the final four at-large invites to the Big Dance.

Southern California barely made the field of 68, winning six of its final eight games to finish the season with a 19-14 record.  Trojans’ Coach Kevin O’Neill was suspended for the PAC-10 tournament and may be in jeopardy of losing his job.  Despite the presence of talented 6-10 frontcourt players Nicola Vucevic and Alex Stephenson, and go-go guard Jio Fontan, the Trojans are not a very good offensive team.  The fact they rank 240th in the nation in assists per game may have something to do with their struggles on offense.  

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer
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