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Georgetown will be Tide's biggest challenge yet

The Crimson Tide basketball team will welcome Big East power Georgetown to Coleman Coliseum tonight for its most high-profile home game of the early non-conference schedule. Tip off is set for 8:30 pm CST, with the game televised nationally on ESPN2. As always, we'll have our live game thread here at RBR for those who wish to comment.

The folks from Casual Hoya were kind enough to offer their thoughts on the game and their team yesterday, so if you haven't checked that out yet, be sure to do so for a nice look at the game and for a preview of which Georgetown players to watch for.

This year's Georgetown squad entered the season with lower expectations than normal, having lost three of their top players--Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Julian Vaughn--from a year ago. However, while the Hoyas may have fewer "big names" this year, they have looked very impressive as a team thus far. They have beaten all four mid-majors they have faced convincingly, and they split two very close games out in Maui with top-15 teams Kansas (lost by 4) and Memphis (won in OT). It appears as though coach John Thompson III has yet another team ready to compete at the top of the Big East.

Not only is Georgetown likely a top-25 caliber team in their own right, and not only have they already proven twice in Hawaii that they can take down a top-15 team, but the Hoyas also appear to match up really well with Alabama. The most obvious aspect is size. Five out of the eight players in Georgetown's primary playing rotation are 6'8" or taller, and they usually have three players of that size on the court at all times. Alabama, as we all know, is severely lacking in size with center Moussa Gueye still recovering from ACL surgery. None of the opponents Bama has faced thus far have had a size advantage anywhere close to this, so not only will Alabama's ability to score, defend and rebound in the paint against their size play a huge role in deciding tonight's outcome, but it will also be a good indicator of how well Bama will be able to overcome size advantages for the rest of the season.

Another area in which Georgetown matches up well is their offensive style. For starters, they have been superb in avoiding turnovers, something that Alabama's defense typically thrives on, and something that typically allows Alabama's offense to get easy looks in transition. Turnovers won't come easily tonight. The Hoyas also employ a version of the Princeton-style motion offense that utilizes a lot of screens and back-door cuts against overly aggressive defenses. Alabama's defense loves to play aggressive, and with the size disadvantage noted above, Alabama could be especially susceptible to back-door cuts and pick-and-rolls.

Most importantly, Georgetown's length could give the Tide offense, which has certainly struggled at times in halfcourt sets, a difficult time. As we already mentioned, Bama may not get as many transition looks as usual, and so execution in the halfcourt offense will be an even bigger factor for the Tide. This is where Georgetown's length can really make it more difficult for an Alabama team that relies so much on scoring in the paint. Looks will not come easily inside for Green or Mitchell, and even when guards like Releford and Lacey drive to the rim, shots will be contested.

Playing a top-25 caliber team like Georgetown is always tough, even at home--and make no mistake about it, they aren't getting the love in the polls yet because the expectations were lower preseason, but this appears to be a very good Georgetown team and I was very impressed watching them play Kansas and Memphis in the Maui tournament. Their overall strength is enough to test any team, but when you look at the matchup advantages I mentioned above, the task becomes even taller. Bama has beaten some solid teams this year (Wichita State and VCU) and one possibly good team (Purdue), but none of those teams had the size and matchup advantages Georgetown will bring. Alabama may need to play its best game of the season to win tonight. Hope for the best.