West Virginia (17-15) at Georgetown (17-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 18, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Verizon Center (18,277) -- Washington, D.C. Television: ESPN. NIT Record: West Virginia 21-15, Georgetown 14-12. Series Record: Georgetown leads, 26-25.
GAME NOTES: Former Big East Conference foes collide in the first round of the 2014 National Invitation Tournament, as the Georgetown Hoyas host the West Virginia Mountaineers at the Verizon Center.
These teams once competed as foes in the Big East, prior to West Virginia's move to the Big 12 in 2012. The rivalry was always a hotly-contested one, with the Hoyas holding a slim 26-25 edge in the all-time series.
Whichever team comes out on top this time will move on to face either Florida State or Florida Gulf Coast in the next round.
West Virginia, which is one of four No. 5 seeds in the tournament, has a number of impressive wins on its resume' this season. The Mountaineers defeated Baylor, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Kansas, all NCAA Tournament squads, during the regular season, but they were inconsistent. They lost four of their final six games and ended up at 17-14 heading into the Big 12 Tournament, where they lost in the quarterfinals to Texas (66-49). The Mountaineers are returning to the NIT, an event they have won twice previously (1942, 2007).
Georgetown had a similar campaign, topping NCAA Tournament teams like Michigan State, Providence and Creighton, but only managing a 17-14 record overall, which includes a 60-56 loss to DePaul in the Big East Tournament. The Hoyas, who lost five of their last seven games, are 14-12 all-time in the NIT and will compete as one of four No. 4 seeds.
Not much went right offensively for West Virginia against Texas in their Big 12 Tournament matchup. The Mountaineers had only 14 points at halftime and wound up shooting just 30.3 percent from the field. They were unable to get to the free-throw line very often, with only five attempts in the contest.
Juwan Staten (18 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 5.8 apg) is the leader of the team and was considered one of the real contenders for Big 12 Player of the Year. He had to settle for a spot on the All-Big 12 First Team after ranking second in the conference in both scoring and assists. Eron Harris (17.4 ppg) serves as an effective second option to Staten, although he does not contribute as much in other areas (3.5 apg, 1.6 rpg). The Mountaineers are a bit too reliant on Staten and Harris, however, with Terry Henderson (11.6 ppg) the only other double-digit scorer on the roster.
D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera had 21 points and Markel Starks tacked on 17, but the rest of the supporting cast for the Hoyas really struggled against DePaul. The remaining players on the squad totaled all of 18 points, while the team shot 38.5 percent from the floor as a whole.
Starks (17.1 ppg, 4 apg) and Smith-Rivera (17 ppg) are used to carrying the load by themselves, as there is no other active player on the roster scoring in double figures. In fact, no other player is averaging more than 8.8 ppg. Starks handles the ball more than Smith-Rivera, as he runs the point for the methodical Hoyas offense. Smith-Rivera is a solid rebounder (4.9 rpg) despite playing out on the perimeter most of the time. Jabril Trawick (8.8 ppg) is another scoring guard for the traditionally frontcourt-heavy Hoyas. Mikael Hopkins (6.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.5 bpg) is the best option inside.
Carving out space on the interior may prove to be the deciding factor should Harris and Staten play to a standstill with Starks and Smith-Rivera. Georgetown has the slight edge in that area.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgetown 72, West Virginia 69
03/18 10:33:19 ET