CU vs Georgetown scouting report: How the Buffs match up in first round of NCAA tournament

No. 5 CU (22-8) vs. No. 12 Georgetown (13-12), 10:15 a.m. MT Saturday, Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, CBS

Who has the edge?

Guards

A three-time all-conference selection with 1,835 points, 669 assists and 635 rebounds to his name, there is no questioning the credentials of CU point guard McKinley Wright IV. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Georgetown freshman Dante Harris, who is just getting started in what looks to be a promising college career with averages of 10.3 points and 4.1 assists over his last 10 games — a stretch that saw the Hoyas go 8-2.

The matchup to watch, however, may very well be Eli Parquet on Georgetown’s Jahvon Blair. The 6-4 senior guard is one of the Hoyas’ most dangerous scorers, a left-handed shooter who is both a catch-and-shoot and dribble-drive threat, and has recently taken to coming off the bench. That’s exactly the sort of assignment Parquet, a Pac-12 all-defense pick, has thrived on.

Edge: Buffs

Wings

D’Shawn Schwartz unlocks the CU offense when he’s right, knocking down 3s, punishing defenders off the bounce and attacking the rim with his long, athletic 6-7 frame. It’s no coincidence the Buffs are 9-2 when he scores in double figures. Transfer Jeriah Horne has been a revelation as a clutch shooter and reliable rebounder, while a cast of characters including Maddox Daniels and Tristan da Silva provide uncommon depth.

They will have their hands full with Denver South product Chudier Bile and 6-9 senior Jamorko Pickett. The latter is a pick-and-pop threat (37.7% from 3) who stretches the floor and can crash the boards with his long frame. The 6-7 Bile is a dangerous shooter in his own right who has come into his own down the stretch, averaging 12.6 points and 5.9 rebounds on 42.4% shooting from 3 in his last 14 games. That just so happens to coincide with when the Hoyas (10-4 during that time) turned their season around.

Edge: Even

Big men

Starters Evan Battey and Dallas Walton have been rock solid all season, providing a finishing touch around the rim, uncommonly proficient strokes from the free-throw line and sturdy defense in the paint. Freshman Jabari Walker, who can also be cast as a wing in a pinch, is a spark off the bench who occasionally steps out knocks down 3s.

The challenge will be keeping Georgetown sophomore Qudus Wahab off the glass and away from the rim. The 6-11 Nigerian is shooting 59.1% from the field the season, with pretty much all of his offense coming in the paint. And he, along with Pickett, is one of the main reasons the Hoyas are 56th in the nation in offensive rebounds per game and 38th in rebound margin.

Edge: Even

Coaching

CU coach Tad Boyle’s eighth 20-win season in 11 years in Boulder comes after the program saw its tournament dreams dashed last year when the event was canceled by the coronavirus pandemic. For all his success at CU, Boyle’s only won one tournament game in four previous appearances, and now he faces off against coach Patrick Ewing and storied Georgetown.

While Ewing had a decorated playing career, including a national title as the Hoyas’ All-American center back in the 1980s, this is his first trip to the Big Dance in four years as head coach. And it took a miraculous run through the Big East tournament, with victories over Marquette, Villanova, Seton Hall and Creighton, to make that happen. Could it be that he’s got his team peaking at the right time?

Edge: Buffs

Three things to watch

Going South

Colorado hoops heads might remember a familiar face in the Hoyas’ starting lineup. Chudier Bile, a graduate transfer, played his prep ball at Denver South. He took the long road to the NCAA Tournament, having previously played at Otero Junior College and Northwestern State before transferring to Georgetown. This year, he’s averaging 10.2 points and 5.1 rebounds in 24 games.

Make some noise

What’s CU’s mindset coming into the tournament? Boyle says the Buffs are not just happy to be at the tournament for the first time since 2016 — they want to make some noise. Junior Evan Battey echoed similar sentiments. “We respect everybody and fear nobody. We’ve been built for this, and we got our work cut out for us, but we are prepared to be in this position.”

Resilient Buffs

The Buffs are fresh off a devastating two-point loss to Oregon State in the title game of the Pac-12 tournament. But, CU reeled off six straight wins before that and has only lost consecutive games once this season — Feb. 13 and 18 at Cal and Oregon, respectively.

Tad on Georgetown

On offense: “They’re a true inside-out team,” Boyle said. “They’ve got the Wahab kid inside, who’s a really good low post scorer, but they’ve also got guys surrounding him who can shoot the three… If you look at their scoring, they’ve got four guys averaging in double figures, and the guys who aren’t in double figures are right there.”

On defense: Georgetown doesn’t have an abundance of depth, but Boyle said they upped their pressure down the stretch of the season. The Hoyas are averaging 5.9 steals and 3.9 blocks per game. “They held all four of their opponents in the Big East tournament to less than 40% field goal shooting, so they’re obviously guarding better than they were earlier in the year,” Boyle said.

Buffs’ key to victory: Wright has to live up to the standard he’s set all season as one of the nation’s top point guards. And CU’s array of bigs can’t be afraid to push the tempo, as Boyle believes the Buffs “got a little tired” in the paint in the Pac-12 title loss to Oregon State. “We’ve got to run the Georgetown bigs, or any bigs we play against,” Boyle said. “The more we do that, the better we are.”

Predictions

Mark Kiszla, sports columnist: CU 73, Georgetown 72

The first step in making a deep tourney run is often the hardest. McKinley Wright IV and the Buffs find a way to survive and advance.

Sean Keeler, sports columnist: CU 68, Georgetown 64

Teams that can force 1-and-done offensive possessions and make their free throws tend to dance on. Bracketville is all about upperclassmen. Eventually, McKinley Wright IV and Evan Battey get to the line enough to put the game to bed.

Kyle Newman, sports reporter: CU 74, Georgetown 68

The Buffs get double-digit scoring out of McKinley Wright IV and Evan Battey, plus key defensive stops late, for Tad Boyle’s second NCAA Tournament win.

Matt Schubert, deputy sports editor: CU 75, Georgetown 67

The Hoyas are hot enough to stay with CU through 30 minutes. But at that point, the Buffs’ depth proves too much for a Georgetown team a week removed from playing four games in four days.

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