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Gavitt Games Predictions

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

Today and tomorrow we’ve got four Gavitt Games tipping off, so here’s a quick preview of each of those four games, and what to expect. The Big East is off to a rocky 0-2 start, but there’s still a whole lot of ball to be played.

All games at listed times on FS1, EST.

Georgetown at Rutgers 8:30

The lone Gavitt Games matchup on Wednesday pins together two teams who haven’t started the season as well as either would’ve liked. Rutgers lost to Princeton in their opener and showed that they still have a lot of growing to do, even in their two ensuing wins over Boston University and Bryant. Meanwhile, Georgetown looked great in their season-opening win over a terrible Le Moyne team, then followed that up with a heartbreaking loss to Holy Cross.

Both teams have had bright spots, with Rutgers’ defense being as advertised and G/F Aundre Hyatt stepping up for the Scarlet Knights, while Georgetown’s young guards, Rowan Brumbaugh and Jayden Epps, have been excellent, combing to average 28.5PPG and 9.5APG. That said, both teams also have weaknesses that the other can exploit.

Rutgers’ guards have not played to their expectations this season. Rutgers was able to get UMass transfer Noah Fernandes out of the portal and expected big things from their starting PG. In three games, Fernandes is averaging 4.3PPG, 3RPG and 2APG, compared to his 13.4PPG and 4.1APG from a season ago. He’s shooting much worse from the floor too, at 25% FG and 28.6% from three.

Also for Rutgers, Sophomore Guard Derek Simpson was atop many breakout lists entering this season, mine included. He turned up at the end of last season and almost willed Rutgers to an NCAA Tournament bid. To start the season, Simpson has not been that same scorer. He’s averaging 5.3PPG (down from 7.1PPG last season) and is shooting only 21% from the field. Simpson was seen by many as a key offensive piece for this Scarlet Knights team, and he hasn’t been that. Rutgers needs their backcourt to step up if they are to surprise some people in the Big Ten.

As for the Hoyas, the defense and rebounding just haven’t been there. The Hoyas gave up 33 points and 11 rebounds to Holy Cross 6’4” G Joe Octave, both being career-highs and marking only the second double-double of his collegiate career. Georgetown was unable to stop Octave, as he was getting to the hoop at will and cleaning up on the offensive glass. The Hoyas switched 1-5 defensively and got exposed for that, something they can’t do against this Rutgers team (1-4 you could get away with possibly, more on that later). The Hoyas have been easy to blow by on straight-line drives, and that's something you can't give up against this Rutgers team.

Another area where the Hoyas got torched was on the glass. The Hoyas were unable to secure defensive rebounds down the stretch, giving up six offensive rebounds in the final 4:33 to Holy Cross, and losing the rebounding battle 41-31 against the Crusaders. After the game, Coach Cooley was quick to mention rebounding and questioning his team's toughness.

Against a big man like Cliff Omoruyi (Rutgers C, All-Big Ten Preseason First Team Selection), you cannot be weak inside. Omoruyi is a very physically imposing, tough 6’11” who averaged 9.6RPG last season, including thirteen double-doubles. He’s mean inside and is someone who will take your lunch money if you let him.

Neither team has elite depth, and both teams have glaring weaknesses. But in the end, at the RAC, I think Rutgers gets back on track. I think their guards are able to get downhill and Omoruyi presents significant interior problems for the Hoyas. I think he controls the glass and in turn, the game, as Rutgers is ahead by that 5-7 mark for the majority of the game, en route to a win. The Hoya guards would have to play excellently to steal this one on the road.

Rutgers 68, Georgetown 62

If you want a more in-depth preview, our excellent DMV based reporter Zach wrote this up, just click right here

Wisconsin at Providence 6:00 pm

I think this is the closest game of the entire event. Wisconsin is a different team this year, playing a little faster than they have in past years through two games. The Badgers were able to cruise past Arkansas State, before falling to a Top-Ten Tennessee team in their last game. Of note, former St. John’s Guard AJ Storr is now on the Badgers and is averaging 16PPG through two games.

The Badgers returned their entire starting five from a season ago and added Storr to the mix, making them a formidable foe. They’re tough to score on defensively and have been very efficient from the field through two games, shooting over 60% from inside the arc. He hasn’t gotten going yet this season, but Forward Tyler Wahl is another player to watch for the Badgers. Wahl was their late-game option last season and is a very sneaky player on the block with a wide array of moves. He’s not a high-volume scorer, but he’s efficient, shooting 72% from the field this season.

On the Providence side, their defensive length should cause real problems for Wisconsin. The defensive length for the Friars on the perimeter with Dual and Carter is going to cause nightmares for opposing Big East teams. Particularly if Dual is picking up Hepburn full court, that could really disrupt Wisconsin’s offense. Dual has been as good as advertised for these Friars, and a wing group of him, Carter and Hopkins will cause many problems for opposing defenses.

Against Wisconsin, Tennessee F Dalton Knecht had an excellent game, showing that’s a spot where you can attack their defense. Knecht had 24 points, shooting 8/15 from the field. Wisconsin had no matchup for his combination of size, speed and ability to rise up and hit tough shots. Bryce Hopkins should be another matchup problem for the Badgers, as Wisconsin hasn’t seen many guys with his combination of size, strength and athleticism in the Big Ten. Hopkins should be in line for a big game.

Lastly, Providence has been shooting a lot more threes this year. Through two games, the Friars have been attempting 27 threes a game, up from their 19.1 average a season ago. Despite that, the Friars are only shooting 29.6% from three, and Wisconsin’s defense prides itself on guarding the three-point line, only allowing opponents to shoot 23.7% from deep this season, and 31.6% a season ago, which ranked 57th nationally.

I think this game will be very close, and pretty low-scoring. I think it’s a very 50/50 game, but in the end, I think Wisconsin’s cohesiveness and three-point defense will be the difference in a very competitive game. Hopkins should get his, but I think the Badgers will find a way to make plays down the stretch. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if the Friars pulled away in this one.

Wisconsin 66, Providence 64 (I got this one wrong. Way wrong.)

Marquette at Illinois 8:00 pm

This is a very fun game. The main note is that Marquette star G Tyler Kolek is listed as a game-time decision due to his ankle injury. I think we all know how good the reigning Big East Player of the Year is, and how much he means to this Marquette team. Without him, it’s a completely different team. That said, I will write this preview as if he is playing, and if he doesn’t then of course everything changes.

Both teams have cruised their two cupcake opponents this season. Marquette was able to beat Northern Illinois by 20 and Rider by 30, while Illinois knocked off Eastern Illinois by 28 and Oakland by 11.

The key matchup in this game is Marquette’s elite offense vs Illinois's impressive defense. KenPom has Marquette’s offense as the fifth-ranked offense in the country, while Illinois's defense ranks fifteenth. Brad Underwood’s teams at Illinois have been defensive-minded and this team is no different. This season, Illinois opponents are shooting 34% from inside the arc (ranks fourth in the country) and 29% from deep. It’s very tough to get points on this Illinois team, but they haven’t faced an offense nearly as potent as Marquette’s.

This Marquette offense has gelled together over the years and is averaging 93.5PPG through two games. Marquette plays so well in ball screen actions with Kolek as the maestro, they find and exploit any matchup advantage they have with the best of them. In this game, Marquette will make Illinois big man Dain Dainja have to defend in space. Dainja is only averaging 15.5 minutes per game in Illinois' first two games, but I struggle to see how he can play that much in this spot. The 6’9” 270lb big man is incredibly physically imposing and is pretty nimble on the block, but in space, Oso should be able to carve him up. The Big Ten doesn’t have many bigs who can handle the ball as well as Oso, or who are nearly as versatile as Ighodaro, and that should be a matchup Marquette looks to exploit.

Illinois has gone with a smaller starting lineup in these past few games, running five wings out there. Illinois starts three 6’6” G/F, with the bigger Quincy Guerrier (6’8”) and Coleman Hawkins (6’10”, more natural as a PF) inside. I could see this size and length presenting some problems for Marquette. Particularly for Illinois, Terrance Shannon is a National Player of the Year Candidate with his elite scoring ability. He can score from everywhere on the floor, including being one of the best slashers in the country. Stevie Mitchell will likely be the one tasked with guarding the 6’6” Shannon who presents many problems for just about any team and will be a key player in this one.

However, this Illinois lineup struggles with outside shooting. Illinois has shot 31.3% and 25% from the three-point line in their first two games. This team is much better at getting to the basket and making plays from there. If Marquette can pack it in defensively and attack this Illinois defense in the pick-and-roll/spread offenses, I think they will cause real problems.

Especially with an elite PG like Kolek, Marquette should be able to control the pace and tempo of this game (Marquette wants to play much faster than Illinois who ranks 270 in adjusted tempo via KenPom), which makes me think they come away with an important road win.

Marquette 81, Illinois 75

Iowa at Creighton, 10:00 pm

The last two games should be competitive throughout, but I don’t think this one is. These are two very dynamic offenses, but Creighton’s offense is better, and the defenses aren’t even comparable.

Creighton’s offense has been firing on all cylinders this season, leading the country in two-point percentage (74.5%) and are top fifteen in three-point shooting percentage at 45.5%. Creighton’s offense has been an absolute thing of beauty, and that should continue in this game. Since 2017, Iowa’s defense has ranked 123, 242, 111, 97, 75, 80 and 168 on KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency in years past. This team hasn’t been able to figure it out on the defensive end, and this should be another spot where Creighton’s offense absolutely shines.

On the other end, Creighton’s defense ranks 19 in the country, headlined by an elite two-point defense, as opponents are shooting 39.8% inside the arc, ranking twenty-eighth in the country. Iowa’s offense has shined this season, as they are averaging 104PPG this season, but they haven’t played a defense like Creighton’s.

6’7” Junior Forward Payton Sandfort leads the Hawkeyes averaging 19PPG and 10.5RPG. He’s an excellent shooter (41.2% from three) and has taken a significant jump from his sophomore to junior season, as many projected. He’s the key to Iowa’s offense and could present this Creighton defense with some problems.

But I think one way teams will beat Creighton is by being the more physical and more athletic team, and I don’t think Iowa presents either of those problems. I think this game plays out exactly how Creighton wants it to, and their offensive and defensive balance wins out. Iowa will have nightmares guarding them defensively, as all five starters are capable of going for twenty on any given night. Kalkbrenner should have a field day inside, and I don’t think Iowa has any matchup for the wing duo of Alexander and Scheierman, or the floor spacing that both Traudt and Miller provide. Creighton by TKO.

Creighton 94, Iowa 76


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