The glistening Moda Center,
home of the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, provides a big-time setting for a big-time game that just might vault the Eastern Washington basketball program into the national spotlight for years to come.
The Eagles take on 22nd-ranked Georgetown in the second round of the NCAA tournament Thursday (approximately 7 pm, truTV, ESPN 700 Radio). A crowd of 17,000 or more, the largest ever to watch an Eagles basketball game, is expected to be on hand.
Eastern Washington (26-8), champion of the lightly regarded Big Sky Conference, is seeded 13th in the 16-team South Region. Georgetown (21-10), runner-up to second-ranked Villanova in the powerful Big East Conference, is seeded fourth. The Hoyas are a 7.5-point favorite in Las Vegas.
The Eagles rank among the most prolific 3-point shooting teams in the country, but defense can be something of an afterthought. The Hoyas are a bigger, more physical team that stresses defense.
Eastern and Georgetown players and coaches maintained a tournament tradition at Wednesday’s press conferences by making their opponent sound slightly less formidable than plutonium. Only a desert windstorm generates more hot air than an NCAA tournament press conference.
Online media created a buzz earlier in the day by running a headline that said Eastern coach Jim Hayford “guarantees” a victory over Georgetown. It turns out that Hayford was on the team bus when he predicted, “We’re gonna win,” during a national radio show.
“I knew the 15 guys (players) on the bus were listening to that,” Hayford said. “I want my team confident.”
10 POSITIVE NUMBERS FOR EWU
– National rank in points per game (80.8) among 345 Division I teams. Georgetown ranks 87th at 70.7.
– National rank in field-goal shooting percentage (48.0). Georgetown is 80th at 45.5.
– Years in the past 30 when at least one No. 13 seed defeated a No. 4 seed.
– Consecutive NCAA tournaments in which Georgetown has lost to a double-digit seed.
– Points per game for Division I scoring leader Tyler Harvey
Harvey’s 3-point field goals per game, which also leads Division I.
– Field-goal shooting percentage for Venky Jois, who ranks seventh in Division I.
– Difference in 3-point field goals by Eastern (335) and Georgetown (181).
– Blocked shots per game for Eastern, the same as Georgetown.
– Eastern and Georgetown victories this season against Indiana, their only common opponent.
10 NEGATIVE NUMBERS FOR EWU
– National rank in points allowed per game (73.6). Georgetown is 131st at 64.6.
– National rank in field-goal shooting percentage defense (44.9). Georgetown is 63rd at 40.3.
– National rank in strength of schedule, according to ESPN. Georgetown is 12th.
– National rank in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). Georgetown is 25th.
– Losses in 22 games against Top 25 teams. Eastern is 0-18 against Top 25 opponents (0-2 this season) since beating No. 10 Saint Joseph’s in 2001.
– Losses in 21 games played in front of crowds of 10,000 or more. The lone victory came this season at Indiana.
– Weight deficit the 6-foot-8, 230-pound Jois faces when guarding 6-10, 350-pound Georgetown center Joshua Smith. The latter starred at Kentwood High School in the Seattle suburb of Kent.
– NCAA tournament wins deficit Eastern faces when playing Georgetown. The Hoyas are 46-21 in 29 appearances. Eastern is 0-1, losing in 2004 to Oklahoma State.
– Years since a Big Sky team won a game in the tournament.
– National championships won by Georgetown. Patrick Ewing led the Hoyas to the title in 1984.