After vastly exceeding expectations in the regular season and earning a No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA tournament, Georgetown (23-8, 12-6 Big East) opens tournament play at 3:10 p.m. today in Columbus, Ohio. Awaiting the Hoyas is No. 14 seed Belmont (27-7, 16-2 Atlantic Sun), which earned a tournament bid after winning the regular and conference tournament titles.

The last time these two teams met was in the 2007 NCAA tournament, when the No. 2-seeded Blue and Gray started their run to the Final Four in style with a 25-point thumping of the Bruins.

This year Belmont enters the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country. The Bruins have ripped off 14 straight wins, 11 by double digits, since a one-point loss to USC Upstate on Jan. 21.

Winning big has been a theme for the Bruins this year, as they have used a potent offensive attack to outscore opponents by over 19 points per game in their 27 wins. The Bruins averaged 81.5 points per game — good for fourth in the country — and scored over 60 points in all 34 games they played this year. By contrast, the Hoyas scored just 69.1 points per game and won four games this year with less than 60 points.

Belmont Head Coach Rick Byrd’s squad is a deep one, as four players average at least 10 points per game and a fifth averages 9.8 per contest. The headliner is junior guard Kerron Johnson, who leads the team with 14.1 points per game while also averaging a team-high 5.2 assists per game. Unlike several of his teammates, Johnson isn’t a deadeye three-point shooter at 32 percent, but he has made more than 60 percent of his shots from inside the arc and has gotten to the line nearly 200 times on the year.

Johnson’s backcourt mates — junior Ian Clark and senior Drew Hanlen — are the second- and third-leading scorers on the team, averaging 12.7 and 10.9 points per game, respectively. The 5-foot-11 Hanlen, who had never shot over 37 percent from beyond the arc until this year, currently leads the team with 91 threes on 189 attempts (48 percent). Clark is no slouch from deep either, as he made 88 threes at a still-impressive 41 percent clip. By contrast, Georgetown junior forward Hollis Thompson led the Hoyas with 55 makes from three-point land.

The Bruins’ frontcourt is dangerous as well, as senior Scott Saunders averages over 10 points and five rebounds per contest despite playing just over 17 minutes per game. Saunders is joined by classmate Mick Hedgepeth down low for Belmont. Hedgepeth’s numbers have slipped a bit since a stellar sophomore year, but he still snags six rebounds per game and scores nearly 10 points per contest on efficient 53 percent shooting.

Belmont’s admittedly weak schedule featured just two tournament teams — Duke and Memphis — but the Bruins played both of those teams on the road and acquitted themselves well. They opened the season with a one-point loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium before fading down the stretch against the Tigers after playing them close for 30 minutes.

If Georgetown is able to slow the game down, the Bruins will be in trouble. The Blue and Gray’s length and athleticism have been giving teams fits all year, as they finished second to South Florida in Big East scoring defense at 59 points per game. Ultimately, if the Blue and Gray can control the pace of the game it would take a Jordan Theodore or Armon Bassett-esque performance from one of the Bruins’ many shooters for the Hoyas to tumble to their fourth consecutive NCAA tournament loss.

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