JULIA HENNRIKUS/THE HOYA Senior guard Jabril Trawick, pictured at the Butler game, scored 10 points against the Bulldogs on Jan. 17. He is averaging 8.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game this season.
Senior guard Jabril Trawick, pictured at the Butler game, scored 10 points against the Bulldogs on Jan. 17. He is averaging 8.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game this season.

Five years ago, it would have been unfathomable for three of Georgetown’s first six conference games to be played against the likes of Butler, Creighton and Xavier. Although the Big East is halfway through its second season as a 10-team league, casual fans can still be forgiven for occasionally double checking to see who exactly is and is not in the conference.

Tonight, however, Georgetown (12-5, 4-2 Big East) will face a team that needs no introduction — No. 5 Villanova (17-1, 4-1 Big East). The Wildcats were unanimously chosen in the preseason to win the Big East and entered this season with the majority of a squad that spent long periods of time ranked in the top-10 last season before disappointing their supporters in both the conference and the NCAA tournaments.

So far this season, Villanova looks like a team determined to improve on last year’s accomplishments, notching wins in nonconference play against No. 17 Virginia Commonwealth University, Illinois, Michigan and Syracuse, and jumping to an early lead in the Big East standings.

The Wildcats are incredibly well rounded. They can control play on both ends of the floor, and they are second in the Big East in both points per game — 76.9 — and points allowed per game, 60.6.

Even more impressive, however, is the balance within the Wildcats’ offense, which mostly employs an eight-man rotation. Four players average double-digit points, but none more than senior guard Darrun Hilliard’s 13 per game. Three Villanova players score between 10 and 11 points: junior guard Dylan Ennis, sophomore guard Josh Hart and senior forward JayVaughn Pinkston, who average 10.7, 10.2 and 10 points per game, respectively.

Villanova also enjoys a company of shooters. Five Wildcats hit more than 36 percent of their three-point attempts, a group that does not include junior guard Ryan Arcidiacono. The third-year starter battled a wrist injury early in the season, but he seems to have returned to form recently, hitting 43 percent of his deep balls since Big East play began.

Given Villanova’s combination of experience and shooting, the team is also careful to share the ball, evidenced by the team’s impressive tally of 16.7 assists per game — good for 16th most in the country. Moreover, the Wildcats demonstrate other skills that complement their sharp shooting, including their ability to crash the offensive glass and earn trips to the free throw line. In short, it is an offense with no significant weaknesses.

However, in spite of the team’s many offensive strengths, Villanova is not unbeatable. The Wildcats are 1-1 on the road in the Big East, with their lone loss of the season being a 66-61 overtime defeat at the hands of Seton Hall on Jan. 3. The loss came on the worst shooting day of the year for the Wildcats — they made just 31 percent of their field goals and 5-of-24 shots from behind the arc.

For the Hoyas to have a chance to pull the upset tonight, they will likely have to do something even Seton Hall could not — slow down junior forward Daniel Ochefu. The 6-foot-11-inch Ochefu put up a video game-like 19 points and 24 rebounds in Villanova’s loss to Seton Hall and has recorded three double-doubles in his last five games. Ochefu rarely gets into foul trouble, which is crucial for Villanova, whose next tallest rotation player is the 6-foot-7-inch Pinkston. If the Hoyas can draw a few early fouls on Ochefu, guarding senior center Joshua Smith could turn into a matchup nightmare for the Wildcats.

The game will be Georgetown’s third of the season against a top-10 opponent. The previous two saw the Hoyas blow a nine-point lead in the final 12 minutes against No. 2 Wisconsin and falter at the end against No. 10 Kansas. The Big East currently has the second highest RPI of any conference, but Monday’s game and a trip to Villanova on Feb. 7 will likely be Georgetown’s only opportunities to beat a highly ranked team before the NCAA Tournament. Beating Villanova on Monday would provide a significant boost to Georgetown’s resume, which is void of both bad losses and head-turning wins.

Georgetown will be confident coming off a thrilling 61-59 victory over Butler on Saturday. The Hoyas are not the type to be intimidated by the Wildcats or their ranking; there is too much history in the rivalry for that. Villanova is no Big East newcomer, and the Georgetown players know what is in store.

“We gotta play tough because they’re going to come in, they’re going to be aggressive, they’re going to be right at us,” senior guard Jabril Trawick said. “We just gotta be ready to play, keep playing Georgetown basketball and grind it out.”

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