Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hoyas Clear a Hurdle - Wait Who?

College basketball anyone?

In the shadows of this McNabb character and the doomed Redskin season, the Georgetown Hoyas have gotten off to an important start. 2-0 is nothing to scream about, especially when one of the wins is over Tulane, but the Hoyas went on the road in game #1 and beat a frisky Old Dominion team.

ODU's nickname is the Monarchs, the same as a former WNBA team, so maybe can creep up on people thanks to that (and yes, I was unaware the Monarchs franchise no longer exists until I found that link, cross my heart). But they have been a solid squad for a few years, and were an 11-seed in last year's NCAAs. These same manly Monarchs have been a thorn in the Hoyas side, beating them in 2 of their last 3 meetings, including last year to snap an 8-game Hoyas win streak to start the season, and 2 games after Gtown beat almost-champion Butler.

The manly Monarchs may be down a little this year, but going there on the road and winning is no joke. Sure, an early loss isn't a huge deal, but the Hoyas have a tough out-of-conference schedule this year, where we travel to #14 Missouri, #20 Temple, and #19 Memphis all by December 23rd. There is no Duke on the schedule, but that is a gauntlet. Opening with a loss to ODU could have set a really bad tone and put this team in an irreversible spin.

Given that I completely skipped a preview, here is all you need to know. The Hoyas return everyone except Greg Monroe. Yes, he was the team's best player and a lottery pick, but Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, and Jason Clark are back, and the team might be ever so slightly deeper thanks to some maturing players and the addition of freshman Nate Lubick. Local product Markel Starks and Moses Ayegba (who as a raw semi-unknown African big man sounds like he's the guy from the Air Up There) combine to form the rest of the recruiting class, but neither will see major minutes this year. Preseason awards are beyond stupid, but Freeman is the Big East Preseason Player of the year, and Wright is preseason 2nd team All-Big East. More importantly, the Hoyas are picked to finish 4th in the conference behind #5 Pitt, #6 Villanova, and #10 Syracuse.

So what do I predict for the Hoyas this year? The team is still thin, with no scoring coming from outside the Wright, Freeman, Clark trio, so an injury to any of them would be devastating. I think the #20 ranking sounds about right, which would be a #5 seed in the NCAAs. Just quickly looking at the rankings, I see a few teams ahead of the Hoyas who I don't think are as good as the AP, ESPN, and US Today say they are, but I also am not totally buying Gtown's stock yet. I think they'll be 20-8 overall going into the Big East tournament, which is almost identical to last year's 20-9 record, and get a 5th seed in the tourney. Ho hum.

The bigger picture is that Wright, Freeman, and Julian Vaughn are all seniors, so next year's team looks awful, with Clark the only surefire good player. Unless Lubick makes a sudden dramatic improvement, this program will take a major step backward, as the recruiting class is not highly ranked while St. John's, 'Cuse, Louisville, and Rutgers (?) all have top-20 classes right now.

JT3's work the past couple seasons has left a little something to be desired, so a step backward could be a major problem. He will get plenty of slack, but this program can't go into a multi-year swoon. I think the Hoyas' performance this season could have a far-reaching impact on JT3 and the team's immediate next few season; an underachieving season just can't happen.

(Image courtesy of washingtonpost.com)

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