Games That Matter: Georgetown Hoyas Season Preview

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Season Preview - The 2013-14 Georgetown Hoyas

I'm not ready for this season to begin.  It's too early.  But then again, the season always starts too early.  And frankly,  I can't get the bitter taste of Michael Carter-Williams out of my mouth, so we might as well get things started so that we can all put last season's "surprisingly awesome, yay we crushed Syracuse, but oh wait, not so awesome, oh crap we just lost to Florida Gulf Coast" season behind us.  And then the nightmares will end, for some of us.

With the season about to start on Friday evening, or Saturday morning (Korea time), it's time for a quick and dirty preview prior to Breakfast in the DMZ.  Away we go...

Ten Key Questions

Who will replace Otto Porter?

I mean, seriously.  This is the question every two-bit sports reporter is asking.  And they're right.  How can we possibly replace Otto's 1.5 turnovers per game, and dammit, who can we count on to feed Washington's homeless (http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/basketball/wizards-rookie-buys-homeless-man-sandwich-article-1.1480771)?  The short answer is "no one" and "everyone" (which is probably one of the most cliché things I've ever written, but whatever).  Otto led the Hoyas in points per game, rebounds per game, steals per game and free throws.  In case you forgot, he was pretty awesome.  Many had hoped Greg Whittington would fill the void, at least in part, but now that Cool Whitt is out with a Cool ACL injury, it looks like we'll need a total team effort to fill Otto's production.  Short recap: Otto is gone and we will need to replace him.  But that's okay.  Last year we needed to replace three of our top producers - Hollis Thompson, Jason Clark and Henry Sims - and we ended up faring pretty well.  I'm looking forward to seeing who steps up.

Will we use a three-guard lineup?

We all know that JTIII hates discussing his players in terms of positions.  He prides himself on finding athletes who know how to play the game and he doesn't care if they neatly slide into the "3" position.  But we also know that JTIII has recently displayed an affinity for LENGTH and he loves the versatility of wing players.  He prefers big lineups because they lead to more rebounds, better perimeter defending, and tougher matchups for opposing squads.  When you have guys like Otto and Whitt, who play great defense and are equally adept at pounding the ball inside or shooting from the perimeter, our team looks so much better.

But with Otto's departure and Greg's injury, what does that mean for this year's Hoyas?  We more or less know that Markel, Jabril, Nate and Hopkins will start, but who will become our fifth starter?  On paper, you might think it would be DSR because we'll need his offensive production; but if DSR starts, that leaves us with a smallish lineup.  We succeeded last year with Mikael at the 5 because we had strong rebounders and interior defenders (Otto and Nate) at the 3 and 4 positions.  Without a big man at the small forward position, will we be a little thin up front?

DSR is himself a strong rebounder for his size, and we do need his offense, but my sense is that even if DSR starts at the beginning of the season, we'll eventually need more bulk in the lineup.  That could mean more of a role for freshman Reggie Cameron, incoming transfer Josh Smith, Moses Ayegba, or even Stephen Domingo.  This will remain a mystery, until it won't.  Either way, I'm sure we will have something to complain about.

Will Georgetown's defense be as good as last year's?

I hope so.  Over the last few years out defense has been outstanding.  JTIII deserves more credit for this.  His decision to switch back and forth between man-to-man and zone has worked extremely well (except, you know, when we gave up 54 points in one half against a #15 seed, but whatever, I'm over it).  It certainly helps when you can put four 6'8'' players on the court at the same time, as we did last year when we frequently had Otto, Hop, Whitt and Nate all playing together.  This year will be tougher, particularly if we use more smaller lineups, but I still expect the same tenacity from our guys.

But here's what terrifies me: this new NCAA rule on hand-checking.  The Rules Committee has decided, for whatever terrible reason, that this beautiful game is somehow not fluid enough, and that there is too much physicality and too few points.  Following a season with the lowest average scoring since the 1981-82 season, the Rules Committee decided to tinker with things.  Call me crazy, but I like teams that play like the 1994 New York Knicks.  I like hand-checking and great, hard-nosed defense.  This rule will have the effect of leading to more fouls, more free throws, and an even less fluid game than before.  And really, the rule will only benefit teams like North Carolina or others in the ACC or PAC-12 (that rarely play any defense anyway).

More to the point, this rule could really hurt players like Jabril, in-your-face defenders who go after the ball.  When Jabril picks up two cheap fouls in the first five minutes of a game, we'll all be yelling and screaming.  The Rules Committee should leave well enough alone.  But whatever, more shooting opportunities and less defense will mean more points, and that will primarily help the ACC, and that will lead to higher ratings, which will help ESPN....and, oh yeah, now it all makes sense.  Money.

How good are the newcomers?

I'm looking at you, Josh Smith and Reggie Cameron.

We've all heard Smith's story by now.  A former McDonald's All-American, the 6'10'' wide body let his ballooning weight get the better of him before deciding to transfer to the Hilltop, where he miraculously earned immediate eligibility (and therefore will be allowed to play a combined total of 4.5 years).  When Smith is good, he plays like Mike Sweetney (college).  When Smith is overweight, he has trouble getting up and down the court and plays like Mike Sweetney (post-college).  Full disclosure: I'm not as high on Smith as most people are.  Some people still think he has the potential to be a lottery pick, and while it's true that he has surprisingly good hands and a nice feel for the game, my last impression of him was when he was stumbling down the court at the Barclays Center last November when we punished UCLA, so I'll believe it when I see it.  He won't start right away.  He still needs to work on his conditioning.  I expect him to eventually contribute 15-20 minutes per game and help us out on the glass.  He also should be one of our better passers.  If we get anything more, fantastic.  I would love to have another Mike Sweetney on this squad.  Better to be surprised than disappointed.

Reggie Cameron, a 6'7'' freshman from Hackensack, NJ, is a bit of a wild card.  He has a solid reputation as a scorer, and he has the ability to shoot from beyond the arc, but he will likely need some time to adjust to Georgetown's style of play, bulk up, and improve his defense.  If he plays well, Cameron could fill in very nicely at the small forward position as a, dare I say, DaJuan Summers type of player.  If he's still a little rough around the edges, he'll split time with Domingo, Bowen and others until he improves.  If the Hoyas have any hopes of winning the inaugural season of the New Big East, they really need Cameron to step up.

How much will we miss our old Big East friends?

Hmm.  On the one hand, good riddance to those jerks who decided to run off to Tobacco Road for a few extra bucks.  On the other hand, have you seen this year's home schedule?  Yikes.  Really looking forward to that tremendous home tilt against the Blue Demons! (But seriously, I am excited to have a basketball-only conference with a true round-robin format....it should be fun.  It'll just be a little bit more difficult to get fired up for the likes of Providence and Creighton, but whatever....money happens.)

I will say this: I will no longer be conflicted AT ALL when I see teams like Pitt, ND and Syracuse playing non-conference games.  I will no longer wonder if I should be cheering on these fellow rivals to improve our conference RPI.  Because now I want them all to lose, always and forever, near and far, close and together.

Will Fox Sports 1 be any good?

I'll be honest.  I was rooting for that NBC Sports contract.  I love what NBC has done with its coverage of the English Premier League.  And speaking of the Premier League, for those of you who watch soccer, how many of you think Arsenal reminds you of Georgetown?  Both have offenses that depend on reads and are probably too pretty and intricate for their own good.  But when Arsenal puts together a series of short passes up the middle and dribbles it way to the back of the net, or when the Hoyas connect on a back door pass, they're beautiful to watch. Both teams are elite-level squads that have the ability to beat anyone, but have shown in recent years that they can also lose to inferior opponents.  And both teams, ultimately, rely on their defense to have any chance of being really successful.  Anyway, watch soccer.  It's good for you.

Back to Fox Sports, here's why you should be excited.  The combination of Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery will be unstoppable.  It could be the greatest broadcasting duo in the history of professional sports (I'm being serious).  The combination of "Onions" and "The Slipper Still Fits!" might effing explode through your television screen.  Raftery spent 31 years with ESPN and immediately bolted when he realized that the new and improved Big East, with its true round-robin style, and its storied home at Madison Square Garden, will continue to be awesome.  Or maybe he just didn't want to travel to Winston-Salem and Clemson all the time.  He'd much rather fly to Omaha and Milwaukee.

Will this finally be the year that we press?

I doubt it.  I ask this question every year, and every year I am mildly disappointed.  With our long lineup last year, we gave it a shot in the beginning of the season, and it worked fairly well, but once Whitt went down, we were a bit undermanned to employ it regularly.  But here's the thing.  We still have pretty decent length, really good athletes, and a fair amount of depth, so why not give it a chance?  The hand-checking rule may limit our desire to play in-your-face defense, but against smaller, inferior opponents, it might make sense.  Why?  So that when we fall behind to another inferior opponent in the first round of the Tourney, we can turn it up a notch, press the hell out of ‘em, and regain our swagger.  That's why.

Will Greg Whittington make his triumphant return to glory?

I remain optimistic, even though I have no reason whatsoever to think that he will suit up.  BUT OMG, I WOULD LOVE TO SEE HIM DEFEND THE CRAP OUT OF ANDREW WIGGINS.  For now, we'll all sit back and wonder whether his recovery will resemble that of Adrian Peterson's or Derrick Rose's.  He should obviously take his time and wait until he's back at full strength, but if and when he's ready, and that happens to be sometime in January, then yes, I would love to see him return.  The "FREE GREG WHITTINGTON" mantra will continue in perpetuity until we finally see The Problem of Greg resolved.  In the meantime, Greg, ice your knee, work on those lateral drills, hit the weights, and show up for your damned flash mob finals.

Why do we keep losing early in March?

There are lots of reasons, and plenty of people have written about this issue.  Here are my two cents: saying "it's the system" is unoriginal and probably wrong.  Our style of offense is to blame only insofar as it limits the overall number of offensive possessions, and therefore gives us fewer opportunities to exploit our talent against inferior opponents (and also gives them more time to hang around).  But this is nothing new, nor is it the sole reason for our March woes.  If it were, then why are we so successful against nonconference, inferior teams in November and December?

My sense is that our lackluster performances can be attributed to some combination of the following: the aforementioned fewer offensive possessions per game, (surprisingly) poor defense, not enough free throws, over-reliance on perimeter shooting, and too many of our key players getting into foul trouble (we get called for ticky-tack hand-check fouls once we complete conference play).  We've also played some sneaky good, underrated teams.  Davidson, VCU, NC State and even FGCU were no slouches.  And yes, we also tend to miss an awful lot of three-pointers.

What does all of this mean?  I have no idea.  I want to vomit.

Side note: Now that we've all had an offseason to digest those two painful end-of-season losses to Syracuse and FGCU, here's something to chew on.  Comrade Hopkins, who was often a work in progress as Georgetown's undersized center last season, had arguably his best game of the season against Syracuse at the Garden (15 points, 8 rebounds, zero turnovers).  He doesn't get recognition for that performance because, well, we lost.  But before you get excited, you may also want to remember that against FGCU, Hopkins didn't score a single basket and committed three turnovers.

Or how about this?  Remember DSR?  In our final two games last season - losses to Syracuse and FGCU - DSR played a combined 62 minutes and had a grand total of four baskets while missing all ten of his three-point attempts.

Has Michael Carter-Williams surpassed Kobe Bryant as the most hated player in the NBA?

Yes.

Preview of Friday Night's Game:

The Hoyas kick off the 2013-14 epic march to glory with a game against the quacking Ducks of Oregon, the preseason #18 team in the country, in the Armed Forces Classic outside of Seoul.  Oregon, which has eight newcomers, is coming off of a solid season in which it won the PAC-12 Tourney and advanced to the Sweet 16, before ultimately losing to the eventual national champions.

Oregon is an interesting team because it has a lot of veteran talent, including recent transfers Joseph Young and Mike Moser, but loses four of its five leading contributors from last season.  Gone are E.J. Singler (Kyle's brother), Carlos Emory, Arsalan Kazemi and Tony Woods; now the Ducks will rely on a bevy of electric guards, such as 6'5'' sophomore Damyean Dotson (11.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and 5'8'' senior Johnathan Loyd (5.0 ppg, 2.9 apg), along with the aforementioned transfers Young and Moser.

The key question is whether it will be easier for Georgetown, which returns four starters, to replace Otto Porter's production, or whether Oregon, which returns only one starter but has a lot of offensive firepower, to discover team chemistry and proper roles this early in the season.  The Hoyas are probably getting the Ducks at the best possible time.  Not only will it be a challenge for Oregon to find its way after losing so many veteran contributors, but it will also have to do so without two key players - 6'1'' sophomore Dominic Artis (8.5 ppg) and 6'8'' sophomore Ben Carter - who have both been suspended for Friday night's game.  That will leave Oregon a little thin, especially in the frontcourt, as the Ducks will really have to rely on Moser and Waverly Austin, a 6'11'' senior, who has often struggled.

CAMP HUMPHREYS!

In case you forgot, this game will be played at Camp Humphreys, a U.S. army garrison outside of Seoul that will soon become the largest garrison in Asia.  Per Wikipedia: "the abundant moisture is responsible for most of the fog and stratus which occurs in this area."  Good thing this game won't be played on a boat.  Instead, it will be played in the Camp's massive facility.  How massive?  I invite you to check Wikipedia. My jaw dropped several times.  Here are some fun facts:

Camp Humphreys is home to a 72,000 square foot concession mall with laundry and dry cleaning services, a barber shop, a florist, a movie theater, and a BIG-ASS FOOD COURT that includes Popeye's, Taco Bell, Anthony's Pizza, Subway, Baskin Robbins, Pizza Hut and a place called Charley's Steakery.  Another restaurant, Alaska Mining Company, has MONGOLIAN BBQ THURSDAYS.  But wait, kids, there's more. There's a bowling alley called "Strike Zone" (unlimited games for $10 on Tuesday nights) and COSMIC BOWLING on Fridays and Saturdays. And please don't forget about the arts and crafts room, the indoor pool, the ski tours and the complimentary Wii.  There is also a POLAR BEAR SWIM at the Splish & Splash Water Park every winter and a children's WATER FORT.  But how silly of me!  I almost forgot about the laser tag, remote control car racing, paintball options, Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments and mother/daughter teas.

Camp Humphreys was featured in the movie "World War Z".  The gist of the movie is basically that some guy travels the world to prevent a zombie-like pandemic.   

And oh, in case you were wondering, the Camp also has a SUPER GYM.  So no, I don't think we have to worry about condensation on a slippery makeshift basketball court on a stinking ship.  Instead, the real challenge will be trying to avoid food poisoning from the Mongolian BBQ and ZOMBIES.

P.S. Why don't we just ask the Pentagon to fund the IAC?  I would love to play in a water fort.

Keys to the Game:

1. Guarding the Perimeter: Even without Dominic Artis, Oregon still has one of the better backcourts in the country.  Joseph Young and Damyean Dotson are really good, and the undersized Loyd will help with his ability to penetrate and locate open shooters (he averaged just under three assists per game last season).  The Ducks won't hesitate to shoot, so Markel and Jabril will need to be locked in.  If the Ducks struggle from the perimeter, they'll be in a lot of trouble.

2. Hand Checks: I don't think it's an overstatement to say that this game could very well be decided by hand checks.  In the preseason, coaches have complained repeatedly that the officials' new focus on hand checks will lead to more fouls and a much less fluid game (which, ironically, is the opposite of what the NCAA intended).  If Jabril picks up two quick nonsense fouls, we'll all be annoyed.  Our guys need to be careful. Lots of fouls could be called in this one.  Be smart, and if Oregon gets whistled, we need to make our damn free throws.

3. The Fifth Starter:  We basically know that Markel, Jabril, Nate and Hopkins will start.  But who will be #5?  We could use DSR's offense, but that would leave us a little undersized (although not necessarily against this Oregon team), or we could go in another direction and start Reggie Cameron or Josh Smith or Stephen Domingo or Moses Ayegba.  My money's on DSR, but this will be a work in progress.  I doubt we'll continue to have a three-guard lineup for long.

4. The Interior Battle:  Mike Moser is Oregon's best post player and it shouldn't even be close.  Hopkins, Nate, Moses and Josh Smoove need to hold serve, while at the same time scoring some of their own points in the paint.  We should have a decided advantage on the inside, especially since Oregon will be without Ben Carter.  Let's see what our big fellas can do.


5. Breakfast of Champions:  If my calculations are correct, this game will be played at 10:30am, Korea time.  That's kind of ridiculous.  How will the teams be affected by the early start time?  It's kind of bizarre that they're starting this thing so early.  They couldn't wait a couple of hours?  Oh right, I forgot about ESPN and ratings and money.  My favorite.

I haven't been able to shake those painful memories of Syracuse celebrating at the Verizon Center en route to the Final Four, or of FGCU players doing their silly dances while stepping on our throats.  I'm ready for this damn season to start.  I have no idea what to expect, so for now I'll just assume that we'll lose.  Or that we'll win by 50.  Either way, see you at cosmic bowling after the game!


Let's go Hoyas.  Beat Oregon.



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