Well it's finally go time.
They won't be slipping and sliding on the deck of a ship nor will they be playing in the Eastern Hemisphere. Instead your Georgetown Hoyas will be opening up the 2014-15 season at home for the first time since 2011 against the St. Francis (NY) Terriers.
So who are the Terriers?
While not exactly a household name, St. Francis is actually pretty good and if this game were being held in mid March at a neutral venue, most Hoya fans would be nervous. The Terriers are the preseason favorite to win the Northeast Conference, feature an all conference performer in senior forward Jalen Cannon, and just last season they knocked off Miami (FL) in their season opener. St. Francis also played Syracuse even for 39 minutes last season before falling by six - something that JT3 pointed out during a talk with the media on Tuesday afternoon at McDonough.
Terrier lowdown: Much like Georgetown, St. Francis will be integrating a bunch of new pieces this season. Besides Cannon, St. Francis has two more players that are capable of earning all-league honors and possibly causing the Hoyas problems on Saturday in point guard Brent Jones and forward/center Amdy Fall. Jones had a very steady season last year by dishing out 187 assists while the undersized Fall led the team in blocks and almost turned in triple double against Bryant with 21 points, nine rebounds, and ten blocks.
Fifth year Coach Glenn Braica will also be mixing in four JUCO players - guard Tyreek Jewell has the best shot at starting right away - and a guard that last played his basketball in Iceland for SC Keflavik (Gunnar Olafsson).
Bracia has St. Francis in the mix for their first NEC Championship. He's also looking to guide the school into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. The Terriers are one of five schools around since the inception of the Big Dance never to be invited.
Stats: The Terriers won 18 games last season thanks to a stingy defense. Against Georgetown they will really need to pack in a tight zone since they have zero players taller than 6-foot-7. The Hoyas feature six players 6-foot-8 or taller. St. Francis has 40 wins against schools in the BIG EAST with the most recent one coming in 2004 against St. John's.
OK so let's get to Georgetown.
The best thing about last season is that it's over. The worst thing is that Starks is gone after having an incredible campaign in which he did everything he possibly could to drag the Hoyas into the NCAA Tournament before coming up just short.
Ball handling: So without the aforementioned Starks the plan seems to be to let preseason BIG EAST Player of the Year D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera start the season at the point guard position. It will be interesting to see how much time JT3 gives to both Jabril Trawick and freshmen Tre Campbell at the one spot. It would seem really important to give Campbell as much time as possible before heading to the Bahamas. Teams will likely press the Hoyas without a true point guard in the starting lineup.
Smith is back: The last time we saw Josh Smith on the court at the Verizon Center Georgetown had just dismantled St. John's 77-60 on Jan. 4 in its most complete game of season to improve to 10-3 (2-0). Smith looks to be in better shape and from talking to him earlier in the week he's ready to get last season's bad taste out of his mouth.
"I'm extremely motivated," Smith said about his return to the court after more than ten months. I don't want to really dwell on the past but I let my teammates down, I missed half the season last year and I feel like I owe them a lot so I'm going to try and give them my all from the beginning."
While everybody knows that Georgetown is better with Smith eligible, he did have his problems last season. A very good passing big man who is going to be a problem for anybody in the country to guard on the block, Smith needs to improve his rebounding and defense. Last year in 13 games Smith had more fouls (46) than rebounds (44). Smith should - and needs to - do some damage on the glass against a smaller Terriers squad.
Starters: If DSR is to be believed - and we have no reason not to do so, JT3 trotted out the same starting five - DSR, Peak, Trawick, Hopkins, and Smith - in both of the closed door scrimmages against George Mason and Virginia. It's hard to argue against this starting five although it doesn't give you a lot of experience coming off the bench (Bowen). For what it's worth JT3 said that he could see himself changing up the lineups more often than normal this year because of the great depth.
Fab Five: OK that term is used far too often but JT3 does have a nice collection of newcomers as his disposal - LJ Peak, Tre Campbell, Paul White, Issac Copeland, and Trey Mourning. We should see all of them against St. Francis with most getting time in the first half.
Streaking: Georgetown has won 49 consecutive home non conference games at the Verizon Center - yeah we don't really have to count that snowstorm loss to ODU in 2009 at McDonough in our calculations. To get to the half century mark the Hoyas will have to knock off their 40th different opponent (victim) during this run and just the second school from the NEC (Mount St. Mary's).
Happiest Hoya? As anybody would imagine with such a long offseason, all of the players I spoke with this past week were both ready and excited for the new season to begin. That being said, nobody is more ready to play against fresh competition than Mikael Hopkins. The reason? He goes up against Josh Smith every day in practice.
Said Hopkins: "He's a mismatch for everybody in college, even myself - guys in practice - we all have a hard time guarding him. I'm happy the season is about to start so other people can feel my pain."
Reason to be delusional: JT3 is never over confident in public but he did throw this quote out there to us the other day.
"I'm really excited about this group that we have. I think at some point this year we're going to be very, very good. It may not be on Saturday, but at some point this year we're going to be very good."
So even if the season opener isn't a work of art, just know that it's coming.
Reason to be cynical: It might take awhile to mix in so many new pieces without a true point guard. DSR is clearly one of the better guards in the country but with his role changing and with five freshman, it could take awhile before the Hoya Train gets up to top speed. Throw in a game against a team picked to challenge for an NCAA Tournament bid and you might only need the edge of your seat on Saturday at the Verizon Center.
Final Thoughts: Aside from avenging that 25-point loss from 1954 and evening up the series at a game each, there's no real reason to dislike St. Francis. Hey they almost beat Syracuse last season remember?! Hoya fans can look for a 15-ish point win on Saturday and then root that Coach Braica does all he can to get the Terriers into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history, helping Georgetown's OOC resume in the process. Win, win.