I've been know to pen an opus or two after rough endings to Hoyas' seasons and honestly, I wasn't really planning on doing that this year. Then this week happened and that plan went to shit. DSR's departure significantly alters our early outlook for next season and, as evidenced by the comment threads the past couple of days, raises a lot of questions about our basketball program right now.
Like most Georgetown fans this week, I have been all over the map in how I feel about the Hoyas right now and I've changed my mind on every aspect of the program five times throughout the week. And, frankly, I'll probably change my mind a thousand more times before next season (hell before the Final Four). With all of that said, here is how I'm feeling right now about the current state of the Hoyas and the future of the program.
- Let's get this out of the way early: I really hated watching Utah beat us and had no fun watching the Sweet 16. And I am really tired of our streak of not getting to the Sweet 16. But the loss to Utah was not a bad loss at all. By every objective measure, Utah was a better team than us all season long. You could argue that maybe they shouldn't have been based on some subjective "talent level" measure, but by the numbers, that team should have beaten us. I think we could have won and it wouldn't have been surprising if we had, but (and this is surprising given our recent tournament history) sometimes the better team just wins. They did. This was a game that we didn't win all season, no matter how close we played it. It has felt like a missed opportunity at times, but honestly, it wasn't a bad tournament loss. This isn't making an excuse for our dismal outside shooting or trying to paint the season as a rousing success, but a better team beat us and I've lost a lot less sleep this year than I did in years past.
- DSR made the right decision for him. We can argue the finer points or wish he came back, but I completely understand why he made the decision he made and 100% support him in it. I hope he surprises us all and gets drafted and has a long NBA career. I will always root for this kid, no matter where he ends up or what he ends up doing (save being a coach at Syracuse). Hoya Saxa DSR, Hoya Saxa.
- DSR's departure absolutely weakens our outlook for next season right now. And I think it will be a surprise if we make the Sweet 16 next season without him. But I'm not ready to call it a rebuilding year yet. With the addition of Jessie Govan, Marcus Derrickson, Kaleb Johnson, and eventually Akoy Agau, this is arguably the most talent (using the same subjective and arbitrary measures I hated on earlier) JTIII has ever had on campus at one time. Add to that the fact that the staff seems to be making all of the important phone calls and pushes on graduate transfers (hopefully landing at least one) and I think we're going to have a very talented group of players in the fold when next season starts.
- I have no idea how that talent will translate into play on the court. I have no idea how each of our current freshmen will improve their games as they become sophomores. I have no idea how that talented crop of newcomers will respond to the college game (or a lot more playing time in the case of Agau). I have no idea if Bradley Hayes can be a solid rotation player or, just maybe, something more than that. I don't know how we're going to get consistent stops as well as we did this year. All that said, I see a lot of reasons for optimism in this group and, with that much talent, I can't help letting myself feel like we're going to start next season with a fighter's chance in the Big East. I really believe in this current crop of rising sophomores and I think they're going to surprise people when next year gets started.
- The player movement that we've talked about over the past few days isn't concerning to me. It definitely feels like we've had more players transfer out than a normal major conference team and having three players with slim NBA Draft first-round hopes leave early definitely feels a little odd. But the past two recruiting classes that JTIII has brought in are among his best classes since taking over, he's landed two fairly important transfers in the past few years (Josh Smith and Agau), and we're in the mix for at least two important graduate transfers this offseason. We have a strong track record of lottery picks and an apparently wildly underrated group of four-year players in the JTIII era who all appear to be devoted to the program and their coach. Even the seemingly high rate of non-lottery pick underclassmen leaving the program early doesn't feel like a problem to me. As hard as I try I just can't find an actual pattern in the departures of DaJuan Summers, Hollis Thompson, and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera. They're all wildly different players with unique professional opportunities and prospects.
- 2016 is going to be a big recruiting year for JTIII and the Hoyas. Can JTIII keep his talented recruiting staff in place? Can the staff build on their current momentum in landing top recruits? What adjustments does the staff make in recruiting to improve backcourt recruiting? I'm optimistic that JTIII and his staff can accomplish all of these things and stay hot on the recruiting trail, but in my mind, recruiting is absolutely the biggest question mark for the program going forward. We need to settle into a more consistent rhythm on recruiting than we have in the past 5 years.
- Also on the recruiting front, The Thompson Center won't be around to help with recruiting in 2016, but the promise of it will and once we're recruiting with legitimate Division I facilities in 2017 and beyond, this program will be primed to stay in the national conversation year-in and year-out.
- Until we get back to the Sweet 16 (and really until we get back there on a consistent basis), there are going to be questions about JTIII and his system, particularly the offense. I've never bought into this line of questioning because I've seen the offense evolve and change from year to year based on the strengths of the team, but the fact remains that our offense is definitely more rigid than a Kentucky or a Kansas. I'll admit to having more questions about our program and our coach this offseason than I ever have before (including after VCU and FGCU), but I still (perhaps too stubbornly) don't really understand the criticism and negativity that exists around this team. Our March performances over the past 6 years have certainly been disappointing, but we are consistently in position to improve on our March performance. Setting aside 2009 and 2014, this team is always in a good position come March and no matter how horrible some of the individual performances have been, if we keep putting ourselves these types of positions, we're going to break through sooner or later. Why not next season?