The other day a friend emailed me and asked, now that Hoya Madness had come and gone, how I was feeling about the Hoyas this season. I thought about it and have been thinking about it since and honestly, I have no idea how I feel about them going into the season.
I haven't followed the team as closely this offseason. This is partly because I needed a break from the stress of dwelling on the team every waking moment and partly because life just goes on and other things came up. I do think that even if I had, I still wouldn’t have a solid read on our outlook. Even though DSR is the only player (who actually played) no longer on the team, it sure feels like a lot has changed.
We have three new players, at least two of whom seem almost guaranteed to play big minutes. Our lone returning, starting senior plays a position where he is almost certainly the second best option at said position. We have a collection of sophomores and juniors who might be the most talented collection of players on campus at the same time, but haven’t managed to put it all together. (Of course, the Cynical reply to that is “well, maybe they just aren’t as good as we thought” and well, that could be true too!)
I just don't know how Coach is going to use all of the pieces. Last year, we knew DSR, LJ Peak, Isaac Copeland, and Bradley Hayes were going to start. This year? Rodney Pryor seems like a sure thing and so does Cope, but after that? I got no idea. Maybe Coach loved Peak off the bench; maybe Marcus Derrickson doesn't have the defensive chops he's looking for out of a starter; maybe Jonathan Mulmore needs to start to be a game changer.
Then there is the question not only of how Coach divides up minutes, but how the Hoyas play this season. The coaching staff got an overhaul over the summer and Coach has talked at length about playing a new style and adapting his system. How much do things really change? How much does that change in style affect the outcome of games?
Beyond that, I’m really not sure what even all of our players are capable of at this point. We all thought our sophomore class last year (this year’s juniors) would make a major leap between their freshman and sophomore year. But outside of one or two games from Cope and a late season, off-the-bench surge from Peak (seriously, he had some GAMES late in the year), we didn’t get the jump we were expecting (ok “hoping for”). Could this be the season that they make that leap? Absolutely, especially given that Isaac was #2 on the team in basically every statistical category and LJ is probably still going to play starter’s minutes. Plus, we could see a leap from Jesse and Marcus and Kaleb as well. Or they could be merely just “better” than they were last year, which would still probably be good enough for the team to be better than last season.
Then you add in the three new guys. By all accounts, Pryor seems like he could be the leader of this team, but wasn’t that what we expected from DSR last season? What if the team has a similar feel to last season where it often seemed like they were deferring to a single player at times? Can Mulmore match some of his JuCo impact, if not in raw numbers (because come on he’s not going to average 24 points a game), then at least in some bunches each game? It seems like we won’t see as much of Jagan Mosely, but maybe he still provides a spark here and there off the bench?
All of that adds up to me really having no idea or feel for what's going to happen this season. There seem to be some pretty obvious reasons for optimism, but there are A LOT of questions going into this season; more than I would typically expect from a team that is returning like 80% of the minutes from last season. Maybe it was last season’s total collapse, but I can’t remember a time when I was so legitimately unsure of how the team was going to perform going into a season. Nor can I remember a time when the gulf between ceiling and floor seemed so wide.
One thing that has changed since my friend emailed me, however: my excitement levels. When I was first thinking about the season earlier this week, I wasn’t even sure I was excited. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but I really felt nothing about the coming season (VERY unfamiliar territory for this normally unhinged Hoya fan). But between the Thompson Center, Hoya Madness getting strong reviews, Tremont Waters’ commitment, and the new FIRE EMOJI uniforms (Casual is wrong about this and he should feel bad), I’m finally feeling excited for the season to be here. The unknowns are feeling less like the crushing weight of cynicism and ultimate end of the universe and more like endless opportunity and optimism. Expectations are low, the Hoyas are going to look fly as hell, and Syracuse still sucks. Anything is possible. Hoya dang Saxa, y’all.
(POSTSCRIPT: Look out for my post titled “Making sense of the 2016-2017 Georgetown Hoyas” on this same website in March of 2017 after whatever horrible end is in store for us this season.)