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Games That Matter: Season Preview

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Ten Questions for Patrick Ewing and the Hoyas

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Georgetown Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Season Preview – The 2017-18 Georgetown Hoyas

Nothing is the same...

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-St. John's vs Georgetown Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

...and yet everything seems familiar.

Georgetown Introduce Patrick Ewing Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

I’ll be honest. The events of the last seven months still leave a bad taste in my mouth. I liked and respected JTIII; whether or not he deserved to lose his job, the whole damn thing went down like a never-ending terrible Latin soap opera. I feel like we all need to take a collective shower to wash off the stank of all that drama once and for all. Like this:

But alas. In what has felt like the most interminable offseason in the history of this once mighty program, the days of internal strife, speculation and head-shaking are blissfully behind us, and now there is nothing to do but just sit back and watch basketball again.

There’s no need to rehash the last several months. Suffice it to say that things are different. The world turned upside down.

you thought you were getting a Hamilton picture, didn’t you?

JTIII is gone. And so is his modified Princeton offense that, for better or worse, had become such a staple of this program for 13 years. Our two leading scorers, Rodney Pryor and L.J. Peak, are gone. Our favorite transfers, Isaac Copeland and Paul White, are still gone. So is Bradley Hayes, and Tre Campbell, and Akoy Agau, and Reggie Cameron, and even Sports Information Director Mex Carey. The Verizon Center? Now it’s called Capital One Arena. Hooray?

And yet, everything is still somehow the same. Pops is still around, Ronnie Thompson and his ridiculous ties are back, and the prodigal son, Patrick Ewing, has returned. The program has moved from one son of a legend who repeatedly assured everyone that he was “comfortable in his own skin” to a former BMOC and virtual son of a legend who has already told the masses that he too is comfortable in his own skin and “his own man”.

Some are nervous about what the new hires, new coaching philosophies, new players and new schedule will mean for the trajectory of our beloved Hoyas. Others are cautiously hopeful and eagerly awaiting what is expected to be a difficult road ahead. The rest of us are just looking forward to watching some games again.

Before this season kicks off in grand style this Sunday at the The Phone Booth The Vault...

Here is a look at ten key questions that will determine just how far we can go….

Ten Questions

How will Patrick Ewing adjust to the college game?

Patrick Ewing has been a leader and a BMOC, a grinder and student of the game, a coach and mentor, and a guy whose drive and passion are undeniable - the man took no prisoners as a player, even if they were his best friends.

He served as an assistant in the NBA for as many years as he played. And while he’s certainly been the focal point and leader of others on the court, he’s never served as a head coach at any level. The head job is different, and so is the college game.

The track record of former NBA players taking top jobs for college programs is uneven at best. But Ewing is different, they say. And maybe (hopefully) he is. But until Big Pat has had a year under his belt to deal with the media, the recruiting nonsense, the scouting reports, and daily annoyances that will inevitably follow, we will not know for sure.

What is Big Pat’s coaching philosophy?

yes, I realize Tecmo Bowl is a football game

The Princeton offense is gone. The patient, methodical back cuts and backdoor passes, along with position-less basketball, will no longer feature prominently. But what will our style of play resemble?

Given everything we have heard about Coach Ewing’s rigorous conditioning and training regimen, it’s easy to assume our guys will be running up and down the court. It’s also fair to say that there will be a renewed commitment to rebounding and defense. But beyond that, how will Ewing’s desire for a pro-style offense translate to the college level, especially when our current roster has so many missing pieces?

Will we harken back to the days of the 80s and just decide to press the sh*t out of everyone? I kind of hope so, but it’ll be hard to do that with this year’s depleted roster. The kids want to see what our style of play will be before they commit en masse. We’re pretty interested too.

Can anyone on this team shoot?

This is a serious question. It’s all well and good that we want to spread the floor and run a pro-style offense, but to do so effectively, we need guys who can hit shots from the perimeter. With Peak and Pryor no longer on the roster, who will step up?

Mulmore’s high-arcing threes were sometimes nice surprises, but he couldn’t knock them down on a consistent basis. And Jagan Mosely shot a woeful 24% from beyond the arc last season. Derrickson and Govan have a nice touch, but in Ewing’s new offense, how likely is it that these two bangers will float around the perimeter? If I had to guess, I’d say that our offense will feature a lot of high ball screens, penetration from Mulmore, Mosely and incoming transfer Trey Dickerson, with some of our bigs looking for open looks on the perimeter. But in the absence of a reliable long-range bomber, how can we keep defenses honest and prevent them from sagging?

So many questions.

Will we finally stop fouling people?

as obvious of a foul as there ever was

For the love of Comrade Hopkins (who may or may not have influenced the election), please let us stop having one of the worst foul rates in the country. I don’t want my eyes to bleed anymore. With Rutherford and Reggie gone, a new conditioning program, and new defensive sets and schemes, I don’t think our foul rate can possibly get any worse.

But then again, a lot of crazy nonsense has happened in the last year, so who the eff knows?

How will the new guys look?

Get excited about Jamorko Pickett.

The 6’-7’’ freshman from our nation’s capital is one of the more well-rounded players we have had in a number of years. Pickett will almost certainly start and LEAD THE CHARGE, and he’s a threat to do a bit of everything for this team. His signing was perhaps the biggest coup of the offseason.

Less is known about the other newcomers. Trey Dickerson, a redshirt senior transfer from Queens, is a 6’-0’’ point guard who is known as more of a slasher and facilitator than a scorer.

He should provide some leadership for an otherwise young team, but it’s a bit unclear how he will split time in the backcourt with Mulmore and Mosely.

Antwan Walker, a 6’-9’’ newcomer who also hails from our nation’s capital, is a holdover commit from JTIII who is supposed to be very athletic.

Expect to see an active guy who blocks shots and isn’t afraid to go hard to the basket.

And then there’s Jahvon “Juggy” Blair, a 6’-3’’ freshman from Ontario, who went under the radar until this past summer, when he was highly touted and pursued by a number of high-major programs.

He’s a bit of a wild card on this team. During Kenner League play, he showed that he could light it up, but it remains to be seen where he will fit in this season. He’s the sort of guy who can (and maybe should) start, but with so many similar pieces in the backcourt, he’ll more likely end up among a core group of rotation players. Either way, get excited for the Jiggy and Juggy Show. It sounds fun, so hopefully the tandem plays well together.

But wait, there’s more. Chris Sodom, anyone? He’s a 7’-3’’ Nigerian prince.

Ok, he’s not a prince, but he’s tall as f*ck. He runs like a gazelle, he blocks shots and he dunks.

The rest is a bit of a work in progress, but I’m cool with that. If only we had a guy on our staff who has a track record of coaching big men….

Will we beat Syracuse?

Obvi.

Saturday, December 16th. It might be the one and only time we have more than 3,000 people attend a home game. The last time Jim Boeheim coached a game in this arena, he suffered the worst loss of his career. The score was 61-39. It was glorious. My, how things have changed. Except for the beating Syracuse thing. We’re still good at that.

Do we have any reasonable chance to shock the world and make the NCAA Tourney?

Unfortunately, no. Our dreadful slate of non-conference games – which features the likes of Jacksonville, Mount Saint Mary’s, Maryland Eastern-Shore, Maine, Coppin State, Howard, NC A&T, North Texas, and Alabama A&M – is one of the worst non-conference schedules by any power conference team in the last two decades. This is not intended to be hyperbolic. After withdrawing from the highly-anticipated PK80 tournament in Portland and replacing those games with the worst of the worst, we have removed any reasonable chance we will have of competing in the Big Dance.

This is not rocket science. Even if you’re the type of person who favors softer schedules during rebuilding years, you can’t line up more than a couple of opponents who are among the 30 worst teams in the country. In our case, we are sure to face at least six or seven of those teams. JTIII never shied away from scheduling tough games, which meant that even when our team was bad, we were never far from the bubble. This year, we are doomed before the season begins, and I’m not sure we’ve been in this position at any point in time in the last 25 years.

I hate to harp on this point, but I feel strongly about it. We can run the table during non-conference play (the games at Richmond and home vs. Cuse will be challenging, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that we will prevail), but even if we exceed expectations during Big East play and finish somewhere close to .500, we will have no chance to dance. If you want an easy schedule, then play games against mediocre teams (but not the worst of the worst), and mix it up with a few road/neutral contests. In this case, we’ll have ample opportunity to beat up on lesser opponents, build confidence of younger players and perhaps garner some headlines, but let’s not kid ourselves. We have zero chance to go to the Tourney. And our weak strength of schedule will likely prevent the Big East from sending an extra team or two.

You’re welcome, Big East. Hoya Paranoia is back.

Will our juniors look the same?

No matter how you look at this team, it’s pretty certain that Marcus Derrickson and Jessie Govan will feature prominently and need to play major roles for an otherwise young and rebuilding squad. In the last two years, some have asked whether these two guys would look any better if used in different offensive schemes. Well, now we’ll get to find out.

The knock on Jessie has been that he doesn’t have enough of a motor, he uses his hands too much on defense, and he spends too much time floating around the perimeter instead of banging down low in the paint. If Patrick Chewing knows anything, he knows how to coach big men (see: Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Yao Ming, Dwight Howard). And the players have made clear that they’ve been running and training harder than ever before. I think it’s fair to say that Govan will no longer be perfecting spin moves at the top of the key at the end of the shot clock. But will he emerge as a back-to-the-basket force? Will he become an unstoppable beast down low? And if so, how will any of this impact his feathery touch from beyond the arc? These Jessie questions are intriguing.

And what about the good MD? In his first two seasons on the Hilltop, Marcus has been a role player best known for his ability to step back and hit threes. While many expected him to break out during his sophomore campaign, injuries derailed his performance a year ago. This year, he will have no choice. Marcus will start and be on the court all of the time. Without bangers like Hayes and Agau, he will need to score and rebound in the paint. Will he evolve into a more well-rounded player? I can’t wait to find out.

And finally, there’s Kaleb Johnson. The jumpy tweener is known as an active and athletic defender, but he never seemed to find his groove in JTIII’s more plodding offensive sets. With more room to run and press and slash, will Kaleb have the freedom he needs to shine? More importantly, will he finally start making his damn free throws?

How will we define success?

Excellent question. Everyone knows this rebuilding process will take time. Success in the college game is (shocker!) all about getting players and winning games. With recent high-level commits from the likes of Jamorko Pickett, Mac McClung, Grayson Carter and Josh LeBlanc, we’re off to an inspiring start. But will we finally land some top 50 players? I don’t care if Big Pat is charismatic or active on Twitter. I just want him to attract talent, develop that talent, and win some damn games.

Will we win the national championship this year?

Yes, we will win the national championship this season. Screw you, Leicester City. This underdog has more bite.

What’s up, Brian?

And so it begins….

Let's go Hoyas. Beat Jacksonville.