Once again, it’s time for another season of Georgetown Basketball!
Well, we think.
A fact we are all unfortunately well aware of is that 2020 is not a normal year and the 20-21 college basketball season will follow suit due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Just to begin, this season is starting well after the normal expected date. In fact, to find a start as late as this season’s Nov. 25 date, one has to go all the way back to Allen Iverson’s freshman year when the Hoyas opened up with No. 1 Arkansas on Nov. 24, 1994. Last season Georgetown tipped things off on Nov. 6 and had already played six games by Nov. 22.
So, with the late start comes other changes.
The season will only include five non-conference games with four of those matchups scheduled before Big East play begins on December 11th against Villanova. This should give Georgetown 25 games in total before the Big East Tournament begins but we are seeing schools pause basketball activities for 14-days literally by the hour due to positive covid tests. How many games are actually played is anyone’s guess, particularly if the season isn’t extended past the normal March ending date.
Georgetown’s first six home games will all be played on campus at McDonough Arena without fans but have no fear as they will be broadcast nationally on or you can find them on the radio and listen to our great friend Rich Chvotkin.
Now that we have the administrative notes out of the way, let’s talk about the actual basketball.
Just when things looked to be going in the right direction last season, the bottom fell out and as such Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing will have to start from scratch for the second time in four seasons.
Ewing will need to lean heavily on seniors Jamorko Pickett and Jahvon Blair as well as sophomore big Qudus Wahab to start things out while mixing in eight new faces on what is easily the most unknown Hoyas team in the modern era.
With so many question marks facing the current roster, Georgetown was picked last in the now 11-team Big East by the coaches and failed to see any players selecting on any of the all-conference preseason teams.
One of the first achievements that this Hoyas squad can accomplish is avoiding that prognostication. Georgetown has never finished last in the league in the regular season although they have finished lower than eleventh when the league included more schools. Villanova and UConn have finished dead last at least once, but not your Hoyas.
When Ewing took over as coach the realistic goal seemed to be making the NCAA Tournament by his third season after molding the team in his view and recruiting the players he needed. That goal looked very achievable last year at this time but now the goal has probably been pushed back another three years.
So, what is there to look forward to this year if the NCAA Tournament is likely a bridge too far?
Obviously for non-basketball reasons just actually finishing some sort of Frankenstein like season where everyone stayed healthy would be first on the list.
Despite all the departures, Pickett and Blair remain and will surely want to show everyone that Georgetown isn’t the last place team many are picking. They also have the chance to become the first pair of classmates to finish as 1,000 career scorers since the much-heralded local duo of Austin Freeman and Chris Wright graduated in 2011.
After that you’d want to look at the defensively side of the game for any signs of improvement. Despite being one of the best and most intimidating defenders in college basketball history, Ewing and his staff have had historically poor defenses by Georgetown’s lofty standards.
Using KenPom’s adjusted defensive measure – which goes back to the 1996-97 season - the Hoyas averaged a ranking of 38 with eight seasons in the Top 10 and a low ranking of 97. In three seasons, Ewing’s defenses have checked in at 119th, 133th, and 125th. Particularly alarming was Georgetown’s ranking of 313th in defending 3-pointers last season in what is absolutely the 3-point era of basketball no matter the level.
Outside of that Georgetown needs to rebuild behind the freshmen. Jamari Sibley enters as the highest rated frosh but without a Kenner League to go by most are unsure of what Ewing has in Kobe Clark, Dante Harris, Collin Holloway, and T.J. Berger. While it’s technically possible the seniors can comeback due to an NCAA ruling on eligibility due to the pandemic, this is the class that needs to lay the groundwork before the much anticipated 2021 recruiting class headlined by legacy Ryan Mutombo shows up on campus.
Coaching: Patrick Ewing is entering his fourth season at his alma mater with a record of 49-46, 19-35 in the BIG EAST. The Hall of Famer has yet to win in the conference tournament (0-3) and lost his lone postseason game in the 2019 NIT. Ewing’s assistants remain unchanged from his initial staff.
Last season: They Hoyas entered BIG EAST play on New Year’s Eve positioned nicely at 10-3 thanks to impressive wins over nationally ranked Texas at Madison Square Garden, at both Oklahoma State and SMU, and against rivals Syracuse. The shorthanded Hoyas stayed in the hunt for an NCAA berth through the middle of February before dropping their final seven games of the season. Georgetown finished with a losing record for the third time in the last five seasons.
Hoyas will miss: This is a competitive category.
Let’s go ahead and not even mention the four players that left the program during last season. That being said, Mac McClung (15.7 ppg) is clearly the biggest loss here. After testing the NBA waters, it was thought that the explosive former All-Freshman BIG EAST guard would be back as Ewing’s best offensive weapon but instead McClung bolted for Lubbock and is now immediately eligible at Texas Tech. Big man Omer Yurtseven (15.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg) had another season of eligibility remaining but no one thought he would stick around and play it out. Jagan Mosely (8.2 ppg, 3.7 apg) is gone after finishing up as one of the top assist men in Georgetown history as well as one of the bigger fan favorites in recent memory for his style of play. Terrell Allen (9.5 ppg, 4 apg) came home to play only one final season but made his mark on the program in a very short time, especially after the in-season departures forced him into becoming a 40-minute per-game player.
Who’s back: Pickett (10.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Blair (10.8 ppg) – two of Ewing’s first recruits – are back for their senior seasons and will be the focal point of most everything. Pickett showed at the end of last season why he may get an NBA look after his time at Georgetown is over. Blair went from a DNP coach’s decision last November to playing no fewer than 37 minutes in each of the final 11 games. He scored 23 in an epic comeback on Super Bowl Sunday at MSG against St. John’s and followed it up a week later by dropping 30 on DePaul. Wahab (5.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg) was thrust into the starting role when Yurtseven was hurt late in the season and performed well. No one else returns that started a game although seven-footer Ighoefe showed some promise in limited action and could be used at times alongside Wahab if Ewing wants to give fans a retro Twin Towers look.
Fresh Faces: Ewing will have a lot of new faces to work with this season – eight to be exact - which includes three grad transfers and five scholarship freshmen. Sibley is the most highly rated newcomer while grad transfer guard Donald Carey - after stops at Mount St. Mary’s and Siena – and Jalen Harris (New Mexico, Arkansas) are the most accomplished. The third grad transfer - Chudier Bile - put up good numbers at Northwestern State but is moving up quite a bit from a middle of the pack Southland program to the Big East so the jury is still undecided. If he acclimates quickly, Bile could see heavy minutes.
X-Factor: Losing Mosely and Allen’s leadership and production will be hard to replace. That being said, if Jalen Harris steps in from Day 1 and fills the hole at point guard, the Hoyas will have a good shot at avoiding last place in the conference.
For Starters: Pickett, Blair, and Wahab name themselves and one would think that Jalen Harris gets the first shot at starting point guard. That leaves one more spot which I’m giving to Carey. Ewing started two freshmen his first year and three the next season so we know he has no issue going young. If there has been a standout frosh, Ewing could also go that route. Bile would also seem to have a shot at starting given.
Big Game: at Syracuse – Jan. 9. The Hoyas and Orange will renew their rivalry in the middle of conference play for the first time since Syracuse left the Big East. There’s just something about stepping out of league play in January or February that says: BIG GAME. Georgetown is 3-2 against Jim Boeheim’s guys since they bolted for the ACC. Ewing picked up his first win as a coach in the series last season and now will seek his first win in the Dome.
Predictions: These are never easy but this one seems even more difficult for a few reasons. First of all, Georgetown didn’t have a chance to use the summer to get the unusually high number of new players on the same page and the limited schedule doesn’t allow for many tune-ups. Also, I can’t draw my normal Kenner based conclusions as is tradition. OK, I’ll go 9-16 which includes a 6-14 mark in the Big East.