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LINKS: Three Big Questions for Georgetown Ahead of the Opening Game

BONUS: Will Ewing wear a suit or dress “casual?”

Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament - Semifinals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

It’s hard to believe we’re here with only one more night before the opening game for the Georgetown Hoyas. Patrick Ewing has once again preached patience for his team’s development, but fans are enthusiastic and anxious to see the highly ranked recruiting class, a new transfer, and returning faces from a BIG EAST Tournament Championship. If it feels like Georgetown is the last team to play basketball game, you’re not alone.

With about 24 hours until tipoff, we still have some questions that we hope to get answered early in the season.

Rotation - Who Starts? Who’s first off the Bench?

Patrick Ewing remained tight-lipped in his media availability yesterday, but he did reveal the news that Timothy Ighoefe will start at center. It seems like a no-brainer that Dante Harris and Captain Don Carey will start the game. There is a strong presumption that your 5-star recruit will start, so expect to see Aminu Mohammed in the lineup. The question is whether sharpshooter transfer Kaiden Rice will start at the “4.” Rice has size, but he’s a guard.

Ewing also noted that sophomores Kobe Clark and Collin Holloway are injured, so there’s a strong inference that freshman Jalin Billingsley will get some good minutes as a forward. If he starts just because he’s the only true power forward, it would highlight a lot about Ewing’s traditional position philosophy but also be a vote of confidence in a kid with a lot of buzz about NBA-level size and ceiling.

How is Center Position Handled?

With all due respect, the biggest thing holding Timothy Ighoefe back from more minutes has been fouls. If Ighoefe plays more than 15 minutes, it will be a hallmark of serious development for Tim and Ewing. We know he can rebound and block. He can finish at the rim with a drop-off pass. He’s shown a couple post moves on offense, but has never looked very polished. That said, bigger jumps in talent and coordination have happened on the Hilltop, such as with Henry Sims and Bradley Hayes—or even Roy Hibbert over his first three years.

Ryan Mutombo has been praised by Pat for his offense, but apparently needs to find his footing on the defensive end. Malcolm Wilson has been patiently waiting and might have an edge speed-wise for the pace of offense and defense that Ewing wants to run. Expectations are high for Mutombo, and many fans believe he’ll takes the bulk of the center minutes in 2022, but what happens these first few games is up in the air.

Perhaps just as important as the center personnel, will be how Ewing’s offense will rely on low-post feeds. Turnovers has been troublesome for Hoya offenses of late, and losing the ball on the low block is probably the easiest way to get fans to call for a substitution. Alleviating some of the offensive stress on a center can come through more pick-and-roll plays and fewer four-out-one-in sets. Inside-out basketball has its advantages, but last year’s center had zero assists, and clearing the lane for Dante and Aminu may result in better looks for three.

What’s Georgetown’s 2021-22 Defense Going to Look Like?

I’m not too worried about where the points will come from after the roster flux. I’m more worried about getting stops. Coach Ewing and the Hoyas finally found a defensive identity last January/February, but (as the national pundits will remind you) the roster turnover at Georgetown has everyone wondering where the squad will fall defensively. The rumors about UVA shooting very well (+50%) from behind the arc against Georgetown in the secret Charlottesville scrimmage were scary, especially considering UVA’s loss to Navy earlier this week.

Ewing’s teams have unfortunately had three key issues at times over the past four years: guarding the perimeter, hedging screens, and not generating turnovers. With the questions still surrounding the center position, defending picks will likely be spotlighted early and often this season. The notorious hard hedge of the Yurtseven era was not as often a fixture during the Wahab era, so hopefully it won’t come back. The pace Ewing wants to play is really predicated on one thing: can the Hoyas get stops? I just want to see if defense has been a bigger focus than Novembers of the recent past.

In the backcourt, Harris proved himself as a solid defender, as did Carey. The reputation of Mohammed is that he works hard on both sides of the floor, as does the “tough” freshman backup guard Tyler Beard. Working together as a team is always the secret, but having defensive-minded guys is what you want to hear in preseason. Can a three (or four) guard lineup utilize speed to defend better? Will there be a matchup problem in the frontcourt before conference play? I’ve always believed that solid coaching can really boost guys with the right attitude on the defensive end—I think Thompson did, too.

Last year, Ewing’s dialing up different defenses, such as zones and full- and 3/4-court pressure, helped keep opponents from getting too comfortable. Hopefully Pat and the staff employ some of that as the season moves along, but I expect a lot of man-to-man to start. Let’s hope they can make the most of it.

Here are the links:

Georgetown Men’s Basketball Preview: Reloading for another run | WTOP

“We lost four guys that were instrumental in our success,” Ewing said. “But we still feel like we have enough of a nucleus to compete and do well. We’re going to be playing a lot of young guys. … It’s going to be peaks and valleys. I have to be patient, fans have to be patient.”

The top two Hoyas returning are Donald Carey and Dante Harris. Carey, a senior from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, scored 8 points a game last season and was the Hoyas’ top 3-point shooter. Harris, the team’s point guard, averaged 8 points, 3.2 assists and a team-high 1.2 steals per game last season. Harris was also named Most Outstanding Player for his performance in the Big East Tournament.

“They’re going to have big roles,” Ewing said. “How big is going to be predicated on how they’re doing. We’re going to need scoring and defense out of both of them. If both of those guys are solid, then we’ll be solid.”

Georgetown basketball hoping to recreate last season’s success with overturned roster | Washington Times

Joining Carey and Harris is a solid freshman class headlined by five-star recruit Aminu Mohammed, a 6-foot-5 guard from Temple Hills, Maryland, who was voted the Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year. The Hoyas also welcome a 7-foot-2 center with a familiar last name in Ryan Mutombo, son of former Georgetown and NBA star center Dikembe Mutombo.

Graduate transfer Kaiden Rice from The Citadel is also expected to make an impact. The guard scored 17.6 points per game for the Bulldogs last season.

“We have a great group of guys who are hungry, ready to learn and ready to be coached,” Harris said. “I feel like we’re all going to be on the same page, and we have a good freshman class coming in, so we should be good.”

Positional Preview: Sizing Up Georgetown’s Forwards | Thompson’s Towel

Billingsley will bring a much needed infusion of young talent to this year’s frontcourt. The 6’8” 3-star power forward arrives on the Hilltop after averaging 13 rebounds per game in both seasons as an upperclassman at Cleveland’s Lutheran East, and he will need to be a key contributor on the boards from day one on. Billingsley fills the stretch four role, with a solid mid-range game and a strong defensive presence down low. He showed off some of his skills in his high school mixtape:

While his progression to Big East-caliber game speed could take some time, Billingsley hopes to be a very valuable piece for Georgetown in the near future on both sides of the ball. Expect a lot of minutes for Billingsley as this Hoyas squad finds its identity in non-conference play.

2021-22 Georgetown Season Preview | Hilltop Hoops

At the minimum, this year’s Georgetown team should be fun to watch. They have an exciting mix of young, athletic players who should enable Georgetown to play fast and free on both ends of the court. But there are higher stakes than many want to acknowledge this season, and that’s why the 2021-22 season should be a fascinating one to watch, for reasons both good and bad.

For Patrick Ewing, this is a pivotal fifth year in his head coaching tenure at Georgetown. While Ewing now has a Big East title to proudly show off, there are still some things missing from Georgetown that need addressing if any sort of sustained success is to be reached under Ewing. It all starts with roster turnover.

What are you most excited for? What are your biggest areas of worry? Who starts? Who finished? What was for lunch?