Thursday, October 6, 2011

Inside The Big East: Georgetown

Senior guard Jason Clark hopes to keep Georgetown from taking major step back in Big East this season. (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)

After previewing DePaul in an article that is probably the quickest piece on this site to reach 100 hits and is already among the five most visited posts in Daly Dose history, we go to the nation's capital for an encore.

Georgetown Hoyas (2010-11 Record: 21-11, 10-8 Big East)
Head Coach: John Thompson III (8th season at GU, 160-73; 228-115 overall)
Returning Starters: G Jason Clark (6-2 Sr., 12.0 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 49% FG, 35% 3pt, 77% FT, 1.8 APG, 1.5 SPG)
F Hollis Thompson (6-7 Jr., 8.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 52% FG, 46% 3pt, 72% FT)
Other Key Returning Players: F Nate Lubick (6-8 So., 4.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 54% FG, 67% FT, 1.3 APG)
C Henry Sims (6-10 Sr., 3.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 58% FG, 50% FT)
Key Losses: G Austin Freeman (17.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 48% FG, 36% 3pt, 87% FT, 2.4 APG)
G Chris Wright (12.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 41% FG, 78% FT, 5.3 APG, 1.4 SPG)
F Julian Vaughn (7.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 49% FG, 67% FT, 1.5 APG, 1.9 BPG)

Georgetown University may possess one of the most storied and well-known basketball histories on the East Coast; but regardless of all the tradition that has emanated from Washington, D.C., the Hoyas are still searching for a return to the promised land in the upcoming season as they now stand four years removed from their most recent Final Four appearance.

Since the Hoya team led by a then-junior Roy Hibbert and eventual top five NBA draft pick Jeff Green reached the national semifinals and were ousted by Ohio State and Greg Oden, Georgetown coach John Thompson III has seen a second-round NCAA Tournament loss to Davidson, an NIT appearance, and two consecutive one-and-done NCAA Tournament appearances; the most recent of which came this past March at the hands of VCU as the Rams disposed of the Hoyas en route to their Cinderella run that culminated in a Final Four trip.

Should Georgetown be among the last quarter standing in New Orleans on the first weekend of April, Thompson will have defied the odds. The Hoyas lose three starters from last year's team that finished eighth in the Big East, and two of them were mainstays in a Georgetown backcourt that is now going through a rebuilding phase. Warrior point guard Chris Wright, who suffered a broken hand down the stretch only to come back just in time to salvage the Hoyas' NCAA Tournament hopes, has graduated; and so too has Austin Freeman, a first team all-Big East selection last year who was also the conference's preseason Player of the Year pick. The Hoyas also lose their man in the middle, as Julian Vaughn leaves a huge hole he helped fill with his six rebounds and two blocked shots per game last season for Thompson's squad, which finished 21-11.

The departures of Wright and Freeman now guarantee that senior Jason Clark will not only be the team leader this year, but that he will also have the keys to the Princeton-style offense the Hoyas run. Last season, Clark averaged twelve points per game and shot 35 percent from three-point range in his junior campaign, which is not bad considering he was the third option in the Hoya pecking order. Clark will also mentor sophomore Markel Starks, who will be the successor to Wright at the point following a rookie season in which he played sparingly, only averaging ten minutes per contest.

Up front for the Hoyas, junior swingman Hollis Thompson will be the go-to-guy for Thompson. In his sophomore season a year ago, Thompson made Hoya fans forget former small forward DaJuan Summers rather easily, shooting a scorching 46 percent from long range while also averaging over eight points and four rebounds per night. Thompson will be aided by Nate Lubick, who slides into a starting role following a freshman season in which the Massachusetts native established himself as a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the ball, particularly on the defensive glass. Lubick is a poor man's Luke Harangody, and his inclusion into the starting five on a full-time basis will only help him become as dominant as the former Notre Dame forward. Henry Sims will move into Thompson's everyday lineup as well after three years of serving as an understudy to both Vaughn and former Hoya big man Greg Monroe, now of the Detroit Pistons. The Hoyas also welcome a talented group of incoming freshmen highlighted by the arrival of Mikael Hopkins, a 6-8 forward from the same DeMatha Catholic program that sent Austin Freeman to our nation's capital back in 2007.

Georgetown will open up its 2011-12 season with home contests against Savannah State and UNC Greensboro before heading to Hawaii to take part in the Maui Invitational, where they will first face Kansas. Upon returning to the mainland, the Hoyas will face IUPUI at home before hitting the road for the first time to square off against Anthony Grant and Alabama in the Big East/SEC Challenge.

Three easy nonconference games against NJIT, Howard and American University await the Hoyas next before they welcome Memphis into the Verizon Center for their final game outside the Big East. Georgetown opens conference play on the road, taking on Louisville at the Yum! Center on December 28th before returning home to face Providence on New Year's Eve and playing host to Marquette on January 4th in the Hoyas' 2012 opener. A road game at West Virginia and home showdown with Cincinnati are next up for Georgetown before a two-game road trip that begins on January 15th at Madison Square Garden.

Georgetown has not beaten St. John's at the "World's Most Famous Arena" since January 30th, 2008, and has dropped each of its last three contests to the Johnnies in the Big Apple, including their 2009 Big East tournament matchup that I called from a landline when WSJU's equipment could not dial out. Little did I know it would be the best game I ever called, and that still holds true over two years later. Anyway, I digress. Following St. John's, Georgetown heads to DePaul before welcoming Rutgers into the Verizon Center on January 21st.

Next up for the Hoyas will be a road meeting with Pittsburgh before opening February with consecutive home games against Connecticut and USF. Syracuse welcomes the Hoyas into the Carrier Dome on February 8th before Georgetown returns home four days later to wrap up a home-and-home series with Steve Lavin and St. John's. The Hoyas play two straight road games following the second meeting with the Red Storm, first completing a home-and-home series with Providence before heading into the Prudential Center to play Seton Hall. Georgetown's final two home games come on February 25th against Villanova, and February 27th on senior night against Notre Dame; with the back end of a home-and-home series against Marquette serving as the Hoyas' last regular season contest, to be played on March 3rd at the Bradley Center.

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