With a mix of youth and experience in a Big East where several challengers have emerged to Villanova, John Thompson III and Georgetown are perhaps most poised to take crown from Wildcats. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Post)
The Georgetown Hoyas were selected second in the Big East Conference preseason poll, and they could certainly be a national contender as well. They were second to Villanova last season in the Big East, as they won 22 games overall and 12 in conference play.
Georgetown is ready to make that jump and win the conference, as this is the strongest team they have had in years. The Hoyas are led by senior D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, sophomore forward Isaac Copeland, and freshman Jessie Govan.
Smith-Rivera is one of 50 Division I players on the Wooden Award Watch List, cementing his role as one of the elite players in the country. He also is on the watch list for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award, which recognizes the top point guards in Division I basketball. One of the most consistent players of the past few years, Smith-Rivera averaged 17.6 points-per-game in 2013-14, and then 16.3 per game last season. He has kept this up this season, averaging 14.5 per game.
Copeland was also honored in the preseason, as he was selected for Preseason Big East Honorable Mention after he won All-Rookie honors last season as a freshman. In his rookie year, he played all 33 games, and started 11, including the final 10. He averaged 6.8 points and 3,8 rebounds per game, and was named the Big East Rookie of the Week three times during the season and reached double figures in scoring 11 times.
Georgetown began this season with a double-overtime loss to Radford and then another loss at Maryland. They faced a big test on Friday night at Madison Square Garden in the 2K Classic against Wisconsin, who was in last year's National Championship game. It was a grind-it-out defensive battle throughout, which befits the styles of both teams. Georgetown pulled away in the second half to win it, 71-61, and will meet Duke in the 2K Championship Game on Sunday. Copeland led the way with 15 points on 5-for-9 from the field, 3-4 on threes, and eight rebounds.
Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said of Copeland, "I think the main thing he worked extremely hard. His understanding of what I want and what we are doing. Freshman year he spent time trying to figure things out, now he understands and was settled in, not thinking and now playing. You see what he brings to the table."
Reggie Cameron had 14 points on an impressive 5-for-7 from the field, 4-for-6 on threes, and three rebounds. Thompson III said of Cameron, "Reggie made shots and that's what he does. He was very good on defense for a lot of the plays when we needed stops and needed reflections and taking charge."
Cameron said of the team's performance, "I know I can make shots. I think our whole team is excited, everyone wanted to play good and contribute and everyone did that today. We need to win. We were 0-2. The Maryland game, we slipped away as a unit, we were ready to get back on the court."
Smith-Rivera showed how strong he is, as he shot just 2-for-9 overall and 1-4 on threes, but kept getting to the foul line and made seven of 10 free throws, to finish with a respectable 12 points, five rebounds, and four assists.
Thompson III said of their schedule and what they need, "Wins, with our schedule this year, the last 10 days have been hell. There are not breaks, hopefully it prepares us down the road as we move through pre- and post-Big East play. We have a group of guys that can handle it. It doesn't get any easier, they understand the necessary execution, we are looking for wins, we have to do better than we have so far. We have a great team and there is room for growth."