It's the unmatched nature of the NCAA Tournament. Twenty-five wins, a share of the Big East regular season title, and the conference's Player of the Year. It was a fairytale season for John Thompson III's Hoyas, until a Friday night in Philadelphia last March.
Little-known Florida Gulf Coast (or FGCU, their darling acroynym) flew, quite literally, to a historical upset over second-seeded Georgetown, and all of the accolades the Hoyas had earned to that point went up in smoke.
But like anything else in sports or in life, you move on. The Hoyas have lost their star forward Otto Porter to the local Washington Wizards and his (partial) scoring replacement Greg Whittington to an ACL tear. Yet guards Markel Starks and D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera, along with bruising forward Nate Lubick, are back for another campaign in D.C., one in which the Hoyas hope will be another memorable season in the brand new Big East.
We are excited to welcome Andrew Geiger of our SB Nation neighbor Casual Hoya (@CasualHoya)and Alan Greene of Hoya Prospectus to discuss Hoya basketball, collectively worry about Josh Smith's weight, have a quick lesson in Greek and Latin, and maybe even get a little poetic.
Rumble In The Garden: Explain where the Hoyas fit in the national hierarchy - imagine you're talking to a hoops newbie who knows Duke, Kentucky, and North Carolina exist, but the person doesn't watch the tournament or really know conferences' reputation. Who is Georgetown? Think: "What is our team known for?" or "Why might someone have heard of the team?"
Alan Greene, Hoya Prospectus: If the very upper echelon of college basketball programs has a small pantheon of royalty -- like Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina -- then Georgetown is in the next tier. While it hasn't been a consistent power over the last 100 years like some of those, the program has 5 Final Fours and a National Title, as well as just being consistently good with few exceptions since John Thompson, Jr. took over in 1973.
And Pops is really what the program is known for. Big, brash, outspoken, Thompson turned the program into a winner -- and one that won on its own terms, with brash athleticism and in your face defense. Mostly because of his personality, style, and his status as one of the few high profile African-American coaches at the time, Georgetown became a divisive program. Many, especially African-Americans, loved the style of play. For many, the aggressive and sometimes rough play placed the Hoyas as the bad guys of college basketball.
John Thompson, III, is a completely different kind of coach, and these are different times, and Georgetown no longer holds that kind of cultural sway. But still, the team has been very good under his guidance as well. The Hoyas are a consistent Top 25 program if not yet a consistent title contender.
Andrew Geiger, Casual Hoya: Georgetown is one of just four teams (along with UNC, Duke and Kansas) to be ranked in the top 10 in each of the last SEVEN years. I would suggest that this puts the Hoyas basketball program right up there in the national hierarchy, in spite of our recent struggles in the Dance.
RITG: Add a fun fact about the school or the program - something that would impress a person who is loosely familiar with the school.
Andrew Geiger: DID YOU KNOW that the name Hoyas originates from the baseball team at Georgetown that was called the "Stonewalls?" Legend holds that a student, applying Greek and Latin, dubbed the team the hoia saxa, ‘hoia’ being the Greek word for "what" and ‘saxa’ being Latin for "rock". Our chant, "Hoya Saxa" literally means "What Rocks"! Isn’t that awesome?
Alan Greene: The school had the first American of African descent to be president of a predominantly white college -- Patrick Healey. The interesting thing is that it was much earlier than you'd expect -- he became president in 1874, and is probably Georgetown's greatest President.
RITG: How do you feel about the new Big East - being in the conference, worries about the future? What are you most excited about/ to see? What worries you?
Andrew Geiger: I feel strong. Strong to quite strong. Obviously there are a lot of uncertainties going forward. Can the league sustain itself without football? How long will it take for new rivalries to blossom? Will recruits treat these schools differently? What channel is Fox Sports 1 going to be on my TV?... etc. I’m excited to play new schools, travel to different cities, interact with new fanbases, and blog harder.
Alan Greene: The conference has done a good job of securing television times, etc., but the big concern is performing well enough -- and having good enough PR -- to avoid being referred to as a "mid-major." There are many mid-major conferences that outperform the SEC and PAC-10 every year, but they do not get the press of being that good. And the result reflects in recruiting, coach retention, etc.
This conference can lose a coach to the NBA (Stevens), but it can't afford to get into a situation where our better teams are consistently losing recruits and coaches to, say, Tennessee.
RITG: Which other Big East team are you most excited to see in action next year?
Alan Greene: Creighton, I guess? To be honest, I've seen most of these teams a thousand times, except really Creighton. It doesn't really feel like the strongest year for these teams, does it? I think Marquette will be very good.
Andrew Geiger: Brad Stevens leaving Butler took a lot of the luster off that program but I am looking forward to seeing the Hoyas play in Hinkle Fieldhouse. Having a Big East school in the basketball heaven of Indiana is great for the Conference.
RITG: What does next season look like? Who leaves the program? Who is new? Who returns? Who is expected to be the on-court leader(s)?
Andrew Geiger: Mr. Everything Otto Porter has departed for the NBA and Greg Whittington is out for the year with a torn ACL, but the Hoyas return everyone else from last season’s squad and add UCLA transfer center Josh Smith and freshman sniper Reggie Cameron.
I suspect point guard Markel Starks and rising sophomore D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera will be among the better players in the Conference this season as Georgetown flaunts one of the better backcourts in the Big East.
Alan Greene: At the end of the day, most of the players on the team are pretty close to being somewhere from average to good. Which makes for a fine team, but not a Final Four Contender.
There's a variety of X-Factors -- whether Hopkins improves, if D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera makes a big leap. But the the biggest one by far is where Josh Smith is on his conditioning in December. The former Top 5 recruit and UCLA transfer is incredibly talented and might be the best offensive big man in college basketball this year, if he can get his weight down so that he can play real minutes. He's got incredible touch and soft hands, great basketball IQ and a nose for the ball. But at his heaviest, he's too slow to stay on the court.
RITG: In 100 words or less, explain your last season (or last three).
Alan Greene: Surprisingly good regular season, disappointing ending. Hoya fans are all starting to get a complex about the tournament disappointments, which have ranged from reasonable (Seth Curry-led Davidson, Final Four-bound VCU) to the inexplicable (Ohio, FGCU). The Hoyas consistently are a Top 10 team in the regular season, and then have fallen apart in the tourney.
Andrew Geiger: Can I do it in haiku?
Regular season beastmode
Why, Dunk City, Why?
JT3 the best
RITG: What's the big concern about next season?
Andrew Geiger: The biggest concern for the Hoyas next season will be scoring. With Porter gone and Whittington out, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on Starks and Smith-Rivera to score and if defenses key in on stopping them, Georgetown may be vulnerable.
The big question mark is Josh Smith, who should be eligible to play once conference play begins. If he’s motivated, Smith may already be the best big in the Conference and could be the difference between another high seed for the Hoyas in March or a season-long struggle to make the Dance.
Alan Greene: The frontline. Nate Lubick is nicely serviceable, but Mikael Hopkins was not a strong starting center last year. Josh Smith could be amazing; he could also struggle to play 15 minutes. And the only other true big on the roster is seldom-used Bradley Hayes.
Without a slimmed down Smith, this frontline will struggle to rebound and provide efficient scoring, leaving the Hoyas as a team that is limited to perimeter scoring on offense and gives up too many second chances on D.
RITG: Bonus question: Give a reason to visit the area around the school's campus/ arena.
Alan Greene: It's DC, which is the country's most underrated city. Go visit, be a tourist during the day, and it's a fun city by night. The campus itself is very pretty as well, but the arena is off-campus, so if you are visiting for a game, you may not make it there.
Andrew Geiger: Georgetown’s campus is tremendous, but if you haven’t been to the Hooters near the Verizon Center, you simply haven’t lived. I won’t say it’s the worst Hooters in the country, but that’s only because I haven’t been to all of them. Enjoy!
Thank you to the guys from Casual Hoya and Hoya Prospectus for filling us in on what is going on with Georgetown this offseason. How do you say "Hooters" in Latin?