Feb. 18, 2012; Providence, RI, USA; Georgetown Hoyas forward Hollis Thompson (1), guard Jason Clark (21), forward Mikael Hopkins (3), guard Markel Starks (5), and forward Otto Porter (22) during the first half against the Providence Friars at the Dunkin

Georgetown Hoyas Basketball Season Preview

The college hoops season is right around the corner, and Busting Brackets is here to whet your basketball-starved appetite. Over the next five weeks, we are publishing season previews team by team, conference by conference, to offer a glimpse into the upcoming season. Busting Brackets is giving you the lowdown on the biggest storylines, offseason changes and x-factors for each team and each league as we roll into the 2012-13 season. Our complete season preview archive can be accessed here. Buckle up, peeps.

Georgetown Hoyas

Last Season 24-9 (12-6 Big East)
Lost to Cincinnati in Big East tournament quarterfinals
Lost to NC State in NCAA tournament third round
Key Returning Players: Otto Porter, F
Markel Starks, G
Greg Whittington, F
Nate Lubick, F
Jabril Trawick, G
Tyler Adams, C
Mikael Hopkins, F
Key Additions: D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, G (Oak Hill Academy)
Stephen Domingo, F (St. Ignatius HS)
Brandon Bolden, F (Quality Education Academy)
Bradley Hayes, C (Sandalwood HS)
Key Losses: Jason Clark, G
Hollis Thompson, F (Declared early for NBA draft)
Henry Sims, C
Top Non-Conference Games: Nov. 9 vs. Florida (USS Bataan, Jacksonville, FL)
Nov. 19 vs. UCLA (Legends Classic, Brooklyn, NY)
Nov. 20 vs. Indiana or Georgia (Legends Classic)
Nov. 30 vs. Tennessee
Dec. 4 vs. Texas (Jimmy V Classic, MSG)
Top Conference Games: Jan. 5 @ Marquette
Jan. 8 vs. Pittsburgh
Jan. 21 @ Notre Dame
Jan. 26 vs. Louisville
Feb. 11 vs. Marquette
Feb. 15 @ Cincinnati
Feb. 23 @ Syracuse
Mar. 9 vs. Syracuse
Breakout Player: Otto Porter. He’s only a sophomore, but Porter already could be the Big East’s best overall talent. Hollis Thompson’s premature sendoff bulldozes a path of opportunity for the standout sophomore, who will be charged with leading the Hoyas in 2012-13. No Thompson. No Jason Clark. No Henry Sims. No problem for the Sikeston, MO native. Porter was one of the league’s top freshman last season—unfairly overshadowed by St. John’s Moe Harkless and South Florida’s Anthony Collins. Exposure won’t be an issue for the sophomore Hoya this go-around, however, not in light of his newly expanded role on the team. A long and gangly forward, Porter can certainly score (he averaged a tick better than 13 points per 40 minutes despite being the fourth option on offense), but his rebounding prowess and defensive ability separate him from most other forwards in the conference. Of all returning forwards in the Big East, only four—Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley (12.4), Louisville’s Chane Behanan (11.54), Providence’s LaDontae Henton (9.25) and DePaul’s Cleveland Melvin (9.22)—grabbed more rebounds per game last season than Porter (9.16). With his versatile skill set and permission to run the show in Georgetown, don’t lose sight of No. 22; otherwise, the next time you’ll see him could be at the Big East awards banquet or the green room of the 2013 NBA draft.
X-Factor: Production out of the post. Sims is gone, and so too is low post security for the first time in John Thompson’s Georgetown tenure. From Ewing to Mourning to Monroe passing through Hibbert and stopping at Sims, quality—better yet, superlative—centers have had a knack for donning the Georgetown navy and grey. Not this year. This season, G-town’s longtime calling card is the team’s greatest weakness. Does coach Thompson go to a center by committee, or does the buck stop at sophomore Mikael Hopkins? If Hopkins is ready to nail down the spot and break out in year two, the transition period down low for the Hoyas could accelerate tenfold. If not, Georgetown will be searching for answers all season as opposing Big East teams feast inside. Last we’ve heard, Tyler Adams is still plump and out of shape. And incoming freshman center Bradley Hayes figures to be a four-year project. If any one relative unknown on Georgetown has the potential to make or break the team’s season, it’s Hopkins. With a big sophomore jump, the Hoyas can compete for a top-three finish in the league. With a sophomore slump and little productivity from the supporting bigs, Nate Lubick will be out on an island of his own, while Georgetown will be wedged on a crowded island somewhere in the middle of the Big East standings.
Point guard play. The two best distributors on last year’s Hoyas squad were…get this…big men. The team’s leading assist man—Henry Sims, the best passing center in all of college basketball last season—is no longer part of Georgetown’s plans, having graduated in May and signed on with the Knicks. The No. 2 assist-getter on last year’s team? None other than Mr. Lubick. Lubick racked up more assists per 40 minutes (4.35) last season than starting guards Jason Clark and Markel Starks notched (3.4) in 57 minutes combined.  Needless to say, Georgetown will need Starks to be a better facilitator this year and run the offense like a true floor general. His scoring and athleticism are nice, but he absolutely needs to be a better distributor. The Hoyas must replace roughly half (6.8) of the team’s assists (14 apg) last season, and much of that onus falls on the shoulders of Starks. Georgetown’s poor passing was much overlooked last season in large part because the offense ran through Sims. Without the versatile point center bailing the team out on offense this season, the Hoyas won’t get away with running a similarly disjointed half court offense again.
Best Case: Porter has a Big East POY caliber season, and his improved play on the perimeter adds needed diversity to his offensive repertoire. Starks harnesses his ever-palpable talent, emerging as one of the most dynamic point guards in the league. With improves court awareness and a renewed commitment to facilitating the offense, Georgetown is a different beast in the half court this season. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, an Austin Freeman clone and the jewel of Georgetown’s 2012 recruiting class, is an instant impact freshman, providing needed punch off the bench. Lubick is solid and steady, as always, serving as the team’s do-everything handyman. Hopkins is ready to assume the everyday center role, averaging close to 10 points, six boards and two blocks per game. The Hoyas don’t need him to be Ewing, Mourning or Monroe, and they don’t need him to be polished offensively. But strong defensive play from Hopkins and an ability to seal off the paint is vital if the Hoyas wish to contend for first class in the Big East. Tyler Adams, in better shape, gets off the bench and is a useful backup big on the team, chipping in 10 to 12 minutes of sufficient post defense and strong rebounding. Led by the excellence of Porter and flanked by role players who elevated their game, Georgetown finishes fourth in the league and snags a No. 5 seed in the Big Dance. A season sweep of Syracuse and win over the Orange in the final meeting between the two rivals as members of the Big East caps off a satisfying season.
Worst Case: Any way you slice it, losing the top three contributors from the season before is debilitating—no matter how talented the players waiting in the wings are. Georgetown learns first-hand in 2012-13. Porter, while solid, doesn’t live up to the lofty preseason hype. Opponents use double-teams and bigger defenders on Porter to keep him in check, even earmarking help defenders inside to deny Porter’s penetration. The net effect: Porter is a non-descript, really solid player, but nothing close to the star pundits have pegged him as. Starks is still a poor facilitator, and the Hoyas suffer from a lack of cohesion in their half court sets. Sans Hibbert, Georgetown is one of the worst passing teams in the league. The absence of Jason Clark is felt, and felt hard, especially on the offensive end. Without Clark and Hollis Thompson, the team’s best 3-point weapon a season ago, the Hoyas struggle mightily from the perimeter. And unlucky for them, the alternatives inside aren’t any less bleak. No consistent outside threats paired with a nonexistent inside game is the recipe for failure in G-town, and the formula drags the Hoyas to a sub-.500 finish in the Big East. Hopkins doesn’t emerge, still proving to be a work in progress, while Adams can’t get himself off the bench (literally and figuratively). Georgetown struggles to win games in which Porter doesn’t carry the team, a formula which ensures a substandard season in D.C. The Hoyas cap off a disappointing season by getting drubbed at home by Syracuse—adding insult to more insult—as the Orange waltz off into the sunset of the ACC. Before leaving the Verizon Center, Jim Boeheim takes to the public address mike and proclaims: “The Big East is now officially closed!”
Projected Finish: Regular Season: 19-11 (10-8 Big East), 7th place Big East
Lose in Big East tournament quarterfinals
NCAA tournament No. 10 seed

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