Five games into the 2013-'14 season and the Georgetown Hoyas are still a team struggling to find its identity. The question marks surrounding the program are still numerous and sitting at 3-2, the inconsistencies are cause for concern. Is this the team that lost in embarrassing fashion to Northeastern? Or, is it the team that beat the no. 10 ranked VCU Rams and their hellacious press in Puerto Rico? Is Joshua Smith on the cusp of being the next great Georgetown big man, or will he continue to frustrate the Hoya fan base with his up and down play? Will this team find a consistent threat from beyond the arc? These questions are just scratching the surface of the current state of the Georgetown program, and as the out of conference schedule continues to roll on, the Hoyas will soon figure out just exactly what their team's identity is.
After splitting their first two games against Oregon in South Korea, and at home against Wright State, the Hoyas ventured to San Juan, Puerto to partake in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic which featured programs like Florida State, the aforementioned VCU, Charlotte, and Michigan. The Hoyas were expecting to compete for the championship, but they got caught sleeping and dropped their opening round game to Colonial Athletic Association contender, Northeastern.
The loss caused quite a ruckus amongst the Hoya fan base. Georgetown blew a double-digit lead in the second half and allowed Northeastern to dominate inside. What was most concerning was Georgetown's inability to crack a 2-3 zone due to their starting backcourt of Markel Starks and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera opting for long-range jumpers (and missing, badly) instead of getting to the rack to disrupt the zone. Despite the huge size advantage Joshua Smith held over the Northeastern bigs, Georgetown couldn't get anything going in the post and were outplayed by the smaller Northeastern bigs. Even more concerning was the energy level displayed by the Hoyas. After getting off to a good start, Georgetown came out in the second half lax and allowed the Huskies to outhustle and outwork them en route to victory.
Even though the Hoyas suffered an early out of conference loss, props to Head Coach John Thompson III for doing a tremendous job of rallying the troops and the Hoyas rebounded nicely with a convincing win over the Kansas State Wildcats the very next day. The Hoyas came out with a much more noticeable bounce in their step and when the Wildcats came out in a zone look, Starks and Smith-Rivera did a much, much better job of attacking the zone off the dribble and penetrating to the hoop. The result was a blowout victory and a matchup with the tenth-ranked VCU Rams.
Against the Rams, the Hoyas once again came out with great energy and jumped out to an early eight-point lead. But, once again, their offense sputtered against a different defensive look (this time it was a press rather than a zone) and the Rams were able to get back in the game. Instead of panicking though, the Hoyas continued to run their offense and behind Smith-Rivera's 26 points, some very clutch free throw shooting from Starks and Smith, and a defensive effort that yielded a seven minute scoreless stretch for the Rams, the Hoyas pulled off a huge early season victory.
That leaves the Hoyas at 3-2 on the season and an uncertainty of what to expect going forward. Georgetown has shown flashes of brilliance, but have also been severely outplayed by lesser opponents. Statistically, the Hoyas seem to be playing as a middle-of-the-pack NCAA team. They currently rank 105th in points per game (78.6), 277th in rebounds per game (33.2), 183rd in assists per game (12.8) and 40th in field goal percentage (50 percent).
The rebounding rate is particularly alarming. Despite being 6-foot-10, Joshua Smith averages an astonishingly low 4.0 rebounds per game. Due to his mammoth stature, Smith has trouble moving from box to box to gather boards and rarely gets a rebound if the ball does not ricochet directly to him off of the rim. Smith is such a big part of the Hoyas' potential success this season. When he is playing well, as he did against VCU, Kansas State, and Oregon, the Hoyas are a tough team to bit. His size, great footwork, and ability to pass out of double-teams make him a threat in the post, but, also due to his size and conditioning, he is only averaging 20 minutes a game. Smith is clearly Georgetown's best option down low. Senior power forward Nate Lubick is a nice complementary piece but he has done nothing to prove that he is anything more than a role player. For Georgetown, it's imperative that Smith continues to work on his conditioning so he can be on the floor playing meaningful minutes during Big East play.
Sophomore shooting guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera is emerging as a star for the Hoyas. After getting off to a rough start with a five-point effort in the loss to Oregon, DSR has averaged 22.5 points per game while shooting 50.9 percent from the field, 52 percent from three-point range, and 88.9 percent from the stripe. The Indianapolis native has bailed out the Hoyas numerous times when their offense goes stagnant and is easily the team's most dynamic player and while his averages and percentages will likely drop, there's no denying that Smith-Rivera is one of the top guards in the Big East. Not bad for a kid who wasn't selected to either Preseason All-Conference Team.
Senior point guard Markel Starks is putting together a great year in his final campaign under John Thompson III. Starks is averaging a team-high 35.4 minutes, 16.4 points, 4.6 assists, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. But, as good as his numbers look, Starks is shooting just 41 percent from the field and 25.9 percent from three. Starks is so effective when he gets to the rim and at 6-foot-2, 175 pounds he is usually bigger and stronger than most of his opposing defenders. If Starks stops relying on his outside shooting and starts attacking with more ferocity, the 1-2 punch of DSR and Starks could eventually become too much to handle in the Big East.
Looking forward, the Hoyas have upcoming games with Lipscomb, High Point, Colgate, and a pretty good Elon before a huge matchup against Kansas on Saturday, December 21. These contests will give JTIII an opportunity to figure out what other constants he has on this team outside of DSR-Smith-Starks triumvirate. The Hoyas must find another capable scorer in the backcourt. Jabril Trawick has looked great on the defensive end and is averaging 7.2 points per game, but most of those points come off of offensive rebounds and putbacks. Freshman Reggie Cameron has an opportunity to step up and be a long range threat. With four games coming up against lesser competition, he will have the chance to get some playing time to mature and progress.
The frontcourt is in total disarray outside of Smith. Moses Ayegba has looked good as a rim protector but is raw on the defensive end. Junior forward Mikael Hopkins has seen his minutes decrease game-by-game which may be a sign that JTIII is losing confidence in him. The Hoyas desperately need another option down low and Hopkins must play better.
Georgetown has a lot of work to do but if all goes accordingly, the Hoyas should be playing at a much higher level heading into their showdown with the Jayhawks.