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Big East 2015-16 Season Preview: Georgetown Hoyas

The Hoyas are loaded, and are ready to make another run in the BIG EAST Conference.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

2014-15 Record

23-11 (12-6 BIG EAST); T-2nd in conference. Lost to Xavier Musketeers in BIG EAST Tournament Semifinal; Lost to Utah Utes in Round of 32 in NCAA Tournament


John Thompson III, who will begin his 12th season in Washington D.C. this coming year. Under JTIII, the Hoyas have only amounted less than 20 wins three times in his tenure with one 30-win season coming in the 2006-07 season when they made the Final Four. He has racked up 249 wins as the coach for Georgetown and a win percentage of .684 with a conference win percentage of .636, 119 wins amounted in BIG EAST play.

Key Returnees

D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (16.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 3.2 APG, .421 FG%, .387 3PT FG%, .861 FT%)

L.J. Peak (7.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, .394 FG%, .246 3PT FG%, .701 FT%)

Isaac Copeland (6.8 PPG, 3.8 APG, .451 FG%, .389 3PT FG%, .809 FT%)

Paul White (5.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.2 APG, .404 FG%, .377 3PT FG%, .706 FT%)

Tre Campbell (3.4 PPG, 0.9 APG, 0.6 SPG, .378 FT%, .362 3PT FG%, .692 FT%)

Key Departures

Joshua Smith (Graduation)

Aaron Bowen (Graduation)

Jabril Trawick (Graduation)

Mikael Hopkins (Graduation)

Notable Additions

Jessie Govan (4* Center, Bronx, NY)

Marcus Derrickson (4* Power Forward, Wolfeboro NH)

Kaleb Johnson (3* Small Forward, Martinsville, VA)

Get to Know Georgetown's Recruits: Jessie Govan Marcus Derrickson Kaleb Johnson

Last Season at a Glance

The Georgetown Hoyas were looking to get off a schneid they suffered in 2013. It started with a shocking loss to 15-seeded Florida Gulf Coast in the 2013 NCAA Tournament and bowled into the 2013-14 campaign when the Hoyas went 18-15 with an NIT Tournament appearance and a loss to lowly DePaul in the BIG EAST Conference Tournament. Georgetown had to find a way to bounce back to deflect all of the doubt and question marks surrounding this team hailing from the Nation's Capital, and so to it they did.

The Hoyas returned to the NCAA Tournament and near the top of the BIG EAST standings with a 23-11 campaign with a 12-6 mark in BIG EAST play. Perhaps the most notable win of the season came against the highly touted Villanova Wildcats, who would go on to win the conference regular season and tourney titles, in a 78-58 shellacking on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The only losses the Hoyas suffered in conference play were to NCAA Tournament teams - Providence, Xavier, Villanova and St. John's - and were able to sweep the eventual NCAA Tournament-bound Butler Bulldogs. In total, the Hoyas defeated five NCAA Tournament-bound teams in the 2014-15 season and made it to the Round of 32 for the first time since 2012.

Standouts for the club last year included D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and the group of freshmen that JTIII hauled in. L.J. Peak, Isaac Copeland, Tre Campbell and Paul White all made significant impacts for this club even while remaining youthful. The experience they got and the talent they possess made Georgetown a very formidable threat in the conference a year ago and should only pay more dividends as they head into this coming year.

Reasons for Optimism

1. The Frontcourt: Boy is Georgetown loaded up front. While Joshua Smith, Jabril Trawick and Mikael Hopkins have departed, there is a lot of depth at the 3, 4, and 5 that will be used in spades. We'll likely see the talented sophmores in L.J. Peak, Isaac Copeland and Paul White used early and often, and junior Reggie Cameron and senior 7-footer Bradley Hayes should see the floor often too.

Then, you have to also account for the incoming freshmen. Kaleb Johnson, Marcus Derrickson and Jessie Govan will all likely get a lot of burn if last year is any indication of how JTIII will use his youngsters. Govan could very well be the starting center for the Hoyas if Thompson III doesn't decide to use the veteran in Bradley Hayes at the 5 from the jump. Bottom line: Georgetown runs incredibly deep in the frontcourt and perhaps more so than any squad in this conference.

2. DSR: As mentioned previously, we suspect that Smith-Rivera is going to be the catalyst for this Georgetown team. The Hoyas senior has seen it all in his time on The Hilltop and has experienced tremendous growth under the direction of his head coach. He did see some slips in efficiency from his stout numbers in 2013-14 last year, but still hovered around the area of 52 percent for eFG% and 58-59% in TS%. He excelled in FT percentage, making 136 of his 158 attempts (86.1 percent) and was also good at staying out of foul trouble and drawing fouls against his opponents. Basically, DSR can do it all and is the Hoyas' best player until proven otherwise. And he's a big reason why this team should return to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season.

3. The Super Sophomores: Those aforementioned freshmen - Peak, Copeland, Campbell, and White - are now sophomores, and the seasoning they were dashed and doused with in 2014 is only going to benefit them in 2015. Barring something cataclysmic, expecting a leap from each of these players isn't the craziest suggestion. Peak and Copeland in particular should shine with extended minutes and we could wind up seeing Tre Campbell as the starting point guard if JTIII decides to roll him out instead of having DSR command the ball on Hoya offensive possessions. Paul White will likely remain as a strong role player with his length as an added benefit. You'd be hard pressed to find a better quartet than this one at a barbershop much less on the hardwood. And they're a major reason for optimism in D.C. in 2015.

Reasons for Pessimism

1. A thin backcourt: So, you know how the Hoyas have a deep frontcourt? Well, you can't really say the same about their backcourt. Smith-Rivera, Peak and Campbell are terrific, no doubt. But once you get past them... the cupboard is practically barren. 6-foot-6 Kaleb Johnson could be an option as a 2 or a 3, but he, aside from Peak, DSR and Campbell are the only scholarship players that Georgetown is carrying with them this season. The lone player at their disposal is Riyan Williams, a 6-foot-4 walk-on who got minimal burn in eight games played in his junior season. Suffice it to say, as discussed on the season preview hangout: The Georgetown backcourt is one catastrophic injury away from thinning even further, and it's something that cannot be ignored.

2. The league gets tougher: A reason for pessimism for the Hoyas is that everyone around them - sans St. John's - has arguably gotten better coming into 2015. The BIG EAST has always been a tough league but when you consider that Marquette has a talented recruiting class coming in, that Villanova and MU have super freshmen Jalen Brunson and Henry Ellenson coming into the fold, that Butler only lost Alex Barlow and Kameron Woods, that Xavier is still bringing on a majority of the team that went to the Sweet 16 last season, and that Creighton has reloaded with transfers Maurice Watson Jr. and Cole Huff, it has the makings of a very difficult season in conference. The Hoyas are no doubt talented and have been projected to finish near the top of the conference, but it will be no easy task, rest assured.

3. A tough nonconference slate: Speaking of no easy task... Nobody is really envious of Georgetown and the nonconference slate they have ahead of them. They will reap the benefits of it in March if it shakes out well for them and they get a few quality wins, but Maryland, Wisconsin, Duke or VCU, Syracuse and Connecticut are as formidable of threats as you can find. Only Villanova, who will be facing Virginia and Oklahoma among others can really contest that they have a tough road, and even then, it's rather top-heavy and only two teams. Georgetown is guaranteed to face four teams in the KenPom preseason Top 35, and could face five if they face Duke, or should they face VCU, five in the Top 60. There's nothing wrong with challenging yourselves - in fact, John Thompson III and Georgetown should be commended for giving themselves such terrific noncon opponents - but it's nothing if not unenviable for the rest of the league.

Best Case Scenario

The best case for the scenario for the 2015-16 Georgetown Hoyas is to win the National Cha... okay. That's the obvious best case scenario. Realistically, Georgetown takes care of business big time in the nonconference portion of their schedule. They get a big win over Maryland in College Park, garner a split in the 2K Sports Classic with a win over VCU and a hard-luck loss to Wisconsin. Then, in their nostalgia Big East matchups, they split them as well, knocking off bitter rival Syracuse and falling short narrowly in Hartford against the UConn Huskies.

Then, in conference, the Hoyas go round-for-round with Villanova and knock off the Wildcats in Philadelphia on the last day of the season - maybe in dramatic, last-second fashion - to win the BIG EAST regular season crown for the first time in the 'new' BIG EAST era, stopping 'Nova from achieving the Tom Emanski back-to-back-to-back special. The Hoyas rumble in The Garden (See what I did there?) and win the BIG EAST Conference Tournament for the first time since 2007 off the back of brilliant performances from DSR and his supporting cast of sophomores.

Georgetown goes on to erase any and all doubt about their first weekend woes and makes it to the second weekend for the first time since 2007 as well and give their conference a much-needed boost in the court of public opinion.

Worst Case Scenario

The Hoyas take a stumble backwards in the 2015-16 season after laying some good groundwork in 2014. The thin backcourt rears its ugly head early as a key piece (We won't name one so we don't get called out for jinxes. Them's the rules) goes down early. Georgetown loses to Maryland and rebounds with a win over Wisconsin but gets thumped by Duke in the final of the 2K Sports Classic.

Three games later, Syracuse walks back into the Verizon Center and nabs a victory over their rivals - perhaps in dramatic, last-second fashion - and 'Cuse fans and Jim Boeheim gloat a good deal about it. Georgetown plays skittishly in the tough BIG EAST and their trip up to Hartford to face former conference foe UConn doesn't serve any better, as Daniel Hamilton and Rodney Purvis & Co. bludgeon Georgetown.

The Hoyas make a run in the conference tournament to secure a bid in the NCAA Tournament but, once again, falter in the first weekend and get bounced early.

2015-16 Outlook

The Hoyas have a monstrous nonconference slate ahead of them this year. Matchups with Maryland, Wisconsin, possibly Duke or VCU, Syracuse and UConn headline a rather ridiculous nonconference schedule that challenges Villanova as the toughest in the league. The Hoyas could very well face last year's National Runner Up and National Champion in the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden this year if that scenario plays itself out with Wisconsin and Duke awaiting them at The World's Most Famous Arena.

Clashes with two former BIG EAST schools await them as well as the Hoyas will host bitter rival Syracuse and travel up to Hartford to take on the UConn Huskies at the XL Center. While it's not the Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, expect a rabid crowd to greet them in The Nutmeg State as well as a very tough Huskies club that now includes former Seton Hall Pirate Sterling Gibbs as well as Daniel Hamilton, Rodney Purvis, and Amida Brimah. The Orange will also provide a tough challenge for Georgetown as they tote Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije.

But perhaps nothing stands out more than the highly anticipated bout with the Maryland Terrapins. This DMV rivalry has been quelled for quite some time but, finally, they'll match up in College Park as part of ESPN's 24-Hour Tip-Off Marathon. The Terps are very highly touted and are one of the favorites in the Big Ten Conference this year with the likes of Melo Trimble, Rasheed Suliamon, Jake Layman and five-star center Diamond Stone, a 6-foot-11, 255-pound center whose talent is off the charts.Georgetown kicks off Big East play on December 30th, with a trip to Chicago to face DePaul. Their next four games set up favorably, as they face Marquette at home, play away against Creighton, host DePaul, and then travel to St. John's. The only real concern here is if the Hoyas are affected by two early trips to the Midwest, as they should be favored in all five games.

The first crucial stretch of the Georgetown schedule starts on January 16th, when Georgetown hosts rival Villanova, in what is expected to be one of the marquee games of the Big East season. The Hoyas dispatched of Villanova by 20 points at home last year, by shooting over 50% from the field and forcing 17 Villanova turnovers. Expect the Wildcats to bring their A-game this time around, as they surely will want to avenge last year's debacle.

Following their date with Villanova, Georgetown will travel to Xavier to face a very tough opponent. This may be a bit of a let down game for the Hoyas, as it is sandwiched in between Villanova and a rare January non-conference matchup against former Big East rival UConn. After which, the Hoyas will host Creighton and Providence, followed by a road matchup against Butler. This stretch of games will certainly give the Hoyas a chance to emerge as one of the conference's elite teams, and if they can make it through with only one or two losses, they should be in great position to win the regular season conference title.

The last four games for Georgetown will be another difficult test, as they host Xavier and Butler, then play at both Marquette and Villanova. Just the thought of having the regular season finale of Georgetown vs Villanova be for the regular season championship should be enough to get Hoya fans excited, but they have a lot of work to do to get to that point.

Georgetown will likely have their hands full in the BIG EAST again, as it's one of the toughest leagues in America. They come into the year though with a loaded frontcourt and three terrific guards with D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera standing out amongst the pack. DSR will likely be the anchor for this Hoyas squad in 2015 and they will go as far as he does. He'll have lots of support around him though and the talent on this team is one of the reasons why many suspect another high finish in the conference and a trip to the NCAA Tournament is in Georgetown's future.