When Georgetown walked off the floor of the Tucker Center following a 101-90 loss to Florida State in the 2014 NIT, it wrapped up a rather disappointing year, at least by the lofty standards set by one of the Big East's preeminent programs. It's 18-15 overall finish marked just the second time since 2006 Georgetown had failed to reach 20 wins.
Well, it was back to business as usual this past season, as the Hoyas put together a solid campaign, going 22-11, including a 12-6 run in league play, which was good enough for the No. 2 seed in the Big East Tournament. Georgetown also rose as high as No. 21 in the AP poll and made a return to the NCAA Tournament after its one-year hiatus. For a fan base that has been spoiled by success, it was a season with plenty of bright spots and even more promise for the future.
The High Point
This is a rather easy selection. It's not everyday a team, even so storied as Georgetown, kicks in the teeth of a national powerhouse like Villanova. On Jan. 19, the Hoyas hosted the then No. 4 Wildcats at the Verizon Center, penning yet another chapter in the storied rivalry between the two schools. (Shout outs to Ed Pinckney and Patrick Ewing). It wasn't a page-turner, at least from the visiting team's perspective. The Hoyas swarmed all over the Wildcats and didn't let them breathe, forcing 17 turnovers and limiting the usually efficient passing of the 'Nova backcourt, holding Darrun Hilliard and company to just eight assists, en route to a 78-58 demolition job.
The number 17 featured prominently in the contest. It was not only the number of turnovers forced by the Hoyas but the game-high point total of D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Isaac Copeland (more on those fellows to come) as well. Plus, Georgetown went on a 17-0 run in the first half to put a death grip on the contest.
The Low Point
There weren't a whole lot of dismaying losses for Georgetown this season. However, there was an ever present thorn in its side all season by the name of Xavier. The Hoyas could never figure out the X, losing to the Musketeers three times, including a devastating 65-63 loss in the Big East Tournament semifinals. Although the Hoyas lost by an average of 15 points in the two regular season losses, the defeat in the conference tourney was the most emotionally draining of the three. After falling behind by as many as 20 points, the Hoyas came storming back down the stretch, pulling themselves to within a single point three times in the final minute. However, the last ditch effort came up short, as Xavier escaped to the title game and John Thompson III's squad was left to second guess.
What Went Right
To win 22 games, more than a few bounces have to go your way. Georgetown got a whole bushel in its favor. The Hoyas were second in the Big East in steal percentage (11.6) and had the second fewest turnovers per game (12.6). Taking the ball fairly frequently and rarely turning it over is a recipe for success. In fact, it' is up there with Make-Your-Shots Parmigiana and Clean-The-Glass Souffle.
Georgetown is often seen as a physical team and there's good reason for that. With players like Smith-Rivera and Jabril Trawick showing absolutely no fear in putting the ball on the deck and willing themselves to the rim, despite towering big men on the interior. The Hoyas consistently got themselves to the free-throw line this season, ranking at the top of the Big East and among the top 50 teams nationally in free throw rate (.439) and free throw point percentage (.231). Of course, tjhat doesn't mean the Hoyas were the best at actually making free throws, especially Josh Smith, who took 144 free throws this season, the second-most on the team, but frequently had his line-drive like attempts clang off the rim.
Not only did Georgetown challenge itself this season (seventh-best strength of schedule in the country), it lived up to the challenge. Here's a list of the teams Georgetown lost to; Wisconsin, Butler, Kansas, Xavier (thrice), Providence (twice), St. Johns, Villanova and Utah. Every single one of those teams was in the NCAA Tournament and each one spent at least a week or two in the national rankings at some point. So the Hoyas did an excellent job of beating the teams they were supposed to, while adding in wins over St. John's, Butler, Villanova and Florida for good measure.
What Went Wrong
As mentioned before, Georgetown's inability to defeat Xavier came back to bite it on more than one occasion. In posting an 0-3 mark against the X-men, the Hoyas were outscored by an average of 10.7 points per game. They shot no better than 40 percent in each loss and were on the short end in the rebounding department twice. In addition, the normally careful Hoyas were unable to limit the mistakes against the Musketeers, averaging 14 turnovers per game.
Cleaning the defensivegclass was another weak point, although not a devastating one. So maybe weak-ish would be a better description. Despite the presence of behemoths like Smith and Mikael Hopkins, the Hoyas only ranked seventh in the Big East in defensive rebounds (23.8 PG), while finishing fifth in total rebounds (34.9 RPG).
Finally, the Hoyas' were not the most efficient or exciting offensive team. Their aggression in one-on-one situations deserves some praise, but it sometimes led to stagnant possessions. In all, they ranked sixth in the Big East in assists per game (12.9 APG) and assist percentage (53.4). It really worked against them in the round of 32 loss to Utah, when they managed only nine dimes on 24 field goals, while attempting 55 shots.
He was supposed to be the Big East Player of the Year and while he may have come up short in that regard, Smith-Rivera was easily the most valuable player for Georgetown. The junior guard led the Hoyas in scoring (16.3 PPG), assists (3.2 APG) and steals, while providing tenacious on-ball defense against the litany of talented guards in the conference. He also put in work on the glass, ranking third on the squad in rebounds (4.2 RPG). If you're looking for more analytical statistics, you're in luck. DSR led the entire Big East in offensive rating (124.1), offensive win shares (4.1) and overall win shares (5.6). So, in conclusion, DSR's da real MVP.
Points: D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera 16.3 PPG
Rebounds: Josh Smith and Mikael Hopkins 5.8 RPG
Assists: D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera 3.2 APG
Blocks: Mikael Hopkins 1.6 BPG
Steals: D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera 1.6 SPG
3-Point percentage: Jabril Trawick .407 (33-of-81)
The Hoyas are about to lose a lot of punch in the frontcourt as both Smith and Hopkins will not be back for the 2015-16 season. Smith was a frustrating player at times, too often getting into foul trouble, while failing to work hard enough on the glass, but he was a staple in the paint for Georgetown after transferring from UCLA. Hopkins was another in a long line of defensively-focused big men at Georgetown. He never really developed as an offensive threat (4.9 career PPG), but he was an effective rebounder off the bench and was really the only rim protector on the roster.
Trawick, much like Hopkins, was always an important contributor but never the star. He will be sorely missed, especially considering his dedication to improving every season. He shot a career-high rate from 3-point range this past season and also set career-highs in assists (2.4 APG) and rebounds (3.6 RPG), while matching the personal best in scoring he averaged in his junior season (9.1 PPG).
The final senior gone is Aaron Bowen, who was a key part of Georgetown's depth as he played in 66 games over the last two seasons.
Outlook for 2015-16
Thanks to a change of heart from Smith-Rivera, who initially planned to declare for the NBA Draft before electing to return for his senior season, the Hoyas are set to be major contenders next season. Once again, Smith-Rivera will be a POTY candidate and the leader of the team, but he has plenty of young guns to help him out. Isaac Copeland and L.J. Peak both showed tremendous star power in their freshmen seasons and Tre Campbell should be able to step in right away as a sophomore starter in the backcourt.
The frontcourt may take a bit more remolding, but that shouldn't be an issue for JTIII, especially with Trey Mourning (son of some guy named Alonzo) ready to go, along with touted recruits Jessie Govan and Marcus Derrickson. Georgetown may be an even better and younger team next season, which spells great things for the years to come.
Even some former Hoyas got in on the action this season, as both a former player and coach earned some impressive distinctions.
First and foremost, Dikembe Mutombo can now wave his finger at all the Hall of Fame deniers, as he was elected into the Hall this spring. Mutombo was an AP All-American at Georgetown in 1991 and two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year. He went on to become an eight-time All-Star in the NBA.
In addition, legendary sideline stalker John Thompson was inducted into the Washington D. C. Sports Hall of Fame as well. You can count this year as a success all the way around for Georgetown.