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Big East 2016-2017 Season Preview: Georgetown Hoyas

The Hoyas return lots of experience, but will it be enough for them to make it back to the NCAA Tournament?

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Georgetown Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

2015-16 record: 15-18 (7-11 Big East); 8th in Big East; lost to Villanova in Big East Tournament Quarterfinals; failed to make postseason

Key Departures: D’Vauntes Smith Rivera (graduation), Paul White (transfer to Oregon)

Key Returnees: Tre Campbell, Kaleb Johnson, L.J. Peak, Isaac Copeland, Marcus Derrickson, Jessie Govan, Bradley Hayes, Reggie Cameron

Key Arrivals: Jonathan Mulmore (JUCO transfer), Rodney Pryor (Transfer from Robert Morris), Jagan Mosely (2016 recruit)

The Georgetown Hoyas had an up-and-down season last year, and that’s perhaps putting it mildly. They started off with a 1-3 record with a disastrous loss to Radford in double overtime to start the year. Then, not-so-bad losses to Maryland and Duke were dealt to them. The theme however was that the Hoyas weren’t getting blown out, and with a win against Wisconsin under their belt, many thought the Hoyas were better than their record suggested.

Five straight wins certainly added fuel to that fire but a two-game slide to both Monmouth and UNC Asheville allowed for the flames to reappear. The Hoyas escaped with a 62-59 win against Charlotte prior to conference season starting allowing for their margin of error to be absolutely razor thin.

Once again, the Hoyas seemed to bounce right back up. Through January 19, they were 5-2 in the Big East and coming off an impressive road win against the Xavier Musketeers. A trip to Connecticut to battle with the Huskies didn’t go their way, but they would follow that up with a big win against Creighton at home to move to 6-2 in the Big East.

It was at that point in time that many thought they had played up to their expectations. Unfortunately, the rest of the story got grim. The Hoyas would go on to lose 9 of their next 10 games to finish out at 7-11 in Big East play. They won their opening round game against DePaul in the Big East Tournament, but were taken down by the eventual national champs, the Villanova Wildcats, in the quarterfinals to finally put their season to rest.

A 15-18 mark did little for optimism in D.C., but entering this year, there are good thoughts on the horizon.

Reasons for Optimism

1. The Returning Players: Losing leading scorer D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (16.2 PPG last season) is obviously significant, but Georgetown brings back pretty much every other player. I know last year wasn’t exactly a success, but guys like Isaac Copeland, LJ Peak, Jessie Govan, and Bradley Hayes all showed great flashes. If they can put it together over a longer course, Georgetown may very well be back where they’ve been in the past.

2. The Bigs: The Big East isn’t going to be a very tall conference this year. Daniel Ochefu, Geoffrey Groselle, and Henry Ellenson have all departed while Georgetown still has size in Hayes, Govan, Copeland, Marcus Derrickson, and Akoy Agau. While the backcourt play is going to be a question mark in the early going, the solidarity in the frontcourt will be a massive benefit to the Hoyas.

3. Things Can’t Be As Bad As Last Year, Right?: Since joining the Big East as a charter member in 1979-80, the Hoyas have had just three losing seasons. To find the last back-to-back losing seasons, you’d have to go back to 1971-72 and 1972-73. Georgetown has also never missed the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons under John Thompson, III. Simply put, sustained struggles have never been a trend at Georgetown, and they have the talent on the roster to make sure they don’t start being a trend now.

Reasons for Pessimism

1. Losing DSR: I know it’s said above that Georgetown returns a lot of players. More than most Big East teams. But their one departure is one of the biggest in the conference as well. In his four seasons with the Hoyas, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera did a little bit of everything. He was a top-5 all-time scorer in program history, excelled at passing the ball, was a threat on defense, and played a ton of minutes.

2. The Backcourt: These go hand-in-hand. With Smith-Rivera’s departure, someone needs to step up and take the reins at point guard. The options? Tre Campbell, who has been mostly an afterthought in his two seasons with the Hoyas and JuCo transfer Jonathan Mulmore. It’s going to be tough for Georgetown going from a multi-dimensional point guard who spent a ton of time on the court to two unknowns.

3. The Schedule: Georgetown always schedules tough nonconference teams, and they deserve credit for that. But they took it to another level this year. The Hoyas face Maryland, Oregon in one of the best Maui Invitational fields ever, Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, and UConn in the nonconference portion of their schedule. That’s a gauntlet no team would like to face, and the Hoyas have to hope for at least a .500 record in those tilts.

Best Case Scenario

The frontcourt plays exceptionally, and the backcourt plays above-average and the Hoyas head into the Big East Tournament as a top-four seed. They pick up a couple wins at the Garden to head into the NCAA Tournament as a four-seed, and rack up a couple wins to advance to the second weekend. Jessie Govan plays well enough to live up to the first round grade DraftExpress has on him.

Worst Case Scenario

Everything that happens last year happens again. Bad nonconference losses, poor defense, sloppy offensive play, everything.