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2019-2020 Georgetown Hoyas Season Preview

Can the Hoyas end their four-year NCAA Tournament drought?

NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Marquette Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Coach

Patrick Ewing - 3rd Season

  • 34-29, Overall
  • 14-22, Big East

2018-19 Season at a Glance

  • 19-14 (9-9 Big East, 6th place), #3 seed NIT, lost in first round, #100 KenPom

Roster Update

Departures

  • Jessie Govan - 17.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 49.6 FG%
  • Greg Malinowski - 5.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 44.4 FG%
  • Kaleb Johnson - 4.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 59.8 FG%
  • Trey Mourning - 6.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 43.5 FG%

Returnees

  • Jahvon Blair - Jr., 4.1 ppg, 1.2 apg, 34.4 3PT%
  • Jamorko Pickett - Jr., 6.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 38.2 FG%
  • Mac McClung - So., 13.1 ppg, 2.0 apg, 39.2 FG%
  • James Akinjo - So., 13.4 ppg, 5.2 apg, 39.1 3PT%
  • Jagan Mosely - Sr., 3.1 ppg, 2.2 apg, 46.3 FG%
  • George Muresan - Sr., 1.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.00 FG%
  • Jaden Robinson - So.
  • Josh LeBlanc - So., 9.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 63.0 FG%
  • Omer Yurtseven - Jr., Sat out due to NCAA transfer rules

Newcomers

  • Timothy Ighoefe - Fr.
  • Chuma Azinge - Fr.
  • Galen Alexander - Jr., LSU, Jones County Junior College
  • Terrell Allen - Graduate student, UCF
  • Myron Gardner - Fr.
  • Malcolm Wilson - Fr.
  • Qudus Wahab - Fr.

What Happened Last Year

Led by Jessie Govan and an exciting freshman trio of James Akinjo, Mac McClung, and Josh LeBlanc, the Hoyas avoided the play-in games of the Big East Tournament and played postseason basketball for the first time since 2014-15. They beat who they were supposed to beat in non-conference play, avoiding a slip up against the likes of Campbell and Appalachian State, but faltered against tougher opposition like Syracuse and SMU. Then, in the Big East, inconsistency plagued Georgetown. This was best encapsulated by the last week of the team’s regular season schedule, when they beat Seton Hall and Marquette on consecutive Saturdays, but suffered a 32-point loss to DePaul midweek.

Georgetown topped the conference in scoring offense (79.5 points per game), but also ranked dead last in scoring defense (78.1 ppg). The defensive aches struck most glaringly in late-game situations. The Hoyas would begin to make runs, looking threatening on the offensive end, but their inability to get stops at opportune times stifled their ability to win close games.

Poor ball security complicated matters further. The Blue & Gray ranked among the conference’s bottom tier in turnover margin (-1.2). This largely stemmed from the fact the two freshmen, Akinjo and McClung, served as the team’s primary ballhandlers. At times, their youth would display itself in the way of forced passes, over dribbling, or poor decision making.

The Hoyas had a small, but not insignificant, chance of making the NCAA Tournament, ending a three year drought. A marquee win over Villanova at home provided hope for a strong end to the campaign, but the Hoyas struggled on the road, losing two of their final three games away from the nation’s capital, ending their at-large bid hopes.


Reasons for Optimism

The Trio Returns

Georgetown returns three players named to the Big East All-Freshman Team last season in Akinjo, McClung, and LeBlanc.

Head coach Patrick Ewing handed Akinjo, who was named Big East Freshman of the Year, the reigns to the offense from game one, and Akinjo thrived, posting 13.4 points and 5.2 assists per game. Not only were Akinjo’s numbers stellar, but his style of play was something which Georgetown had lacked for several years. Akinjo can push the tempo, create his own shot, and make difficult passes to facilitate open shots. That sort of creativity had been lacking on the Hoyas’ roster for some time, and his playmaking ability certainly excited fans throughout the season. The Hoya faithful will hope Akinjo can cut down on his three turnovers per game in his sophomore campaign.

LeBlanc provided a stout defensive presence down low last season, helping to fill the defensive holes left in the paint by his teammates in the frontcourt. He excelled at timing his defensive slides and block attempts, every so often emphatically blocking an opponent’s shot attempt in a similar fashion to how his head coach would have done some thirty-plus years ago. LeBlanc also ran the floor in transition very well and grabbed a team-high 84 offensive rebounds on the season. If LeBlanc can develop his offensive game outside of 12 feet, he very well could help space the floor, affording players like Akinjo more room to penetrate the defense.

McClung, whose inclusion in the starting lineup to start the season came as a surprise to some, provided capable, yet inconsistent scoring. He posted the third-highest scoring average on the third-most shot attempts, but struggled from behind the arc, shooting just 28 percent from deep. While he certainly demonstrated the ability to heat up quickly, there were several games in which McClung struggled to find his stroke, and might have forced shots to compensate. In a pre-season media availability, McClung noted that he hopes to be more judicious in picking his spots this season.

With a year of collegiate play under its belt, this trio provides a unique blend of playmaking ability, defensive prowess, and explosive athleticism that could spell trouble for opposing teams.

Transfer Experience Eligible

The Hoyas will receive a boost from the transfer market this season. Omer Yurtseven, a dynamic 7-foot center, will be eligible after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. In his sophomore season (2017-18) at NC State, Yurtseven averaged 13.5 points and 6.7 rebounds while starting 32 of the Wolfpack’s 33 games. Using his combination of low-post moves and outside shooting touch, Yurtseven accumulated double digit point hauls in 14-of-18 ACC games and posted a career-high 29 points against Clemson.

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Yurtseven’s offensive production will help ensure the gap left by Jessie Govan is minimal. Govan was a driving force behind the Georgetown offense throughout his four years. With Govan limited on that end of the floor, Yurtseven’s insertion into the team will provide steady paint opportunities that should generate space for shooters on the perimeter.

But the Turkish big man’s biggest impact will almost certainly come on the defensive end. Govan’s lack of physical presence often hurt the Hoyas on the interior, and Yurtseven provides a noticeable upgrade in that department. When paired with LeBlanc, who has demonstrated his own defensive instincts in the past, Yurtseven can provide a proper spine for a Hoyas defense that was once known for its physicality.

Terrell Allen also joins the team as an immediately-eligible graduate transfer guard. Last season, Allen and the UCF Golden Knights made waves in the NCAA Tournament by nearly upending Duke in the first weekend. A native of the DC-area (DeMatha High School), Allen provides the team with a steady veteran presence. He is a strong defender, and can distribute the ball well, demonstrated by his 142 assists last season, which was the seventh-most assists in a single season in UCF history. While Allen’s role remains to be determined, his presence means the Hoyas have a reliable bench option--alongside Jagan Mosely—to relieve Akinjo and McClung throughout the season. Allen’s experience should help the sophomore starters in their development as well.


Reasons for Pessimism

Youth in the Frontcourt

The Hoyas might struggle to find quality substitutes in the frontcourt this season. Jamorko Pickett struggled to repeat the success of his freshman campaign, in which he was a unanimous Big East All-Freshman Team selection, in his sophomore campaign. Pickett struggled offensively, scoring just 6.2 points per game. However, he did make strides defensively and rebounding, which earned him 22 starts on the year. Pickett can be a strong option up front, but it’s not clear if he will be able to blend his freshman-year offensive game with the strides he made elsewhere in his second year to be the reliable option Georgetown needs.

Outside of Pickett, the frontcourt features three freshmen centers. Qudus Wahab, a 6-foot-11, 237 pound prospect from Lagos, Nigeria, headlines the group. In Kenner League action over the summer, Wahab was clearly the most polished of the group, and appeared to have the ability to provide quality minutes in small doses. But, as is the problem with having so much youth at any one position in college basketball, consistency will be an issue. There will be rough patches for the freshmen, and if Yurtseven or LeBlanc get into foul trouble on a night where the freshmen are struggling, Georgetown may have to play small ball.

Perimeter Shooting (Or a Lack Thereof)

Of all returning players who attempted more than 10 three-pointers last season, only James Akinjo shot the ball above 36 percent from deep. That’s less than ideal.

The team really lacks a spot-up shooter thanks to Greg Malinowski’s departure. It may be a case of finding the hot hand when necessary, but it is not clear who the team would turn to in situations where it needs a three-pointer late in games. Yurtseven shot the deep ball at a 50 percent clip as a sophomore at NC State, and could provide some relief, but he won’t be spending the majority of his time out on the perimeter. Allen showed significant strides between his second and third seasons, improving to 41 percent three-point shooting from 33 percent between 2017-18 and 2018-19. Could the transfers be the deep threat Georgetown needs?

Ultimately, a lack of quality shooters did not hurt the Blue & Gray’s ability to score last season. But having someone like Greg Malinowski, who the defense must pay attention to at all times, can be liberating for the rest of the offense by providing greater space to work. Without a player like that on the roster, Georgetown might run into issues.


Prediction

Record: 21-10, 11-7 Big East

Georgetown weathers its toughest non-conference schedule since Patrick Ewing’s hiring with wins over Penn State, Texas, and Syracuse. The Hoyas fall to Duke in the Empire Classic final, providing them with a solid foundation heading into conference play. Starting the Big East schedule off with a trip to Providence, where Georgetown has struggled mightily in recent years, complicates things a bit, and the Hoyas start off slowly in conference play before righting the ship. Ultimately, the team has the talent and backcourt depth to challenge for a top-four spot in the Big East. Their relative youth and lack of frontcourt depth cause concern throughout the year, but the returning starters have the quality to finish out close games and ultimately propel Georgetown back into the NCAA Tournament via an at-large bid.

Most Outstanding Player: Omer Yurtseven

X-Factor: Jamorko Pickett