Challenging Nonconference Schedule to Test Hoyas
The Georgetown men’s basketball team has a tough slate of upcoming games outside league play in the highly competitive Big East conference, ranked No. 3 in the country by KenPom.
The Hoyas’ nonconference schedule includes home games against No. 25 Maryland and No. 18 Connecticut and a road matchup against storied rival No. 19 Syracuse.
A neutral-site game in The Maui Invitational against No. 5 Oregon tops the list of premier nonconference teams, with the potential for matchups against No. 9 Wisconsin and No. 6 North Carolina.
The Hoyas’ first task, however, will be its home opener against the University of South Carolina Upstate Spartans on Nov. 12. USC Upstate is projected to be a bottom dweller in the Atlantic Sun Conference. However, after Georgetown’s losses to Radford, UNC Asheville and Monmouth last year, small games like Upstate can no longer be immediate checks in the win column.
“Beating them is very important,” Hayes said of the opener against the Spartans. “We don’t want to get off to the same start as last season because that will bring back a lot of the same feelings and same doubts. We’re really focusing on having a great season this year.”
After the season opener, Georgetown then turns toward Maryland in a rematch of last year’s four-point road loss. Maryland reached the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament last year for the first time since 2003 and returns most of its starters for the 2016-17 season.
Junior guard and Washington, D.C., native Tre Campbell looks forward to the local rivalry bout.
“Being from D.C., Georgetown versus Maryland is big for the DMV. Having this for the past two years has been a treat and it’ll be big, especially being in D.C. this year. We’re looking forward to it,” Campbell said.
In the following game, Georgetown faces off against Arkansas State in an on-campus game at McDonough Arena. The last time the men’s team played at McDonough was in a National Invitational Tournament game against West Virginia in 2014, which ended in a 77-65 win. Leaving Verizon Center to play on campus is a change and a first-time experience for most of the Hoyas, as only Hayes and senior forward Reggie Cameron remain on the team from the 2013-14 roster.
Straight from the McDonough game, Georgetown will travel to Hawaii and play in the Maui Invitational, starting off against Oregon on Nov. 21. In addition to their top-five ranking in the AP preseason poll, the Ducks boast a preseason All-American in forward Dillon Brooks.
Head Coach John Thompson III knows the challenge the tournament brings and is aiming to learn more about his team through the high level of competition.
“You open up with Oregon, then you have Wisconsin or Tennessee. It’s a brutal, brutal tournament. It’s back to back to back,” Thompson said.
Following the invitational, Georgetown has several more games on the road, playing La Salle in Miami, Fla., and then No. 19 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. Georgetown defeated Final Four participant Syracuse last year in a 79-72 home matchup that saw the Orange close the gap only at the end of the game. However, with both teams returning key players, this year’s game looks to be a more competitive chapter in the historic rivalry between the Hoyas and the Orange.
After Syracuse, Georgetown hosts UNC Greensboro before starting Big East play against Marquette. In the middle of conference play, the team will face off against No. 18 UConn at the Verizon Center. Last season’s matchup saw UConn win by six, but Campbell said the team expects better results this time around.
“They got a lot of guys back and we got a lot of guys back, so it’ll be fun. We’re playing a little different and they’re playing the same, so we’re looking forward to it,” Campbell said.
As Georgetown’s tough opening slate opens approaches, Thompson has cautioned the team to be more focused and prepared than ever.
“It’s tough, it’s a tough schedule that we have to be ready for coming out the gate,” Thompson said. “It is what it is at this point, but it’s tough, it’s difficult. And it may be tougher than I would like it, to be honest. But here we are.”