Will Soft Nonconference Schedule Weaken Hoyas?
Striving for a promising first year under the tenure of new Head Coach Patrick Ewing, the Georgetown men’s basketball team has a great opportunity to re-establish itself as a winning program this year — especially in games outside league play in the highly competitive Big East conference.
This year’s Hoya squad opens the season on Saturday, Nov. 12 at home against Jacksonville, the first of 11 nonconference opponents Georgetown will play. Georgetown is set to face 10 of the 11 nonconference opponents at home, with its lone road game at Richmond on Nov. 25. The Hoyas’ battle with longtime rival Syracuse will take place Dec. 16.
Over the summer, Ewing pulled his squad out of November’s Phil Knight PK80 Invitational, which included games against UConn, Oregon and No. 2 Michigan State, and replaced them with opponents that went 130-231 last year, a .360 winning percentage.
For Ewing, the evaluation of the team was an important factor in constructing the nonconference schedule.
“My guys are coming off two poor years, and it is my job to mend their egos and to get them to believe in themselves again,” Ewing said at Georgetown’s media day. “Making our nonconference schedule is to get our team to be better, to be a more cohesive team.”
Ewing also stressed that nonconference play is not his team’s ultimate concern.
“The Big East is what it’s all about,” Ewing said. “Get our guys believing in themselves and get ready for the Big East competition. Do well in the Big East, and the sky’s the limit.”
Ewing extended this sentiment to his decision to pull the Hoyas from the PK80.
“I thought it was in our best interests that I mend our guys and get them ready for the Big East,” he said.
Ewing’s words reflect a clear focus on using the nonconference schedule to prepare his players to thrive when conference play begins.
The Hoyas are coming off a disappointing 14-18 season — including an abysmal 5-13 conference record — the firing of longtime Head Coach John Thompson III and the loss of their top two scorers from last year, L.J. Peak and Rodney Pryor, without the addition of an official top-100 prospect.
The team will undoubtedly need time to acclimate to Ewing’s new offensive and defensive systems while building chemistry with each other. For Ewing, the first half of the season serves as a great opportunity for the team to work on developing consistency and compiling wins against subpar competition.
After their season opener against Jacksonville the Hoyas take on Mount Saint Mary’s on Nov. 15. The Mountaineers won the Northeast conference last year with a 20-16 record, but lost their top scorer Elijah Long to the University of Texas. From there, Georgetown takes on Maryland Eastern Shore on Nov. 18, a mid-major that finished 14-20 last year and also lost their top scorer Bakari Copeland, who graduated in the spring. Afterwards, the Blue and Gray faces Richmond, a solid squad that finished fourth in a tough Atlantic-10 conference last season, but lost its top two scorers, T.J. Cline and ShawnDre’ Jones.
Amid a litany of games against pedestrian opponents, the classic Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry returns to the Capital One Arena this year in what is already shaping up to be the game of the year. The Orange did not make the NCAA Tournament last year despite having wins against three of the top-10 teams, while also losing their best player, Tyler Lydon, to the NBA.
Coach Ewing expressed excitement at the opportunity to revisit old Big East rivalries in anticipation of the contest.
“Teams like Syracuse — it’s going to be great to play against them,” Ewing said. “Jim Boeheim is an outstanding coach. He’s stood the test of time, and he’s done an outstanding job with his program.”
Beyond a chance to boost team morale and chemistry, the easy schedule also allows a much easier transition to the college game for Ewing. After playing in the NBA for 16 years and working the sidelines as an assistant coach for 15, Ewing has deep roots in both facets of the game and is very aware of their differences.
“I’m just going to do what’s in the best interests of this program,” Ewing said. “I’m going to be just like any other coach.”