Georgetown has lost its top three scorers from a season ago, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to count the Hoyas out of postseason play just yet.
One of the key reasons for optimism is the hard-nosed defensive philosophy that Thompson (like his famous father) has brought to the Hoya program. A top-20 defense nationally a season ago, Georgetown is still going to be able to frustrate opposing scorers in 2012-13.
Read on for more on the Hoya D and the rest of the best reasons to pencil Georgetown into your 2013 March Madness bracket.
For the second year in a row, the Hoyas enter the season without a defined primary ballhandler.
Fortunately for them, the version of the Princeton offense that John Thompson III has them running allows them to function just fine in the half-court whether they have a point guard or not.
The fact that Thompson recruits big men with passing skills—witness the team-high 3.5 assists per game dished out by 6’10” Henry Sims last year—allows Georgetown to run its offense through any of the five players on the floor at any given time.
That’s not to say the Hoyas wouldn’t be happy to have someone step up at the point guard spot, but even if they continue with their point-guard-by-committee approach, they’ll still be able to put points on the scoreboard.
The top of the Big East conference will be as stacked as usual, with Louisville among the frontrunners for the national title and Syracuse not far behind them. After that daunting duo, though, the talent level drops off faster than this league is accustomed to.
With West Virginia gone to the Big 12 and Marquette in a similar rebuilding mode to Georgetown’s, the Hoyas are going to have a puncher’s chance in virtually every conference game.
Considering that UConn landed an at-large bid a year ago with an 8-10 conference record—which seems well below Georgetown’s likely performance—it’s hard to picture the Hoyas being sufficiently outmatched to miss the tourney entirely.
Although freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is a safe bet to earn a starting job, the other two new faces in the starting lineup will be players who got their share of seasoning in 2011-12.
Among the leading contenders are Markel Starks, who scored 7.1 points a game off the bench last year, and Greg Whittington, who chipped in with 4.3 points and 2.9 boards a night as a freshman.
Having played significant minutes on a winning team will be invaluable experience for both youngsters, and Whittington should also have the benefit of the major improvement most players make between their freshman and sophomore seasons.
Even the Hoyas who didn’t play as much last year (notably 6’9” sophomore Mikael Hopkins) will benefit enormously from a full season of practice when it comes to getting over the learning curve on John Thompson III’s Princeton offense.
Leave it to Georgetown to find a high-end shooting guard who plays like a power forward.
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is a 6’3” freshman who weighs in at a rock-solid 220 lbs and uses his strength advantage to attack the basket at every opportunity.
Smith-Rivera, the gem of John Thompson III’s recruiting class, also has a terrific mid-range jump shot, though his three-point stroke hasn’t yet caught up.
His ability to finish through contact and get to the foul line will be especially valuable in the black-and-blue Big East.
The 2011-12 Hoyas played some of the best defense in the country, holding opponents to 59.4 points a game (16th nationally) and 38.7 percent shooting (13th).
Three starters from that squad are gone, but Georgetown’s success on defense had a lot more to do with a team effort than with any individual stoppers.
The key to Georgetown’s success is contesting shots and bodying up on opposing scorers, and with Otto Porter leading the way from his power forward spot, the Hoyas will be well equipped to continue that approach.
Add in Georgetown's impressive size across the board—6’8” forwards Nate Lubick and Greg Whittington, 6’3”, 220-lb freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera at the 2—and opposing offenses will be in for a long night when Georgetown shows up on the schedule.
Playing alongside 6’10”, 245-lb center Henry Sims, Otto Porter led Georgetown in rebounding as a freshman. Those 6.8 boards per contest speak volumes about the toughness of the 6’8”, 205-lb Porter.
With the Hoyas’ top three scorers gone, Porter will need to step up on offense, a challenge he’s more than capable of meeting.
He contributed 9.7 points a game a season ago, and his .525 shooting percentage serves as a fine indicator of his grasp of Georgetown’s offense after just one year in the system.