2011 College Basketball Preview: Georgetown Hoyas

David DietzContributor IIINovember 9, 2011

2011 College Basketball Preview: Georgetown Hoyas

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    At Big East Media day, Georgetown was predicted to finish 10th in the conference. The slight was predicated primarily on the fact that a youth movement on the hilltop is in full swing.

    Gone are four year stalwarts Chris Wright and Austin Freeman. Taking their place will be a collection of highly touted freshman, proving once again that while questions swirl whether John Thompson III can coach, there is no doubt he can recruit.

    Before Georgetown tips off this year, fans will have to flip through the media guide to familiarize themselves with all the new faces.  

    Three players that shouldn't take too long to get to know are Otto Porter, Mikael Hopkins and Greg Whittington. These three freshmen studs along with senior leader Jason Clark and rising star Hollis Thompson will help the Hoyas far outshine the low preseason expectations.

    Prediction: 19-8, fourth in the Big East and an Elite Eight appearance

    Here are five reasons why the Hoyas will finish in the top five in the Big East.

5. The Incoming Freshman

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    There are a lot of new faces on the hilltop this season. With several open scholarships to fill, John Thompson went out and landed the 14th best recruiting class in the country, according to ESPN. 

    With due apologies to Otto Porter, Mikael Thomson and Jabril Tawrick who were rated as the 42nd, 78th and 80th best recruits in the country, this class of freshman was awarded such high praise for their quantity instead of their individual quality. 

    Don't be fooled, this is an outstanding class, however the five freshman competing for playing time (Greg Whittington and Aaron Bowen are the other two) add more to the team in terms of improving depth than as standout stars. In fact, it may not be until late in the season that any of the freshman crack the starting lineup.  

    That being said, don't be surprised if one or two end up on the all Big East rookie team. 

    When all is said and done, this class will be far-and-away John Thompson's best class and one of the top overall in college basketball as well. While the new arrivals will make significant contributions and contribute towards restoring Georgetown's tournament toughness, it is next season and beyond when they will really showcase their talents. 

    While some rookies struggle early in the grueling Big East, the intense competition in practices for playing time should have the youngsters ready for the demanding league season. Whether they can grow up quickly will determine how long they long Georgetown will last in March.

    * Sleeper pick: Watch out for Greg Whittington. Not an ESPN top 100 recruit, Whittington is the fourth rated member of the class. After summer league play, Jeff Green (another late bloomer) comparisons are already being tossed around. He could be the star of the bunch. 

4. Depth

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    With the additions of the five previously mentioned freshmen, Georgetown has the most depth in the conference. Even with the loss of Moses Ayegba to a knee injury, Georgetown is ridiculously loaded. So much so that the coaching staff will have problems getting every one on the court. 

    With Otto Porter, Jabril Trawick, Mikael Hopkins, Greg Whittington and Aaron Bowen all expected to start on the bench, the Hoyas are legitimately 10 deep.

    If not for the fact that Porter, Whittington and Bowen all play the same position and will thus cut into each other's minutes, Georgetown could easily switch out all five starters and see little drop off in production.

    Unfortunately such a statement does not speak as highly of the talent of the starting five. What will comfort Hoya fans is that should a starter struggle, there is no lack of options to replace him.

    Definitely Georgetown's deepest team in years, the focus now for Thompson will be keeping young players involved with fewer minutes and finding a steady rotation. 

    While the freshmen will likely start on the bench, don't be surprised if Porter, Trawick, Hopkins and Whittington crack the starting lineup on occasion. 

    * The one area of concern for the Hoyas will be depth up front. The loss of key reserve Moses Ayegba (a Patrick Ewing Jr. type energy player) could be huge, as having four or five quality wing-forwards will not help much if one of the bigs struggles, gets in foul trouble or is lost to injury. 

3. The Emergence of Hollis Thompson and Nate Lubick

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    If Hollis Thompson can continue to elevate his game, the potential first round NBA draft choice has a real chance at earning a spot on the the First Team All Big East list. 

    The development of Nate Lubick, though, is more significant to the Hoyas chances for success. 

    After a year in the Princeton Offense, the consensus top 50 high school recruit must take a big step in his development for the Hoyas to have any shot at competing for the Big East title. 

    Should Hollis Thompson struggle, Coach Thompson has a surfeit of capable replacements to chose from off the bench. 

    Should Lubick struggle, Mikael Hopkins would be Thompson's only other option. For a school built on a legacy of its star big men, having such a dearth of talented bigs seems strange. Gone are the luxuries of having a Roy Hibbert or Greg Monroe rule the paint. Instead the maddeningly inconsistent Henry Sims anchors the center position. 

    In order for Georgetown to survive the bruising Big East season, Thunder Snow (as fellow students affectionately call him) will have to be more physical and aggressive.

    Reports from The Hoyas trip to China and summer Kenner league plays indicate so far that Lubick is up to the challenge. Expect near double-double numbers from one of the Big East's most improved players in the league. 

2. Length and Athleticism

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    Length and athleticism coupled with their near unlimited backcourt depth will be Georgetown's biggest strength. It will also allow them to play suffocating D. 

    Already a top defensive team that prides itself on its toughness, with new bodies Georgetown will add a feistiness to a team that was definitely lacking in attitude last season.

    Lacking the traditional talent at the center position that usually defines Georgetown teams, this year the Hoyas will rely much more on their athletic wings both defensively and in transition. 

    Unlike last season when the Hoyas sacrificed size to play three perimeter players, this year's team will be able to play up-tempo small ball without actually being, small. 

    With fresh legs due to their depth, expect The Hoyas to play at a much faster pace than usual in the Princeton Offense.

    Half court traps, full court presses and high-octane transition basketball will make this team explosive and fun to watch.

1. New Philosophies in Coaching

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    The knock on Thompson is that he is one of the best recruiters but fails to get the most out of the players he lands. Several players have transferred including Vernon Macklin and Jeremiah Rivers, while others such as Henry Sims have failed to reach their full potential.

    This year is a big year for Georgetown, especially Thompson. His job is not endanger yet (especially as the recruits keep coming), but his seat is getting warmer.

    Ultimately the Thompson legacy and his stellar recruiting won't matter if he can't win, and as of late, Georgetown hasn't been winning.

    A second round exit, an INT first round exit and two more back-to-back first round exits in the NCAAs aren't going to get it done, especially with the talent they've had in Summers, Hibbert and Monroe.

    Coach Thompson is very smart and understands this. He also realizes that he has an incredibly unique team as well. While young, the current roster may be the most athletic and talented (from top to bottom) team he's ever had, which is saying something given Hibbert, Green, Ewing Jr. and Wallace were an All Star cast. 

    If The Hoyas trip to China is any indication, it seems he also might realize that with such an athletic group, the slow methodical Princeton Offense may not be the best fit for his current guys.

    This doesn't mean that he will abandon his system. Far from it. But don't be surprised if Thompson opens up a little bit and lets his team run. In doing so, Thompson would be getting out of his own way by allowing the team's natural abilities to shine.

    When, and if they do, they'll be brighter than most people expect.