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2020-21 Big East Men’s Basketball Preview: Georgetown Hoyas

Team: Georgetown Hoyas

2019-20 Record: 15-17, 5-13 in the Big East

2019-20 Big East Finish: Tied for eighth, ended up as the #8 seed in the Big East tournament by way of tiebreakers.

Final 2019-20 KenPom Ranking: #67

Postseason Projection: Nowhere close to an NCAA tournament bid, and losing their final seven games of the season including the Big East tournament game to the team they were tied with in the standings but swept in the regular season to get the tiebreaker did not help them polish their resume for an NIT berth.

Key Departures: Since a year ago at this time or only since the 2019-20 season ended? Because those are two totally different things. Omer Yurtseven had a year of eligibility remaining, but declared for the NBA Draft after averaging 15.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. Mac McClung (team high 15.7 points per game, 3.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists) declared for the NBA Draft, had his head coach publicly tell everyone that he was coming back to the Hilltop, withdrew his name from the draft process, then announced he was transferring, ultimately landing at Texas Tech. Terrell Allen and Jagan Mosely were senior starters who played 30+ minutes per game. That was kind of because they had to, because by the end of the season, senior walk-on George Muresan was getting regular minutes in Big East games, going from 23 minutes in 13 games in three years to 61 minutes in 14 Big East games last year.

It’s a bit of a downer, but do we need to consider the death of John Thompson, Jr., aka Big John, in terms of departures from the program? He hasn’t been the actual coach of the team since before the turn of the century, but the three coaches since then — Craig Esherick, John Thompson III, and Patrick Ewing — are all Big John’s progeny, either biologically or as former players. 2020-21 will be the first Georgetown basketball season without Thompson’s watchful eye since 1971-72.

Key Returners: Jahvon Blair, Jamorko Pickett, and Qudus Wahab. That’s all that returns out of the seven guys who played at least 400 minutes for Georgetown last season. Blair, a 6’4”, 190 pound senior this year, averaged 10.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. Pickett (6’8”, 206 lb.) is also a senior now and is one of just two guys to start all 32 games a year ago, giving the Hoyas 10.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists. Wahab was a freshman a year ago and did appear in all 32 games, which is pretty flipping important right now. He averaged 5.5 points and 4.3 rebounds and at least gives Georgetown a 6’11” anchor in the middle of the defense if nothing else.

Key Additions: Georgetown has 247 Sports’ #53 recruiting class in the country, which has them at #6 in the Big East. They have three prep prospects signed up, with Wisconsin native Jamari Sibley (6’8”, 200 pounds, #101) as the only top 300 prospect. The Hoyas have added two grad transfers to the roster as their biggest need was [checks notes] ambulatory 18-22 year olds. Chudier Bile (6’7”, 200 lb.) comes in from Northwestern State, where he averaged 14.3 points and 7.6 rebounds for the Demons last year. Jalen Harris (6’2”, 166 pounds) finished up his degree at Arkansas after starting his career at New Mexico. He averaged 6.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 4.0 assists in 66 games for the Razorbacks.

Coach: Patrick Ewing, entering his fourth season at Georgetown and overall. He has a record of 49-46.

Outlook: I don’t think it’s a particularly strong statement to say that no matter what happens in the 2020-21 season, it can’t possibly be worse for Georgetown than the 2019-20 season was.

We entered last season wondering if swapping Omer Yurtseven for Jessie Govan as the only change on the roster would automatically make the Hoyas better as their freshmen became sophomores. By the time that the calendar flipped to December, the Hoyas had already suffered an embarrassing home loss to UNC Greensboro (The Spartans would finish as a top 100 KenPom team, but you still shouldn’t lose to them at home if you think you’re an NCAA tournament team) and then watched James Akinjo, the reigning Big East Freshman of the Year, walk out the door. That was unrelated to multiple Hoyas getting restraining orders filed against them by other students which led to suspensions and ultimately transfers for Josh LeBlanc, Galen Alexander, and Myron Gardner. I have to say “unrelated” because when Georgetown first announced that LeBlanc and Akinjo were leaving the program, it wasn’t clear that was the case. This was also made more complicated by the fact that Alexander and Gardner were not immediately announced as leaving the program, although they would ultimately leave due to their legal matter that also involved LeBlanc.

Yes, that’s a mess, and to a certain extent, one that Georgetown created for themselves by letting everyone wonder for a good long while what exactly Akinjo had done to get tossed from the team when it turned out that he was just leaving the team and transferring.

No, it did not get better for the Hoyas. It just stopped being a criminal matter in the District of Columbia.

Well, okay, that’s not 100% true. It did get better for a split second, as they rattled off two quality road wins over Oklahoma State and SMU in the middle of figuring out who was and was not still on the team and then also knocked off Syracuse at home. It would seem, however, that this was something of a dead cat bounce, as the Hoyas would start Big East play 2-6. That’s when Mac McClung suffered an injury that would limit him to just eight minutes for the rest of the season. After another dead cat bounce that gave them three more Big East wins, the Hoyas closed things out with six straight regular season losses and a 13 point loss to St. John’s in one of the only two Big East tournament games that were actually contested before the whole thing was called off.

And then McClung transferred as mentioned earlier. As alluded to further up the page, that was also handled incredibly poorly by the Hoyas, just like the departure of Akinjo a few months earlier. With McClung putting feelers out to see where he might end up in the NBA Draft, Ewing went ahead and did a radio interview telling everyone that McClung would be back in Hoya gray and blue in 2020-21….. except he did that before McClung actually officially withdrew from the draft. Thus, McClung is now a Red Raider in Lubbock and Ewing is left to fend for himself.

2019-20 was supposed to be Patrick Ewing’s coming out party as a Division 1 head coach. After a mediocre at best first season and a second season that showed nothing but promise with three freshman stars, Year #3 was an unmitigated disaster that finally screeched to a halt before a global health crisis ended everyone else’s season.

2020-21 can’t be worse than that. By default, Georgetown is starting from a position that’s much worse than the start of last season. It’s probably a lot worse than the start of Ewing’s first season in charge, too. In a lot of ways, it’s like Ewing is starting all over as a head coach. The real downside for him is that he’s the one that recruited the incoming freshman class. Usually in a Year One situation, you’re dealing with freshmen than you didn’t ask to be a part of your program. Ewing did, and while that seems like good news, he’s the one responsible for a incoming class that was perfectly fine in November 2019 when you expected to have three junior stars on the roster right now. Instead, Georgetown has three players that saw significant minutes last season, and that incoming group of freshmen that was perfectly fine for a class that was going to fill in around the edges is now by default going to have to be asked to actually help the Hoyas on the court this season.

This is probably not good news.

Blair, Pickett, and Wahab are a perfectly competent group to start a roster with. Can one of them turn into a reliable every game scorer? Blair and Pickett both averaged over 10 points per game last season, but Blair can not shoot under 33% on more than six threes a game again like he did a year ago. Chudier Bile seems to be an athletic type of player, which is probably helpful, but the Big East is a long way from the Southland Conference. Jalen Harris is probably going to be the starting point guard right out of the gate, but that 27% turnover rate last season in Fayetteville should probably terrify the hell out of our friends at Casual Hoya. Marquette was recruiting Jamari Sibley for a hot minute when he was still at Nicolet in the Milwaukee suburbs, so I’m going to presume that his worst case scenario is “competent Big East player.” I don’t know if that includes “can play 15+ solid minutes a night as a freshman.” He’s probably going to have to do that, so being ready to do it doesn’t really have much to do with what the Hoyas need from him right now.

Here’s the nicest thing I can say about Georgetown’s upcoming season: It will give us a fantastic opportunity to see how good of a coach Patrick Ewing actually is. Given everything that’s going on here, it would not be completely bonkers for the Hoyas to finish last in the league. That would make them the first 11th place team in the Big East since 2013. But as we talked about yesterday, DePaul is probably not going to be very good this season for various DePaul related reasons. If Ewing is the coach that the GU administration thought that he is when they hired him, then anything that’s better than finishing last in the league is a pretty good outcome for Georgetown this year.

For you hardcore gambling enthusiasts out there, I’ve got a prop bet for you: Will Casual Hoya tweet “This team is going to kill us all” at some point in every game? I feel like there’s a pretty solid chance of this coming in.

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