Hoyas: Ducks preview, season questions

Hoyas: Ducks preview, season questions
November 8, 2013, 8:00 am
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After the extra practices, after the Josh Smith eligibility stress, after questions about fixing you know what, it's finally time for the Hoyas to tip-off the 2013-14 season - and do so halfway around the world...

Matchup: Georgetown (Big East) vs. No. 16 Oregon (Pac 12) in the regular season opener for both teams

TV: ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, South Korea.

Last season: The Hoyas finished 25-7, claiming a share of the Big East regular season title before losing to Florida Gulf Coast in the NCAA Tournament's Round of 64. The Ducks (28-9) finished second in the Pac 12  before reaching the round of 16.

Projected starting lineups: Hoyas –- G Markel Starks, G Jabril Trawick, G D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, F Nate Lubick, F Mikael Hopkins. Ducks –-  G Johnathan Loyd, G Damyean Dotson, G Joseph Young, F Mike Moser, C Waverly Austin 

History: The programs split two previous meetings. Oregon won the most recent matchup during the 2006-07 season.

KenPom: Georgetown 14, Oregon 56

Who's missing: As far as we know, the Hoyas are healthy entering the opener not counting Greg Whittington's potential season-ending knee injury. Oregon suspended two players this week, starting point guard Dominic Artis and reserve forward Ben Carter. 

The Ducks: Coach Dana Altman's squad applies pressure on both ends of the court, though not having Artis hurts the cause. Expect two transfers, Moser (UNLV) and Young (Houston), to carry the offense along with Dotson, Oregon's leading returning scorer (10.8).

Stacked schedule: Oregon is the first of three ranked, non-conference opponents (Kansas, Michigan State) on the Hoyas docket this season. That doesn't include the Puerto Rico tip-off where Georgetown could face Kansas State, VCU or Michigan. Non-marquee opponents with stealthy potential include Elon, preseason favorite in the Southern Conference, and Wright State, projected second in the Horizon League. Considering the Big East is no longer a nightly RPI help, the Hoyas must help their NCAA Tournament chances in these early

Question marks for 2013-14:

1). Who will score? Even with Otto Porter last season the Hoyas had troubles getting buckets in spots. Starks and D'Vauntes Smith will provide punch from the backcourt. Expect ex-UCLA transfer and recently deemed eligible center Josh Smith to do the same up front. That's three options, but who steps up from there? Head coach John Thompson III previously told CSN that he believes the roster's collective experience will help solve any point-producing issues.

2). Speaking of Josh Smith, what will he do? Expectations level range anywhere from the junior big man joining the pantheon of great Georgetown centers to playing spot minutes due to the 350-pounder's conditioning issues. As a freshman with UCLA, Smith averaged 21.7 minutes, 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds. Start with that as a baseline projection so when he goes for 28, 12 and 8 he beats expectations.

3). Can we expect the same dominant defense? Last season the Hoyas held opponents to 56.4 points and 38 field goal percentage. Nearly all of that group is back, though the missing piece is the lengthy Porter. This group likely uses plenty of three-guard lineups, which could provide more perimeter opportunities for the opposition. With Smith inside combined with Lubick, Georgetown will be more plodding overall. Thompson has continually produced a top shelf defensive unit and it will be interested how he manages that with this personnel.

4). Who backs up Starks, the perimeter players? The Hoyas offense struggled whenever Starks, their primary ball handler and emotional leader, sat with foul trouble. Smith-Rivera said he worked on his distributing this summer and Trawick had moments, especially in the win at Syracuse. Assuming Thompson starts the three guards, there are no assumptions about who comes in off the bench. Senior Aaron Bowen brings energy, but not ball handling. Sophomore Stephen Domingo and freshman Reggie Cameron entered college with positive shooting reputations. John Caprio went from walk-on to scholarship player entering his senior season, but that doesn't mean he'll enter the rotation.

5). The conference is called the Big East, but will it feel like the Big East? We'll see, but probably not, not yet anyway. It certainly won't be as Orange.

6). Can outside observers look at the regular season without thinking about the previous postseason troubles? I suspect the players will have an easier time of this than those in the stands and on message boards.

They said it:

"I really didn't pay any mind to it after that. I'm just focused on this year. Of course, it was devastating to all of us. At the end of the day, we're toward another year and advance past that stage this year. ...I'm not going to say it didn't affect me, but at the same time it's a new year, a new team." - D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera on any takeaways from NCAA Tournament loss to FGCU

"Different years different teams, you realize it at different times. It's not like by November 1 you know who you're going to be. Some years you do, some years it takes time to grow...This group, we have a big void to fill obviously with losing Otto [Porter]. We have a different team, not just from that vantage point, but when Josh [Smith] is on the court than when he's not on the court." - John Thompson III on his expectations for this season's squad

"When I first got here is I was really confused, to be honest. It was kind of hard, but now just being here for almost a year now, being able to practice with the guys last year and being able to play this year I think helps a lot." - Josh Smith on learning the "Georgetown" offense since joining the program in January

"I was unsure of what our league schedule was going to look like, whether it was going to be round robin. We just didn't know. Mind you, we've always had a tough schedule. It's not new for us to have a tough out of conference schedule. This year is much more difficult I think because of the fact that the non-sexy games, those teams, we better play very well to beat those other teams also. I think that's what makes it different as it relates to the past years." - Thompson on his scheduling decisions.

On deck: The Hoyas host Wright State on Wednesday (7 p.m.) in their home opener at the Verizon Center.