GAME NOTES: For the second straight year the Georgetown Hoyas will begin the season in an uncommon locale, when they battle the No. 19 Oregon Ducks from Camp Humphrey's in Seoul, South Korea on Friday.
A year ago the Hoyas kicked off the season on the USS Bataan against Florida, although the game was ruled a no contest due to condensation on the court. The season ended poorly though for the Hoyas, as Georgetown was the team that NCAA tournament darling Florida Gulf Coast first upset to propel itself into the national spotlight. Including that setback, the Hoyas lost three of their final four games last year, including a 58-55 overtime setback against Syracuse in the Big East Tournament. The stumbles in those key moments put a shadow over what was a rather impressive year overall, finishing 25-7 overall and tied for first in the Big East (14-4), while having the Big East Player of the Year in Otto Porter. This year the Hoyas are entering new territory as one of the charter members of the new Big East, which features some holdovers from the previous version along with some newcomers.
Before the Ducks' season could even begin it has already grabbed hold of the national headlines as star guard Dominic Artis was suspended indefinitely on Tuesday for selling team merchandise. It is not the type of news the Ducks were hoping to be making this week as they look to continue to build on their recent success. After going 8-23 in 2009, the Ducks have improved their record in four straight years, including a program-record 28 victories last year when the team made a run to the Sweet 16. Its No. 19 national ranking also has Oregon in the Top 25 to start a season for just the third time in school history and the first time under head coach Dana Altman.
These two squads played in a home-and-home series during the 2005 and 2006 seasons. Each team was able to capture a win, although it was the road team that took each contest.
Porter decided to leave early for the NBA, which leaves Georgetown a bit off balance entering the season. Not helping matters is that Greg Whittington, who only played in 13 games a year ago, will miss the entire campaign with an ACL tear. Still John Thompson III's teams always seem to be in contention thanks to a dedication to the defensive end of the floor. Last year the Hoyas were fifth in the nation in opponent field-goal percentage (.378) and 10th in scoring defense (56.4 ppg). The strength of this squad will be in the backcourt where the Hoyas have a trio of guards that are ferocious defenders with room to grow on offense. Markel Starks (12.8 ppg, 3.0 apg) spends the most time with the ball in his hands and is accurate from beyond the arc. D'Vauntes Smither-Rivera (8.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg) was one of the best reserves in the Big East last year. His tenacity on both ends will be critical as he transitions into a starting role. Then there is Jabril Trawick (5.8 pg), who could stand to be more consistent offensively. The frontcourt might not be as star-studded, but Nate Lubick (7.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Mikael Hopkins (5.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg) are serviceable down low.
The transfer of former Houston guard Joseph Young to Oregon is even larger with Artis out for now. Young is a score-first guard that excels as an offensive threat as he led the Cougars at 18 points per game last year. He provides the kind of offensive explosiveness the Ducks lacked last year and will be a key piece with E.J. Singler (11.7 ppg) gone to graduation. The backcourt also has proven guards in Damyean Dotson (11.4 ppg) and Johnathan Loyd (5.0 ppg). Dotson was the leading scorer a year ago, while Loyd was more of a supplement to Dotson and Artis. The frontcourt will also be relying on a newcomer as former UNLV standout Mike Moser transferred up to Eugene in the offseason. Moser averaged 14 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in 2011-12 but was more limited last year due to some injury issues. If he returns to NBA prospect level production the Ducks will have two of the best transfers in the country. Waverly Austin (3.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg) will do what he can in a more prominent role down low as well.
Losing Artis takes away some of the depth Oregon would have had in the backcourt. Still the Ducks guards match up very well with the Hoyas' own group. Expect the guard play to determine the pace of the contest. What will determine the outcome is which unit keeps turnovers to a minimum and coaxes the most from the frontcourt. If the Moser of two years ago suits up for Oregon, then the Ducks have the edge.