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Georgetown team preview: Does Patrick Ewing have the Hoyas on the right track?

Georgetown is on the verge of returning to relevance.

NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Providence
“Do you practice those calls?”
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

How you perceive Georgetown probably depends on how old you are. For my generation, they are the team of Dikembe Mutumbo, Patrick Ewing, and Alonzo Mourning. That team handed over to Allen Iverson and then transitioned into a guard oriented squad. They’re a big program, one that ranks up there with Duke, UNC, UConn, and Syracuse when you think of the old guard of the east coast.

If you’re younger than me, though, your perception of Georgetown might be a little bit different. After taking over in the 2005 season for a floundering Craig Esherick, John Thompson III produced one Final Four team, one four year run of tournament berths, and precious little else. Drop down to the age of my brothers in college and high school and you likely think of the Hoyas as a Big East also ran. One of those teams that is always there, but never really accomplishes much. Pack fodder.

Like so many places do, Georgetown turned back to a hero of yesteryear to try and right the ship. Patrick Ewing came with NBA bench experience and some concept of how to coach, unlike Chris Mullin at St. John’s. His first year was still a learning experience but last year, with Ewing getting some of his own players in, things started to look up. Mac McClung was an explosive breath of fresh air for the whole conference. James Akinjo was less heralded but played more games and more minutes and was more efficient. Another freshman, Josh LeBlanc, was the 44th most efficient player in the nation and a monster on the glass.

Though encouraging, none of the spelled an NCAA bid for the Hoyas. Jessie Govan and Greg Malinowski are both gone and one of those is a massive loss for a young team. Jamorko Pickett, Jagan Mosely, and Jahvon Blair are all back and are all solid pieces, but none are going to put Georgetown back in the tournament. So, does Patrick Ewing have the Hoyas on the right track, or has he just been treading the same stagnant water JTIII was?

The answer seems to be an emphatic yes. After adding McClung, LeBlanc, and Akinjo last season, Ewing added four star centers Qudus Wahab and Malcolm Wilson to ease the pain of Govan’s departure. Timothy Igohefe, a 6-11 athletic freak of nature (10’11” standing vertical, 8’11” standing reach) from Nigeria joins those two. That all adds up to a respectable recruiting class that is specifically targeted to fill Georgetown’s needs.

But that’s not the sole reason Hoyas fans are excited about the incoming crew. Galen Alexander, a former ESPN top 100 small forward, comes to the DMV out of a stint in junior college. Alexander was heavily recruited out of high school before landing at LSU, where he never played a game. Allegedly, Alexander was dismissed from the team for firing paintballs at other students on campus, though an official reason was never given. Alexander has dominated on the lower circuit for two years and can both get buckets in traffic and shoot from outside.

There’s really only one way to measure the whether Ewing has this team turned around, and that’s NCAA tournament appearances. Hoyas fans can be encouraged by beating Villanova, Marquette, and Xavier last year, but that’s not going get the job done for long. With the recruits coming in and his last class, Ewing has a good base in place. KenPom has Georgetown at 56th coming into the season. If that gets the Hoyas into the tournament, Patrick Ewing will be rightfully feted. The personnel are in place, it’s time to see if the big man can get the job done.

Why Georgetown can beat Xavier

Because the Hoyas can go size for size with X. Omar Yurtseven is eligible after transferring in from NC State. He’s Yurtseven Yurtfeet tall and averaged a cool 13.5/6.7/0.5 and shot 50% behind the arc. Throw in the names already mentioned and Georgetown is at least as big as the Musketeers. Xavier isn’t going to just clear the glass and beat these guys around.

Why Xavier can beat Georgetown

The Hoyas can go cold and not just be able to athlete their way out of it. If Xavier can defend the interior and make the Hoyas shoot it, Georgetown will struggle. The Hoyas just aren’t a great shooting team. Pickett and Akinjo can knock it down on occasion and Yurtseven has a small sample size that suggests he can as well, beyond that you have Alexander who at the DI level has only shot paintballs and a bunch of centers.