5 Things We Learned from Georgetown Basketball’s Season Opener

Nik Oza opener recap

1. L.J. Peak is the real deal.

It has been my opinion for several months now that of all current Hoyas, Peak has the best chance to 1) get drafted and 2) have a successful career in the NBA. But the 6-5, 215 pound freshman wing was even further ahead of his developmental schedule than I thought. Granted it has only been one game against very weak competition, playing off the ball, with the opposing coaching staff unable to scout him at the college level. But Peak’s 23-point performance on 9-9 shooting (in 26 minutes) which involved consistently using his strength and athleticism to attack the rim indicates that the Hoyas may have another collegiate star in the making. And the fact that JTIII inserted Peak into the starting lineup over Aaron Bowen adds further credence to the notion that Peak is, in fact, very good already. The big test will come when opponents stick their best perimeter defender on Peak, especially if it’s someone with very long arms who is able to sag off significantly to stop the drive. If L.J can develop a consistent three-point jumper with a quick release, I think these kinds of offensive performances will become customary.

2. The Hoyas have enough athleticism to destroy non-conference competition in transition.

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Jabril Trawick have both been working on their bodies since the end of last season and Aaron Bowen has always been a quick and above-the-rim player. Add an excellent recruiting class highlighted by the athleticism of L.J. Peak and the length of Isaac Copeland and what the Hoyas lack in shooting this early in the season they currently make up for in terms of the ability to push the break and get easy transition buckets with their superior athleticism. As of now that works perfectly fine as the Hoyas can beat up on less athletic non-conference competition. When Big East play comes around, however, half court offense will probably be relatively more important, and the ability to space the floor and knock down open threes will determine a much larger part of the Hoyas’s offensive efficiency.

3. Joshua Smith is going to be much more mobile this season.

Smith very noticeably slimmed down over the summer and it showed early in the first half when he jumped higher than he had ever jumped last season to contest a St. Francis layup. This bodes very well for the Hoyas as mobility is obviously an essential part of executing defensive rotations in time to disrupt easy looks at the basket. I don’t think even the most die-hard Hoya fan would think that Smith can become KG in his prime defending the pick and roll overnight, but his newfound mobility is a legitimate positive step for improving his defense. JTIII can use Smith similar to how Steve Clifford has Al Jefferson hang back very conservatively against the pick and roll. Nobody in their right mind would say that either big man is a great defender at their respective levels, but their weaknesses can be minimized by smart defensive schemes.

4. Despite Smith’s defensive improvement, lineups with Mikael Hopkins are going to be much, much better defensively than lineups without him.

For all of Hopkins’s faults, the guy is a very solid rim protector at the college level mostly due to his great length and reasonably quick rotations; the Hoyas defense would be much worse without him. Besides Hopkins, the Hoyas don’t really have an adequate rim protector, unless Bradley Hayes makes an incredible and completely unforeseen leap on that side of the ball this season (this actually isn’t that crazy of an idea, as Hayes certainly has the requisite size and strength and Hoya big men under JTIII in the past have made gigantic improvements as their college career has progressed). The lack of big man depth is concerning, as this will mean that a huge part of the Hoyas’s defensive efficiency will depend on Hopkins staying out of foul trouble. I am not entirely convinced that consistent foul trouble is a thing of the past for Hopkins, as much of his shot contests against St. Francis involved swiping down at the ball very aggressively, and refs blow their whistles much more frequently with that type of arm motion vs. staying vertical. In fairness, much of his consistent foul trouble last season was simply due to the fact that D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera’s man could usually get into the paint at will with Smith-Rivera expending so much energy on the offensive side of the ball.

5. The Hoyas are going to be a much better team at the end of the season than they are currently because of their reliance on freshmen.

This isn’t really a surprise to anyone who has been following Georgetown basketball. The highly touted recruiting class will get better over the course of the season. As Kentucky showed last season, a team filled with freshmen will improve significantly by March. The Georgetown situation is not nearly as extreme, but freshmen still played 38.5% of all possible minutes against St. Francis. While the Hoyas are not currently in the top 25, barring serious injury, I would be pretty shocked if they are not at the very least on the border by the end of the season.

Image Courtesy of The Hoya

Nik Oza
Georgetown Class of 2016

Follow Nik on Twitter: @NikOza2
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