Georgetown Men’s Basketball Preview: Hoyas begin the road to respectability

Dave Preston is an AP Top 25 voter. Read his latest rankings.

Georgetown NCAA college basketball head coach Ed Cooley, left, yells while players run through drills during team practice, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)(AP/Stephanie Scarbrough)

Things have been percolating since March, and on Tuesday evening a new era will officially start for Georgetown men’s basketball team.

Coach Ed Cooley’s Hoyas welcome Le Moyne for the opener, with many wondering what sort of play they’ll see on the floor. And with eight transfers, plus three recruits making their debut this November, Cooley has the right to be specifically vague.

“We’re going to play a winning style — and I don’t know how that looks. I have a whole new team,” Cooley said. “We’re going to have to be very physical, very disciplined, very connected and emotionally engaged. Those are the things that are winning traits of the teams I have coached.”

The Hoyas program Cooley is taking over is one that has fallen on hard times, to make an understatement. After winning four games in four days in March 2021 to capture its eighth Big East Tournament title, Georgetown went 0-19 and 2-18 in conference play the last two winters.

Last year’s disaster could be tied to team defense (or lack thereof) as they allowed the most points per game in the conference, while also ranking last in defensive field goal percentage and defending the three. And they didn’t help themselves on misses either, finishing eighth in rebounding margin.

But while Cooley has been successful enough (242 wins in 12 years at Providence, plus 92 victories in five seasons with Fairfield) in his career to be flexible while building a competitive team, there will be one style constant.

“There are some non-negotiables I’ll have defensively,” Cooley said. “If you’re soft, you’ll never play at Georgetown — that’s first and foremost. If you don’t defend — it’s not a democracy defensively.”

North Carolina transfer Dontrez Styles assures us this is not lip service.

“It’s every day he (Cooley) preaches ‘be physical, be tough, you know — play hard.’ It’s about competing,” Styles said. “We’ve just got to play hard, listen to what coach tells us to do and just play hard at a high level.”

Styles is one of 11 new faces on a Georgetown roster that is no stranger to turnover over the years. And in a season where the coach learns something new each practice, there are plenty of positives.

“I would say Drew Fielder has made a big jump, I think Jayden Epps is continuing to make a big jump,” Cooley said. “I think silently our most steady player has been (Fairfield transfer) Supreme Cook. Supreme has done a really good job adjusting to the speed and the style of play.”

One of three holdovers on the roster is senior guard Jay Heath, who averaged 11 points per game last season while shooting 42% from three-point range. He hopes to contribute some intangibles this winter.

“My leadership, just bringing some things that I’ve learned from me being the older guy,” Heath said. “Obviously, I can score. Just me being tough on both sides of the floor and bringing some emotion and physicality to this team.”

The Hoyas were picked to finish eighth in a Big East that is loaded with contenders, boasting four Top 25 teams plus two more that received votes. In that half-dozen resides defending National Champion UConn. One doesn’t need to oversell this league.

“I think a lot of national attention is going to Marquette — well deserved — with 95% of their scoring back,” Cooley said. “Creighton [University] was a tough call away from going to the Final Four. You have the National Champions (UConn) returning with arguably two of the top pro prospects in the Big East on their roster.”

Before the Big East regular season tips off, the Hoyas will play a nonconference slate that includes a Gavitt Games matchup at Rutgers (the RAC is a tough place to play), the Big East-Big 12 Challenge against TCU, plus a home game with former Big East archrival Syracuse.

But there will be opportunities to build consistency and confidence.

“Well, I think you have to be a realist [about] where we are as an organization today. I think six of our first seven games are at Capital One Arena,” Cooley said. “And our schedule is going to match where we are as an organization right now, and will continue to improve as we improve, as we grow together.”

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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