Athletic Supporter Georgetown Chooses Meat over Cupcakes

Georgetown took a major step back toward college basketball’s elite with last season’s Sweet 16 appearance, and now the schedule is being upgraded to match the improved product on the court.

One year after Georgetown rolled to a 23-7 regular season record but was saddled with an RPI (a computer ranking that weighs heavily in the NCAA Tournament selection committee decisions) in the 40s that hampered the team’s NCAA Tournament seeding, some of the weaker opponents have been replaced with major-conference name teams. For the first time in recent memory, this might make the Hoyas’ schedule a strength rather than a weakness come tournament time.

Although there are still the requisite patsies on the table early in the season, a Dec. 17 matchup with Howard is the last game on the schedule against a non-major conference foe. This leaves almost three months of no-nonsense Big East action with games against highly-regarded Virginia and UCLA tossed in.

Little Division III Marymount opens the 2001-2002 season with Georgetown on Nov. 16, a certain blowout that will count in the win column but won’t affect (re: hurt) the RPI. Following that contest is a trip to Springfield, Mass., home of the Basketball Hall of Fame, to take on Georgia in the Tip-Off Classic.

After that comes a wave of five second-rate teams: Coastal Carolina, Towson, Grambling, Bethune Cookman and Houston (unfortunately for Cougars fans, being good once upon a time doesn’t do much for you now – it only makes it more pathetic to see how far things have fallen). These games won’t provide much of a challenge for Georgetown in the win-loss column, but they will provide ample opportunity for a team with only one senior (point guard Kevin Braswell) to get comfortable together on the court.

A trip to South Carolina on Dec. 6 provides a second SEC opponent to challenge Georgetown amid the early-season warm-ups, although that game is followed by two of the weakest teams on the schedule: Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference doormats Morgan State and Howard. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how things go) these two games are the last gimmies that Georgetown will see all season (except for maybe Rutgers, perennial powerhouse that it is), giving the Hoyas plenty of time to prove what type of team they are capable of being.

A visit by Virginia on Dec. 20 will be Georgetown’s first contest against the Cavaliers since the teams’ epic NIT matchup in 2000, a 115-111 triple-overtime Hoya win. This game has the potential to become a great regional rivalry if the programs continue to meet on an annual basis (unlike Maryland and Georgetown, who seem to meet once a decade).

Pauley Pavilion is the next stop on Georgetown’s schedule, a Dec. 29 visit to the venerable home of UCLA and the Hoyas’ final non-conference game before a grueling stretch of 16 straight Big East contests. This game is the most intriguing on Georgetown’s schedule: two of the biggest names in college basketball going head to head. Any Joe and Jane Hoyas who will be in L.A. over Christmas break should buy, beg, borrow or steal tickets to this nationally televised game.

The dawn of the new year accompanies the opening of Big East play against Miami on Jan. 2. The ‘Canes are a talented but inexperienced team that will be followed on the schedule by the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, an experienced but untalented team.

Boston College, one of the cross-divisional opponents the Hoyas will only face once every other year from here on out, plays host to Georgetown on Jan. 12, a battle between the beasts of their respective Big East divisions. After visits from Seton Hall and Pittsburgh, a trip to Notre Dame on ESPN’s Big Monday provides another interesting matchup for the Hoyas, although there is question as to whether a Troy Murphy-less Notre Dame can remain in the upper echelon of the Big East.

On Jan. 28, Syracuse comes to D.C. for the first of two regular-season nationally-televised Orangeman-Hoya battles. The second meeting between the two teams takes place at the Carrier Dome on Feb. 24. In between ‘Cuse meetings are five tough matchups, including the resumption of play with Connecticut.

All in all, the non-conference schedule is a definite step forward from recent years, although the strength of the Big East this season is not up to par with some of the other major conferences (especially at the top end).

Whether or not the improved strength of schedule can be mirrored by improved play on the court remains to be seen, but this year’s lineup of games provides Georgetown the opportunity to turn some heads without having to go undefeated in non-conference play.

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