Rutgers Location: MCI Center Date & Time: Saturday, Jan. 3, 2 p.m.

The Lowdown: Rutgers visits Washington, D.C., for the Hoyas’ first Big East matchup of the year. Georgetown should enter the game undefeated, having only faced one major conference opponent, Penn State, at this point. Last year, the Hoyas split the home-and-home season series with the Scarlet Knights, with both teams winning on their home court. Rutgers will pose a tough test for the Hoyas, with a strong and tall group of forwards and centers. At 6-10, senior forward Herve Lamizana returns after considering the NBA draft last summer. He averaged 10.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game last season, and looks to take a leading role on the team this season. Senior small forward Sean Axani and freshman center Byron Joynes join Lamizana to form a frontcourt that will challenge the Hoyas, who will be hard-pressed to match Rutgers’ height.

Boston College Location: MCI Center Date & Time: Tuesday, Jan. 6, 7:30 p.m.

The Lowdown: Boston College looks to rebuild this year after losing guard Troy Bell and his 25.2 points per game to the NBA. Instead of trying to replace Bell, B.C. will push the ball inside and look to sophomore Craig Smith, senior Uka Agbai, and other forwards and centers to convert on high-percentage opportunities. There will be a lot of shots to be taken with Bell’s departure, so someone will have to step up. The Hoyas will have an advantage in facing B.C. early in the season, possibly before the Eagles find their best playing style. Georgetown, however, will be in the same boat. MCI Center should be rocking with one of the fullest houses of the year, as Hoya fans come out of the woodwork to heckle the team that plans to skedaddle from the Big East after 25 years.

Connecticut Location: Gampel Pavilion Date & Time: Wednesday, Jan. 14, 7:30 p.m.

The Lowdown: This contest in Storrs, Conn. may very well be the Hoyas’ biggest test of the year – or perhaps the biggest blowout of a Georgetown team questioning its identity. No. 1 UConn returns four of five starters, including preseason All-American candidates Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor, the Big East’s preseason player of the year. Okafor, one of the nation’s most dominant big men who had 22 double-doubles last season, is projected as a lottery pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. Gordon is one of the nation’s leading three-point shooters. He shot 41.9 percent behind the arc last season and looks to somehow improve going into this season. UConn also adds top five recruit Charlie Villanueva, the Big East’s preseason rookie of the year.

St. John’s Location: MCI Center Date & Time: Tuesday, Jan. 20, 7:30 p.m.

The Lowdown: Revenge. Take it or leave it. The Hoyas will hope for the former in a rematch of last year’s National Invitational Tournament final, when St. John’s beat Georgetown, 70-67. St. John’s lost two of its three leading scorers, Anthony Glover and Marcus Hatten in the offseason, along with three players who transferred from the school. Coach Mike Jarvis will look to sophomore Elijah Ingram to become a team leader and to pick up some of the scoring load. Ranked on the bubble as No. 10 in the preseason coaches’ poll, the Red Storm will be a beatable opponent if the Hoyas have already found a way to win some conference games. If not, it’s going to be a long, cold stretch for Georgetown fans.

Duke Location: MCI Center Date & Time: Saturday, Jan. 24, 2 p.m. (CBS)

The Lowdown: The No. 2 Blue Devils are one of Georgetown’s three major non-Big East opponents, and the only one the Hoyas will face at home. McDonald’s All-American freshman forward Loul Deng has already been favorably compared to Grant Hill after only fall practice. Duke returns long-range threat J.J. Redick and senior point guard Chris Duhon among many others. Billed as the game of the year, this has been the driving force behind 2003-04 ticket sales – although the Hoyas really don’t have enough experience to give the Blue Devils the run for the money that fans deserve.

Syracuse Location: MCI Center Date & Time: Saturday, Feb. 21, noon (ESPN)

The Lowdown: There’s good and bad news about the Orangemen, one of Georgetown’s storied basketball rivalries. The good news: Syracuse lost star forward Carmelo Anthony, now with the NBA’s Denver Nuggets. The bad news: Syracuse is still loaded with talent, led by sophomore point guard Jerry McNamara and junior forward Hakim Warrick. The Hoyas lost three close games to the Orangemen last season – once in the Big East tournament and once in an overtime thriller at home.

Pittsburgh Location: MCI Center Date & Time: Tuesday, Feb. 24, 7:30 p.m.

The Lowdown: For the Hoyas, this is a transition year as the team learns to play without a power forward. For the Panthers, this is a transition year as former assistant Jamie Dixon takes the head coaching job vacated by Ben Howland, who departed Pittsburgh to become the new head coach of UCLA. The Panthers also lost All-American point guard Brandin Knight, but return eight of their top 10 players from last season. Junior power forward Chevron Troutman will look to lead the frontcourt and increase his averages of 11 points and 5.1 rebounds per game from last season. The Hoyas lost to the Panthers twice last year, including a one-point loss at Pittsburgh.

Notre Dame Location: Joyce Convention Center Date & Time: Thursday, March 4, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)

The Lowdown: Much to the chagrin of opposing Big East opponents, junior point guard Chris Thomas withdrew from this past year’s NBA Draft to return to Notre Dame. Last season, Thomas was Notre Dame’s second leading scorer and leading assister. Joining Thomas will be sophomore forward Torin Francis, who averaged 11.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game last season. Francis showed improvement throughout the year, and averaged a double-double in the NCAA Tournament. Notre Dame will be playing this game for Big East tournament position and for a postseason bid. Georgetown will be playing this game for the same reason it is playing the entire 2003-04 season: its pride.

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