FILE PHOTO: MICHELLE XU/THE HOYA D.C. native Campbell is eager to play UMD.
D.C. native Campbell is eager to play UMD.

The Georgetown men’s basketball team has historically enjoyed a relatively easy out-of-conference schedule in its first few games. Teams such as St. Francis Brooklyn, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Robert Morris presented little challenge last season. The Hoyas routed each team by a margin of at least 15 points, quickly building a 3-0 record.

This season’s early opponents could not be more different. Georgetown will play No. 3 Maryland, No. 17 Wisconsin, Syracuse and either No. 4 Duke or VCU by Dec. 5.

“We like the challenge,” senior center and co-captain Bradley Hayes said. “To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. To take on the best early and beat them is going to be the best thing.”

The team kicks off its 2015-16 campaign Nov. 14 against Radford. Georgetown beat Radford last season, walking away with a convincing 76-49 victory. With a squad full of returning players and promising new personnel, the Hoyas should be confident heading into this rematch against the Highlanders.

Nonetheless, the Hoyas will soon after encounter much more challenging programs. Just three days after the Radford game, Georgetown will take on Maryland for the first time in more than 20 years, reigniting a marquee matchup in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area.

“That’s going to be a great matchup,” sophomore guard Tre Campbell said. “We haven’t played each other in so long. I know everybody in the DMV is ready for it.”

The Terrapins boasted a 28-7 regular-season record last year, including a 14-4 Big Ten conference record. At the conclusion of the season, Maryland was No. 12 in the AP Top 25 rankings. Maryland, led by Head Coach Mark Turgeon, is currently ranked third in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll, behind only Kentucky and North Carolina.

“They have the best, or one of the best, teams in the country. … We’ll see when that game goes off,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “I think both Mark Turgeon and I are pretty excited.”

Turgeon echoed Thompson’s sentiments.

“It’s two really good programs,” Turgeon said. “Probably should have our best teams we’ve had the last two or three years. Everything is a positive with this.”

Georgetown will face Maryland on the Terps’ home turf Nov. 17 at Comcast Xfinity Center, where the Terrapins recorded an 18-1 home record in their 2014-15 campaign. The Blue and Gray notched an unremarkable 5-4 record on the road last season, so this much-anticipated away matchup against the Terps will certainly be a challenge.

FILE PHOTO: JULIA HENNRIKUS/THE HOYA Head Coach John Thompson III is preparing for games against UMD and Wisconsin.
Head Coach John Thompson III is preparing for games against UMD and Wisconsin.

Building on the early run of challenging opponents, Georgetown will take on Wisconsin on Nov. 20 as a part of the 2K Classic, a small preseason tournament that also features Duke and VCU. The Badgers come off a run to the NCAA championship game, where they made it very difficult for the Duke Blue Devils to capture the title. Last year, Wisconsin scored an average of 72.5 points per game and allowed an average of just 58.2 points per game to its opponents. However, the Badgers only return two starters, and preseason rankings place them 17th in the country.

The game against Wisconsin will take place at Madison Square Garden, as will the Hoyas’ contest against either Duke or VCU. The winners of the Georgetown-Wisconsin game and the Duke-VCU game will face off in the finals, while the losers of the opening-round games will play in the consolation game. Preseason rankings have Duke, with its seven freshmen, slated at No. 4 in the Top 25. VCU fell to Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season, but it boasted a 26-10 regular-season record.

“Duke and Wisconsin at The Garden, that’s the biggest stage it can get, so I’m excited,” sophomore forward Isaac Copeland said.

The Hoyas will face Bryant and Maryland Eastern Shore at the end of November and beginning of December, quickly followed by the long-awaited game against Syracuse on Dec. 5. Georgetown and Syracuse have not played one another since the Big East reorganized, so this game will be the first meeting between the bitter rivals in over two years.

“I know that our program and fans will be excited to have a game against Syracuse on our schedule,” Georgetown Athletic Director Lee Reed said in a statement released in July 2014. “This is something that both schools have worked very hard to have happen, and we’re very happy to have this series continue.”

Ultimately, the Hoyas view this tough out-of-conference schedule as a valuable challenge that, if they are successful, could establish them as a top national contender.

“Hopefully we can come out with all wins,” senior guard and captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera said. “I’m certain the guys will all be ready. We’ve done a lot of preparation and leading up to that, we’ve got high expectations.”

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