As the Georgetown men’s basketball team gets ready to start the season under new leadership, it enters a non-conference schedule that has turned some heads. None of the schools scheduled to play the Hoyas are basketball powerhouses, with 16-seed Mount St. Mary’s being the only team that made the tournament last year. This is unusual for a team like Georgetown, which has a history of making the tournament and a reputation of being a basketball school. Despite not making the tournament last year, the Hoyas still played tournament-bound schools such as Maryland, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma State during the season.
There have been complaints in response to the unveiling of this new schedule. Critics say that Georgetown will have no chance in the Big East if it only plays weak teams. They argue that wins against teams like Alabama A&M and North Carolina A&T will not do much to build the team’s tournament resume. While these arguments are valid, they fail to address the bigger picture.
Georgetown has failed to make the NCAA Tournament in the past two years and hasn’t progressed beyond the second round since 2007. Firing John Thompson III opened up room for improvement, but that alone is not enough. Simply firing a coach does not turn a team that failed to qualify for the NIT into a Final Four team in just one season. The Hoyas need a few years, and a weak schedule will play to their advantage. If Georgetown was scheduled to play North Carolina, Duke, and Kentucky, it would lose terribly. What would that accomplish? While the potential upside that could come from a win against those teams is extraordinary, the chances are just too slim. The reality is that the Hoyas would most likely lose, end up with a sub-.500 nonconference record, and have little spirit entering daunting Big East conference play. The result would be another year that ends in early March.
Wins against smaller basketball schools are never going to hold as much weight as a win against a top-ranked team. But that’s not the argument I am making. The current nonconference schedule should allow Georgetown to win a majority of its games. They may struggle on the road against Richmond and at home against Syracuse, but they should finish with a record well above .500 before conference play.
Critics overlook the importance of confidence from a strong non-conference performance. Individually, none of these games will boost Georgetown’s Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) standing, but a solid overall nonconference run could help the Hoyas gel as a team. No one likes to lose—not fans, not students, and especially not the team—and when you lose again and again, the thirst for victory begins to wane. Last season the Hoyas played big time teams and they got blown out. As a result of these losses, the Hoyas headed into conference play with no confidence and finished 5-13. By playing non-dominant teams this season, they will avoid digging themselves into that hole early-on for a third straight year.
The Big East is going to be difficult. The Hoyas will have to play No. 6 Villanova twice. Why should the team use up all its energy on nonconference games? As a result of their schedule, the Blue & Gray will cruise through nonconference play and head into the Big East with a winning record and a sense of pride. I am not saying they are going to sweep ’Nova, but their newfound confidence paired with their larger-than-life coach should be enough to force some big upsets in conference play this year. Maybe they will miss the tournament again, but the weak schedule will allow them to improve as a team and avoid an unprecedented third-consecutive losing season.