The Georgetown Hoyas learned many painful lessons as a promising 2008-09 season spiraled into disappointment and ended with a first-round exit from the NIT.
The young 20th-ranked Hoyas, anchored by a potential superstar in center Greg Monroe, begin their rebuilding process Friday night at Tulane.Last season, Georgetown opened 10-1 and rose as high as ninth in the Top 25, capped by an 11-point victory at then-No. 2 Connecticut on Dec. 29. That was the high point for the Hoyas, who went 7-11 in the ultra-competitive Big East and finished their season at 16-15 following a 74-72 loss at Baylor -- a steep fall for a program that reached the 2007 Final Four."From the top on down -- down to the guy who cleans the gym -- we can find a reason how someone, all of us, could have done something different," coach John Thompson III said. "You go through that process of introspection. You try to adjust, you try to tweak, you try to change."The biggest change for Georgetown, which will have no seniors for the fifth time in school history, will be adjusting to life without leading scorer DaJuan Summers, who opted to enter the NBA draft after averaging 13.6 points.However, the 6-foot-11 Monroe -- the 2009 Big East rookie of the year -- could be poised to add his name to the legacy of Georgetown centers Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and Roy Hibbert. Monroe averaged 12.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 blocks as a freshman before bypassing the draft."On a team this year that does not have any seniors, he is, as a sophomore, one of the leaders on the team," Thompson said. "We have seen that, just in terms of the intangibles. Many of the things you don't see on the court -- his role in the locker room, his role within the unit -- is much, much different."Monroe, the 2008 Louisiana high school player of the year, will have help on the perimeter from junior guards Chris Wright (12.5 ppg) and Austin Freeman (11.4), who combined to hit 57 3-pointers. Guard Jason Clark and 6-10 forward Henry Sims, both sophomores, are expected to round out the starting five.Thompson hopes his Hoyas will improve late in games. Six of Georgetown's final seven losses came by six or fewer points and three were in overtime."That was new for me. My teams have always been terrific in those segments, when it comes time to win. I take pride in that," he said. "We didn't make the plays -- offensively, defensively, rebounding. You can go across the board. Every game was a different thing."Tulane starts its fifth season under Dave Dickerson after going 14-17 in 2008-09 and reaching the Conference USA tournament quarterfinals. Kevin Sims returns as the Green Wave's top offensive player after averaging team highs of 13.0 points and 4.0 assists while shooting 40.8 percent from 3-point range."Our guys know the magnitude of this game," Dickerson said. "Georgetown has as much a name recognition as anybody in this area. Our guys know this is a great opportunity and they know that Georgetown is one of the better programs in college basketball."The biggest new addition is junior college transfer Aaron Holmes, a 6-5 swingman who averaged 21.0 points for Santa Fe Community College. Tulane is also counting on a fully healthy Kendall Timmons, who averaged 5.4 points in nine games before being sidelined with a back injury.This is the first meeting between the schools. Tulane has lost 24 straight to ranked teams since beating North Carolina State on Dec. 22, 1999.