2012 Local College Basketball Preview

Season outlooks, who to watch (and why), and more of Jack Kogod’s predictions for local college hoops.

By: Jack Kogod

Georgetown

Season outlook: Once again, JT3 has to find a way to replace three starters. What this year’s team lacks in senior leadership, it makes up for with young talent. That includes mascot-in-training Jack Jr.

Projected finish: The Hoyas will be tested early and often against one of the country’s toughest schedules. That just means they’ll be thoroughly prepared for a postseason run.

Key matchup: Louisville is the popular pick to win the Big East. The Hoyas get one shot at the Cardinals when they visit Verizon Center.

Best reason to watch: Last year Otto Porter established himself as one of the nation’s best freshmen. This year he could be one of the best in any class. Also: bulldog puppy.


Maryland

Season outlook: Hopes are high as the second year of the Mark Turgeon era gets underway. Gary Williams’s successor showed he could coach, and now he’s adding talent to the roster.

Projected finish: The Terps have been pegged to finish sixth in the conferences by the coaches. That could be enough for a trip to the tournament. Just to be safe, they should try to exceed expectations.

Key matchup: Duke. Always Duke. The darlings of ESPN visit College Park having taken five straight from the Terps. Undoing that streak with a February win could carry them into March.

Best reason to watch: Turgeon is putting his mark on the program. Sophomores Nick Faust and Alex Len are emerging stars, and a highly rated freshman class means more are in the pipeline.


George Mason

Season outlook: Coach Paul Hewitt enters his second season looking to build on last year’s 24-win campaign. This year’s team will benefit from more size and better depth to go with their up-tempo offense.

Projected finish: The CAA should certainly be easier to win. Last year’s champs have departed, this year’s tournament will only include seven teams. Mason aren’t the favorites, but that has never stopped them.

Key matchup: The Patriots will face off against the Terps in the BB&T classic on December 2 in Chinatown. Mason has never beaten their College Park rivals. Doing so on national TV would be a résumé booster.

Best reason to watch: They can score, they can defend, and they’ll be a pleasure to watch. Plus they’ve added Patrick Holloway, the hero of Paul VI’s dramatic WCAC championship.


George Washington

Season outlook: Mike Lonergan is another local coach entering his second season in charge. He’ll be tasked with improving on a forgettable first season. Villanova transfer and former Montrose Christian star Isaiah Armwood should help.

Projected finish: The Colonials should improve, but they are a long way from competing in an Atlantic 10 conference that keeps getting more competitive. Finishing in the middle of the pack would be a huge leap forward.

Key matchup: By the time Saint Louis comes to the Smith Center on March 2, GW will almost surely be resigned to playing the spoiler. Still, a win there would be nice.

Best reason to watch: Freshman Joe McDonald was a top performer at Landon, of all places (maybe he’s a lacrosse fan?). Now he’ll team up with Armwood to form what could be a dynamic All-Met duo.


American

Season outlook: Jeff Jones has another solid squad, led by Stephen Lumpkins. The big man is back after a brief stint in pro baseball, and he’ll rejoin a group that managed to win 20 games without him.

Projected finish: The Eagles should finish in the top half of the Patriot League. If they get hot and pull off an upset or two in the conference tournament, they would head back to the NCAA’s for the third time in five years.

Key matchup: The toughest stretch of the season comes in late December, when American visits Georgetown and Kansas. Their biggest test at home comes against conference favorites Lehigh, led by NBA prospect C.J. McCollum.

Best reason to watch: Because Patriot League basketball is everything that is good and pure in college sports, if John Feinstein is to be believed.


Howard

Season outlook: The Bison won six of their past ten to hit double digits in wins for the first time since ’03. Those promising freshmen are now experienced sophomores, and things are finally looking up.

Projected finish: They will be better, but not good enough to rise to the top of the MEAC.

Key matchup: The Battle of the Real HU between Howard and Hampton comes to Burr Gymnasium on January 12.

Best reason to watch: Howard is a great buy-low candidate for local hoops fans. Get in now and you can brag about it when seniors Prince Okoroh and Sim Frazier lead them to a 2015 conference title.