Coming off the lengthy holiday break, most of us out there likely eased back into the grind. The No. 15 Georgetown Hoyas have no such luxury, not when their first game since before Christmas doubles as their Big East opener. Not when said game is at a road venue neither the Hoyas nor any team usually finds success.
Georgetown's first Big East game since announcing it's parting ways with many in the conference tips Saturday at 2 p.m. against Marquette, also part of the basketball-7 alliance.
The Hoyas (10-1) have won three of the last four against the typically gritty Golden Eagles, but have lost three straight in Milwaukee including last season's 83-69 defeat. Georgetown's last win on Marquette's turf came during the 2007-08 season. In fairness to the Hoyas, few have fared well in Milwaukee; Marquette's current 17-straight home game winning streak ranks sixth nationally.
"We haven't played that well up there," Hoyas coach John Thompson III said. "But it's Big East play. I can rattle off a laundry list of many, many concerns, but it's time to roll up your sleeves and play."
Play an actual game is something All-American candidate Otto Porter and the Hoyas have not done since Dec. 22 when they beat American University for the program's seventh-straight win. Meanwhile games elsewhere continued, including Marquette opening Big East play on New Year's Day with an 82-76 overtime win against Connecticut.
Porter leads the Hoyas in scoring (13.2), rebounds (7.7), assists (3.2), steals (2.2), and blocks (1.4). The sophomore forward might also lead the team in angst after the long break.
"It's been heartbreaking," said Porter, who in two games as a freshman against Marquette sank 13 of 16 shots and averaged 13.5 points. "We've watched teams play on TV. I'm just curious to get out there and play."
Curiously, for the third straight season, the Hoyas begin conference play on the road.
"I think we embrace it," junior forward Nate Lubick said before reflecting on last season's thrilling win at No.4 Louisville. "Maybe that wasn't a turning point because we were doing well, but being able to start Big East play with a huge win on the road can really set the tone for the season."
Attempting to keep the team in game-ready mode during the break, Thompson and the coaching staff put the players into competitive situations during practice, though nothing simulates playing in a hostile environment like the Bradley Center.
"I don't know whether at the end of the day whether anything you do in practice can 100 percent simulate the environment we're going to walk into when we walk into Marquette on Saturday," Thompson said.
The two sides split the season series last year with Georgetown rallying for a 73-70 win at the Verizon Center on Jan. 4.
The Buzz Williams-coached Golden Eagles (10-3, 1-0 Big East) have some peculiar results on their resume this season including road losses at Green Bay and by 33 at Florida, but solid wins as well. Junior Cadougan and wide-bodied forward Davante Gardner each scored 18 against Connecticut. Cadougan and leading scorer Vander Blue (13.3 ppg) make a formidable backcourt pairing, though other than Blue, Marquette struggles from beyond the 3-point arc (30.2 percent, last in the Big East). Facing Porter and Georgetown's cadre of long-armed defenders will not help the perimeter cause, but Marquette's upperclassmen-led group is not easily stifled.
"You're looking at a veteran team and they know how they want to skin the cat and they're pretty effective at it," Thompson said.
We will see on Saturday how effective the Hoyas have been at replicating game conditions during the layoff.
"It kind of feels like preseason cause we're [working on] staying in shape, running a lot more," Lubick said. "We're ready, we are ready to go."